Only on Vashon – The Weekly Rundown 04/16/2023 

We’re worried about a mysterious pair of brown horses suddenly appearing in a field. An observant islander spotted them grazing on the property across the street. Were they lost horses? How did they get there? Had they been kidnapped? Were they on the run from the law? Turns out they belong to the people who own the property across the street, so they live there. Mystery solved. Good work, everyone.

Then we have not one but two posts arguing about whether dogs should be allowed inside businesses. 

Photo 109932074 / Dog Cafe © Jaromír Chalabala |

It starts with an anonymous group member posting this: “Dogs should not be in downtown businesses unless formally certified as service dogs”

 They list these reasons: 

“For those with histories of being attacked there are trauma risks. For those with small children there are very real risks of harm. For those more frail, dogs are a real risk if they jump up. Leashes and sleeping dogs are a tripping risk for others. For those who are religious the presence of dogs indoors can require either non-entry or cleansing (depending on your religion). Finally, dogs are not clean – they regularly bring with them allergens and germs that can be harmful – if not a real threat – to people.”

The first thing we do is completely ignore that the poster clearly stated that this does not apply to service animals. 

One islander responds, “I just can’t even anymore. This island is becoming more uptight by the day. Ugh. It’s not against the law to have dogs in cafes, it’s not against the law to have them in other businesses.”

Not to be a killjoy, but it’s technically against the law in Washington State to have a non-service animal dog in a dining establishment. I guess that means we need to argue amongst ourselves about what constitutes a dining establishment. 

But I’m not terribly concerned with what the law says. Washington State law also says you can’t hunt bigfoot (Skamania County Ordinance no. 6901  aka the Undiscovered Species Protection Act, imposes a $100,000 fine for killing a heretofore unknown species, with ‘Bigfoot’ and ‘Sasquatch’ being named in the law).  

It’s also illegal to pretend your parents are rich when they aren’t. I regret to inform you that I am guilty of breaking both these laws. 

Just kidding. My parents are rich. 

Or am I lying about them being rich? Did I just commit a crime? Does that make you a witness? By not reporting me, are you an accomplice? 

And RCW 19.76.110 says you can’t wantonly destroy a beer bottle without written consent of the owner. If you do, you pay a $1 fine. What if you don’t know who owns the bottle? Consider this post written consent to break any beer bottle I leave lying around in public. You’re welcome. 

Anyway, I’m saying the law isn’t always the perfect barometer of ethical behavior, and sometimes we have to make judgment calls that aren’t strictly dictated by the law. 

So, for those in favor of dogs in businesses, we have these arguments: 

Argument 1: Dogs are basically people. One islander says, “We tolerate this because dogs are our family; they are like children or an emotional safety net for some. We have to make room for each other, and if someone has that big of a problem with friendly dogs, they should probably stay home.” 

I like that this person says we need to make room for people and be tolerant, and people who don’t like that should be excluded and shunned. 

Argument two: Dogs are better than people. Another person says, “The negatives you listed for dogs in businesses aren’t dog-specific. And we won’t start banning children, laptop bags, strollers, or people who use blue Tide detergent from being in business spaces.”

Precisely true. This is why I never have problems bringing my kids to the bar with me. 

Photo 75964884 / Dog © Ritmoboxer |

Argument three: Any dog could be a service dog. This argument is made by a lot of people. Service dogs don’t need to be marked, and demanding people tell you if their dog is a service dog is rude and possibly illegal.

Argument four: We’ve always done it this way and it sucks when people want to change things. Or, as one islander so succinctly puts it,  “Hahaha. I remember when Vashon wasn’t a bunch of hanky wringing whiners. But that was a long time ago.”

A local business owner chimes in: “I don’t think it’s a fight that you’re ever gonna win. Most people are stoked to see dogs & they brighten their day.”

Then the business owner and the anonymous ranter argue about the meaning of the word ‘most’. That word means a majority of the customers support dogs, and that is quantifiable. What data do they have to support that assertion? 

So then we have a new post with the following poll:  “Just curious, are we as an island in favor of dogs being allowed inside business or not?”

The results as of this writing:  131 enjoy versus 42 dislike

This leads to more comments that continue the theme of the previous post, but a little more good-naturedly. One person says, “It seems rude to bring your dog in and risk getting dog hair in someone’s food or groceries. I’ve walked through the grocery store and seen a leashed dog pee on a shelf before…when I mentioned it to the woman she was just sure it wasn’t her dog that did it.”

Another says dogs are like music. Everyone has different tastes. So just like you wouldn’t blare Eminem on the ferry (because I would push your car into the sea if you did) you wouldn’t bring a pit bull to a grocery store. 

Some point out that pet dogs can disrupt service dogs. Another person mentions this incident, “I recently saw a dog inside an establishment go for a baby’s face in a stroller. Family left hurriedly and quietly.”

Others again reiterate that they’d rather go to a store with dogs than people. One person says, “I prefer many dogs to some humans inside businesses. 🐕 🐶

Another says, “Yeah, dogs don’t shout into cellphones and complain about waiting.“ 

You should hear my dog when I’m doing the dishes and he wants a walk. He complains about waiting like a whiny toddler. If I brought him into a business he’d sit by your side, gently lay his snoot on your table right next to your plate, and give you puppy dog eyes until you gave him some of your bagel. 

This is what happens when I try to eat on the couch. 

Some people have nuanced takes, like ‘depends on the dog.’

One person has this suggestion: “Depends on the establishment. Add that to your poll and I’ll vote.”

We don’t get to dictate what’s in the poll. Democracy is when we choose between two untenable options, not when we have a say in what the options are. 

Finally, someone takes offense at the poll and posts, “I sure am glad we are taking a poll on whether to obey the law! Personally, I don’t like the speed limit or stopping for school buses.”

The original poster responds, “You can just vote “Dislike” & move on with your day instead of being condescending and rude.”

To which we garner this response, which I think should be our new tagline, “This is the rants page, condescending and rude is expected.”

Anna Shomsky
Author: Anna Shomsky

I'm a former teacher and a data engineer living on Vashon Island. My writing has appeared in Five on the Fifth, Women on Writing and on the Post-Culture Podcast. I wrote and produced the radio show Whispers of Vashon for 101.9 KVSH. I’ve had short stories published in the anthologies Island Stories and Chicken Scratchings, as well as through the Open Space Literary Project.

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