Have you ever heard of the Restaurant Dog?  No?  I’m surprised, because my family first became aware of this magical little creature several years ago.  We were out to lunch together at a midweek pizza buffet.  My young children had this unsanitary habit of jumping off their booth seats and onto the floor under the table.  Why?  Because they were still of the age they were learning to clean up their own messes.  Note: they are now adolescents and this behavior seems to have self-eradicated.  Every little piece of pepperoni or sausage or breadstick dropped was dutifully followed by a small child near-leaping off her booster seat to scoop it off the floor.  In hindsight, I’m really just glad they didn’t opt to eat the, um, fruits of their labors.

In order to convince the little monsters not to participate in this new ritual, I shared with them and their mother the story of the Restaurant Dog:

At every restaurant, there is a dog.  The dog is not given dog food (much to my professional dog trainers’ chagrin, no doubt) all day, but rather is trained only to eat what has fallen from table, mouth, seat, or lap that falls to the floor.  This phenomenal and magnificent beast (photo above) is permitted, nay required, to eat all the scraps in the restaurant.

When the children have asked why they have never seen the Restaurant Dog, I politely and ever-so-deceitfully explained that the Restaurant Dog isn’t permitted on the restaurant floor in the dining area because there might be someone (heaven forbid) allergic to dogs and the owner would face a grave lawsuit should someone get sick from his or her allergies.  And, we wouldn’t want that.

Over the last several years, the Princesses have given me the, “Dad, we know there’s no Restaurant Dog!” retort.  However, while visiting some friends, it was pure joy when they shared the legend of the Restaurant Dog with their new friends.  Their friends laughed with them at the story and their friends’ parents (our friends) were hearing the same story from my bride and me.

I’m willing to bet that, when they have children of their own, the legend of the mighty Restaurant Dog will be passed on to our grandchildren.

What traditions and stories have you started, on a lark, in an effort to engage your children or nieces or nephews in appropriate behavior?  Please share in the comments.

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