26 April 2008


New readers may not know that before Munich we spent two years living in Tirana. Our souvenir of Albania is a former street dog we call Bella, seen below in a typical live action pose.

Obviously the welfare of our dog became a concern for us when considering living overseas. We were assured in all we read and in the conversations we had that Munich was a dog friendly city and after one week here I can confirm that it is all true.

Dogs are not only in the parks and on the streets but also in the shops and restaurants. Most run free without a leash. They rarely bark and I have yet to see any dogs fighting. Bella, I think, is a little confused by all this.

Dogs will trot past without even a glance in her direction. Others trot up for a friendly sniff without the kind of caution that is normal among street dogs. Her nervousness is gradually giving way to more confidence as she discovers that her intimidatory growl, which scattered packs of dogs in Tirana, also works here.

I find it a bit disconcerting as well. Dogs generally are obviously well trained, but some seem to have been trained to the point where they have lost any spirit or character - Stepford dogs. On the other hand, it is because they are so well trained that they can go just about anywhere.

I saw one man wheeling his dog round IKEA in a shopping trolley. A woman dragging a diminutive Dachshund walked past our table in a restaurant. Today, the owner of the local corner store appeared from behind the counter with a handful of dog treats for Bella. Best of all, pets can travel on the public transport system, so Bella will be getting out and about round Munich and Bavaria.

Even in those stores where dogs are not allowed - mostly grocery stores - the rules seem to be flexible. Outside one small supermarket where dogs were not allowed I came across a sign for the dog park - a kind of canine hitching post.

But while I was waiting outside with Bella - having decided she was a useful excuse not to have to go grocery shopping - one woman walked straight in with her dog. Nobody objected.

Just across from this store is a delicatessen, ceiling strung with large hams, display cases full of cooked meats and a 'no dogs' sign in the window. But again, I saw one woman poke her head in the door and ask if she could bring her dog in.

The answer was obviously yes. She tied the dog to the leg of a display case inside from where it was able to wander around the floor getting in the way of the other customers while its owner did her shopping. Nobody objected.

People clearly like dogs here - they are not just tolerated. People will step aside to let a dog past. The will walk around a dog that has stopped for a sniff. They will smile and pat a dog's head as they walk by. For this alone, Munich deserves to be recognised as an extremely civilised place.

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