“Le Doggy Café,” which translates to “The Doggy Café” in English, is Montreal’s best and only restaurant catering to both humans and dogs. It’s supposed to be a place where you can bring your dog and eat vegetarian food, but for dogless people like me it’s a place where you can live vicariously through strangers and their dogs. From the outside, the restaurant looks kind of sketchy, like an old daycare that was just evacuated because of asbestos, but inside it’s totally fine.
My roommate and I walked in and were immediately greeted by a fence with a latchkey. It was a little jarring at first, but I took it to be a good sign, as far as the presence of dogs was concerned. A human with a fashionable haircut came over and let us through. I told them we didn’t have any dogs and they said, “That’s okay.”
A Husky with one blue eye and one brown eye, a Golden Lab wearing a Florida State University shirt, and a elderly Basset Hound were all sniffing each other in the middle of the room. A coin-operated candy dispenser filled with kibble overlooked the scene. All of my hunger cues had dwindled at this point but I told myself I’d get used to the ambiance. The menu was written on a large chalkboard, which also had a list of rules on written it. Dogs had to be calm, dogs couldn’t eat people food, and four paws must be on the floor at all times.
All of these things seemed pretty subjective and were being visibly ignored but there was still a general sense of cooperation in the room. The family behind us had their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel sitting at the table next to them. It was panting and staring out the window, while the family ate unbothered. I watched as a little Chihuahua came up to the side of them and the King Charles Spaniel started sniffing in the Chihuahua’s direction and then the Chihuahua erupted into a fit of rage.
“Look at this fucking rat dog,” I couldn’t help saying.
Its owner was on the other side of the room, enjoying a slice of red velvet cake. Then I watched as the crazy-eyed Husky jumped and slid into a bowl of water, spilling it all over floor. I laughed because it’s a dog in a restaurant. The human with the haircut came over and mopped up the floor. The Husky’s owner nonchalantly packed up to leave.
When the human was finished mopping they came over to our table and asked us for our orders. I ordered “The Naughty Raspberry,” which was a smoothie made out of soymilk, raspberry, walnut, and maple syrup. I also asked for the granola bowl, because I would never call a smoothie breakfast, and an espresso because I’m addicted to caffeine. My roommate ordered a beet and kale sandwich with coffee.
After watching all of these rich dog interactions, I went over to the candy dispenser and got some kibble. It came out fast and overflowed out of my hand. I was sort of panicking because I realized I had no dogs to feed it to. Would it be socially acceptable to feed someone else’s dog? I wondered. I went over to the Basset Hound’s family because they seemed the nicest and I asked if I could feed it. They nodded emphatically, as if it was bizarre to ask permission. Then I asked how old their dog was and they said, “She’s super old.”
The Basset Hound was eating feebly from my palm when in walked the most beautiful and deformed creature I’d ever seen in my life. The Bulldog came smashing through the gate and lumbered speedily toward my hand. He did not look real. His ass was moving impossibly as he pressed his lip-flaps on my skin and drenched me in saliva. He ate every last pellet, breathing heinously from his mouth and nose. Then he went up to a Bullmastiff, who was just minding her own business, and rolled onto her paws, displaying all of his genitalia. The other humans were laughing, saying, “That dog is too funny.” And the Bullmastiff started growling but otherwise did not move.
I felt like my head was going to explode. It was all too much at 11 a.m. I washed my hands behind a door with an enormous yellow fire hydrant painted on it. I went back to the table and we were served our beverages first. The smoothie was very fresh and bright. The coffee, on the other hand, tasted like nutcrust. Like, nuts as in balls. As in testicles. It was actually kind of shocking how little it tasted like coffee.
When we were served our main plates, obviously all of the dogs wanted to get in on it, because they’re dogs. We laughed and took pictures and pointed at them. The beet and kale sandwich was stuffed with quinoa, which was weird. The salad was “very wet.” My granola was generously doused in maple syrup, not the fake corn syrup shit, but pure Québécois gold.
Another dogless human came in and sat near our table. At first I thought, Okay, I understand. I, too, want to spend hours inside of a room filled with dogs and not contribute. But then two more dogless humans came in and joined. The dogless humans were starting to outweigh the dog humans and I was starting to feel a little ripped off. I ate the walnuts at the bottom of my smoothie glass and watched as yet another dogless human came in. I was about to call it quits when I noticed that this person actually had a very small baby pug hidden in their pocket. Wow. It’s not that old dogs don’t get me off, it’s just that an old dog already knows the ways of the world. An old dog knows that most people are vacuous wastelands of nothingness but a puppy alternatively knows nothing. You can do whatever you want with a puppy and it will love you like you are destined to be best friends forever. I overheard the owner saying that the pug was nine weeks old. Fresh out of the womb! Its little eyeballs were popping out of its head; its little butthole looked so delicate and brand new. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Obviously, I made a big deal about their arrival. I was like, “Ohhh, look at this beautiful creature, ohhh, it’s an angel.”
The owner loved it. They were like, “Yeah, feast your eyes on this shit.” At least that’s what I got from their facial expressions. In no time the puppy was suckling my hair, licking my face, at my table. It was almost hallucinogenic in its caliber, as though all of my needs and desires had manifested at once. Simultaneously, a human with a black Cockapoo came in and joined the table of dogless humans. They were all so excited to see the Cockapoo. They revealed elaborately wrapped presents, and I couldn’t tell if they were for the dog or for the human. The human behind me with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel asked me if I had a dog myself.
I said, “No, I wish.”
And they said, “Oh, you’re just here for the experience.”
And I thought, Yes, the experience, exactly.