Doin' San Antonio doggie style

As I was walking through La Cantera the other day, I noticed quite a few canine companions walking about with their best friends. It led me to the thought — OK, so they are allowed outside, but can they really go into the stores? Can they dine in the outside areas of restaurants? What are the etiquette rules? How prevalent is doggy dining in San Antonio?

I became a bit of a stalker, following one cute couple around the shops for about 20 minutes. I noticed the furry friend got carried when going into the stores, and was generally welcomed; when outside, she (or he) was leashed and walking on four legs. But this was a small dog. What about the big ones? Larger dogs, it seems, are held to different standards. I could only find one animal that day that was over 30 pounds. While they could walk around leashed, it was frowned upon for them to be in the store. So the larger dog waited patiently outside with the guy, while the girlfriend generally went in to do the shopping.

Curious about the rules, I called The Shops at La Cantera directly and asked what their pet policy was inside the stores. I was told “no pets are allowed.” When I asked about the walkway outside the shops, I was again told “No, pets are not allowed.” It seems that La Cantera is not as canine friendly as it appeared, although obviously the policies are not enforced.

At this point, I was hooked. Where can one go with a Toto in tow?

The largest place with outside dining in a concentrated area is, of course, the River Walk. I called the Paseo Del Rio Association (River Walk promoters/supporters) and asked about their pet policy. A friendly guy told me that pets were allowed, but they had to be leashed and non-vicious — and you have to pick up after them, of course. I was told each restaurant has its own companion-animal policy and that I would have to call them individually.

Determined, I grabbed my pooch Tink (we can’t take Daisy anywhere) and headed towards Commerce Street.

We got a friendly reception from everyone on the walkways; no problems there (well, Tink had a little accident, but I came prepared and cleaned up the mess quickly and efficiently). However, when I approached outdoor dining establishments carrying my 7-pound peke, I got mixed receptions

Here is the result of our search for pet-inclusive outside seating in the River Walk:

• Boudro's – Smaller dogs allowed at riverside tables, provided the dog is on a leash and well-behaved. If a guest complains, you will be asked to settle up.

• Casa Rio – Smaller dogs allowed.

• Ostra – All sizes accepted, but they request that you sit alfresco at a table closer to the outer edge, as not to bother the other guests.

• Rita's On The River – Dogs are more than welcome (even if they are “a bit bad,” joked the hostess).

• Zuni Grill – Classy canine service — and we weren’t the only pups in the place, either. They even brought Tink a plastic bowl of water. As we were, well, “pooped” by this point, we both enjoyed our cold beverages, Scorpion shrimp, and relaxed.

If you decide to sniff out more opportunities, here are some basic rules to follow: 1) always have your companions on a leash; 2) pick up their messes; 3) make sure your pet is well behaved and friendly; 4) call ahead first. Better to be safe than sorry.

And a reminder from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division: According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately owned businesses that serve the public (we’re talking restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities) are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed.

Good luck and happy dining! •