Schaefer Demands Equal Dining Rights for Cats

In 2004, failed presidential candidate John Edwards famously made a speech about "two Americas," a reference to the socio-economic divide that plagues our country. But this is not a column about politics; it is a column about food. So you're probably asking yourself, "What the hell is Eric talking about this time?" My wife asks me that question almost daily.

It's quite obvious to me that John Edwards wasn't referencing the "haves" and the "have nots." Rather, he was talking about the gap that truly divides our union: the great chasm between cat people and dog people. And when it comes to restaurants, the dog people are winning by a landslide. I'll show restraint toward bird people, because that's just plain weird.

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Let it be known that I do not, and will not, identify as a "dog person" and have chosen to shamelessly and selfishly hijack this column for my own personal political gain. Down with the dog people and their incessant demands for handouts, special accommodations and entitlements. El gato se puede!

The day has come when we no longer can tolerate elitist dog patios, tripping over specially placed water bowls, and the distinctive putrid stench of wet dog messing with our palates. Enough is enough! From this point forward, I demand that restaurants that make special accommodations to dogs make the same accommodations for cats. Our feline friends deserve to dine with dignity.

When choosing to dine al fresco, why must I be subjected to your yapping chihuahua, with its shaking torso and beady eyes? Yo no quiero Taco Bell, and Yo no quiero to eat with your dog either. Don't you know that it's unsanitary?

I once dined at Zinc Bistro, a mere three feet away from an Irish wolfhound. He may have been old, lazy, and quiet, but at well over 100 pounds, he weighed more than one and a half Scottsdale moms and took up more space, too. (Implants not included.) It just doesn't seem fair to me. Last time I checked, dogs took pleasure in sniffing each other's asses and licking the place where their balls used to be. So why are they wandering around a restaurant or, for that matter, why does one need to sit on your lap while you eat?

Apparently, dining with dogs is a thing now. It really is. So much so that this town's mainstream newspaper published a list of "20 Dog-Friendly Restaurants in Metro Phoenix." Among that list of conspirators? Local mainstay Duck & Decanter, Aunt Chilada's, and even Chandler's chic neighborhood hangout BLD. There are many others, reinforcing dog people's misguided sense of entitlement. Although the health code prohibits animals from being inside an establishment that serves food, patios are excluded, rendering them nothing more than germ-, dander-, and feces-laden meccas of filth.

Cats are clean, incessantly grooming themselves to surgically hygienic standards. They are soft, non-intrusive, and gentle. How often do we hear of an innocent bystander being mauled to death by an out-of-control housecat? They're not the darlings of the Internet for nothing.

Imagine a world free of prejudice, where cat people can enjoy the same dignity as dog people. Imagine a world where you could snuggle up to a silky Persian cat while eating your kubideh kebab at The Persian Room. Imagine drinking a Rwandan Musasa coffee at Press Coffee Roasters, while gazing at a Savannah cat from the same region, its gentle purr soothing your frazzled nerves. Imagine going to Mastros, and instead of being offered a black or white napkin you're offered a cat that complements your outfit. These days are upon us; better times are within our grasp. I asked my crazy-cat-lady friend (she has nine cats) Chrysa Robertson, chef and owner of Rancho Pinot, if she supported my idea of feline progressivism.

Robertson said, "I welcome cats of all sizes and all colors at Rancho Pinot, but I draw the line at hairballs under the tables. Truthfully, I don't think cats would ever lower themselves to following a 'dog trend.' Cardinal rule of felines: It has to be my idea. Sit under the table at their master's feet? Never. It's on the table or not at all (preferably on your plate)."

Let it be on the record that I'm 100 percent supportive of cats on the table, and you should be as well.

Lest we forget that cats are more than just eye candy; they have true utility as well. Stock every restaurant with a resident feline and health code violations will plummet. Not only will rodents become a thing of the past, but restaurant owners will be able to write-off the cost of their cat and charge the expense to "pest control." It's a win for small business owners, and a win for the thousands of homeless cats that would love to live in a restaurant. Worried about sketchy bovine hormones in your dairy products? Cat milk, straight from one of mama cat's eight nipples, is pure and delicious. Screw "farm to table," I'm for "teat to table."

So often our great state of Arizona is in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Here is our chance to lead the way. Let us not be a lightning rod of conflict; let us be a beacon of hope, a shining cat-tree of acceptance, a place where white cats and black cats and orange cats and mixed cats can dine among us and are no longer confined to back alley dumpsters and our kitchen counters. Let cat people hold their heads high, fearlessly displaying in public the same pride that drives a significant amount of the traffic on the internet in the forms of hilarious memes and Facebook photos.

Let us step out of the shadows, stumble over your golden retriever that is inconveniently sleeping in front of the door at Starbucks, and walk into the light. Cat people, our time has come. El gato se puede!

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