The Great Pet War of '92

Milton Bates

February 18, 1993|By Milton Bates

SIX weeks into 1993 -- roughly one week for each of the New Year's resolutions I've broken. Unsurprising. Most of these vows for self-betterment have a shelf life of a month or less. Already, I have twice mislaid my car keys, sampled sweets after dinner, and, under stress, nibbled a nail or two.

However, old darling, a single resolution will be kept. Those of you residing in suburban boxes that can be circumambulated may tune out now, but those living in apartments and condominiums will applaud this resolve:

I will not enlist in either army assembling in our building at this moment to wage the looming Doorbell Dispute.

Why not? Because I learned my lesson well in the Great Pet War of 1992, that's why not. Peacemakers, however wise and well-intentioned, often wind up with bloody noses or worse. Me, I got "worse."

The point at issue then seemed small when it surfaced, capable of easy resolution. A change in the regs limiting pets to a single elevator had been proposed by the Rules Committee. (Yes, Virginia, there are Rules, Building & Grounds, and assorted other committees in condos.) A new unit owner after three decades in one home, I knew naught of such rule promulgators and was unprepared for the heat about to be generated.

Surely, as LBJ was fond of saying, we could all reason together. Those desirous of confining dogs, cats and other beasts to the service lift -- ours is a two-elevator structure -- could understand that the building had been advertised and sold as "pet friendly." Translation: two pets per unit, no restriction on size, gender, disposition or means of conveyance above the lobby. In sum, an Equal (Pet) Opportunity Condominium.

Reason together? In a pig's eye, or a cat's or dog's, for that matter. Seems that one penthouse owner caught a canine sniffing her guest during an ascent. What part of the guest's anatomy was sniffed remains unclear, but the incident triggered a Rules Committee inquiry which produced the proposed change.

But banish the furry ones to just one elevator? Break faith with animal lovers accustomed to their pick of the lifters? Not on Fido's or Kitty's life! Bill and Shirley, saintly types both, took great umbrage at the notion.

Parents of Rick, one of the planet's great quadripeds, they rose to protect the Rickster's inalienable rights. "Believe me," Bill muttered darkly, "this is not a pet issue; this is a dog issue."

A born conciliator, I offered my mediation services (though, in retrospect, none had been requested). First, I had to present full disclosure and credentials: No pet trod our apartment carpet, though our daughter, Lida, then in the build ing, had two cats.

Neither Tigger nor Gremlin, however, was aware life existed beyond the confines of No. 513 and occupied elevator space only when crammed into cat carriers on their way to occasional (but invariably expensive) trips to the vet. Nor was I an unqualified dog-lover. An enclosed-space encounter with a large, unsmiling hound never did brighten my day. As neutral as Switzerland, I put forth a modest "first-aboard, first up/down" proposal. Let the truly pet-aversive, once on the hoist, politely request animal-accompanied owners not to enter.

The same in reverse. Dog on? Doggone, wait for the next elevator. In both cases, a small wait and no trouble.

Good sense? Of course.

But none noticed, and fur flew. Ultimately, the pro-pet forces prevailed, but I've never since shed the label as a meddler. "Slick Miltie," they still whisper in the common areas. Political viability shot, my dreams of election to condo office are dead in the dust.

Therefore, let the vigilantes of the Architectural Standards Committee, crowbars at the ready, fan out through our building's halls in search of illegal doorbells. This lad will neither enlist in their ranks nor impede them.

Want my opinion this time? Pay me.

Milton Bates lives in a Baltimore condo that overlooks a body of water.

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