Monday, September 5, 2011

A Butt-Sniffing Good Time at Cafe Gaene

Yesterday I took our dog Kongi on a fun excursion to Cafe Gaene, a "dog cafe" in my neighborhood. We were accompanied by my second cousin Kathryn, who recently arrived in Korea for a semester abroad.

Cafe Gaene is located off of a funky shopping street near Sungshin Women's University, and they always have one of the dogs standing outside to invite customers. These "greeter dogs" are extremely well-behaved and beautifully groomed, and they patiently submit to the attentions of swarms of children and students taking photos.

I called ahead to make sure it was okay to bring Kongi. They had a well-orchestrated procedure for introducing new dogs into the cafe. First I surrendered Kongi to one of the attendants, who held her tightly on her lap for about five minutes to give the curious younger dogs a chance to check her out. Kongi looked a little bewildered but happy.

The cafe was one large room with picnic tables around the walls. There were 17 resident dogs of all different breeds, and many of the other customers had brought their own dogs as well. A few of the smaller dogs were sleeping in cages by the door, and one large wrinkly Sharpei was confined within an enclosure in the center of the room.

We ordered our drinks, and then I was directed to hold Kongi quietly in my lap for another 10 minutes, after which the attendant took her by the leash and led her out into the room. The other dogs promptly crowded around her in excitement. The Sharpei flung itself across the room, dragging its enclosure along in its eagerness to enter the fray. Kongi tensed up and tried to run away, but the attendant held her in a gentle but firm grip.

After a few minutes the other dogs calmed down, and Kongi was unleashed and allowed free movement. She promptly returned to our bench and hid between my legs, peering out warily at all the other dogs. A little whippet crawled into my cousin's lap and fell asleep. We sipped our drinks and chatted while watching the dogs play together.

The whole scene was suggestive of an indoor dog park, with drinks. I noticed there were no toys to be seen; upon reflection, I figured this was probably a necessary measure to prevent fights from breaking out.

Our Kongi was very popular; several little kids came over to pat her. Several times I tried to lead her out into the room to meet some of the other dogs, but she seemed a bit overwhelmed and insecure. She enjoyed greeting the other human customers, though. I think if I take her back again regularly, over time she will gradually get used to it and make some friends.