Reporter takes her dog to the pub... but does she get served?
I was shocked to hear on TalkBack that my friend, TV producer Colette Wilson-Maguire, had been asked to leave the garden terrace of south Belfast's Cutters Wharf pub on a sunny evening because she had her dog with her.
As a dog owner, I think that is completely unreasonable. If that had been me I would have left the place unceremoniously and never darkened their doors again - with or without the dog.
This gave me an idea to investigate the policy in some of my local hostelries. On our sunniest day so far, I loaded up the car with my three dogs - Bailey, Heidi and Walter. My plan was to select pubs with a beer garden near areas dog walkers frequent, to see if my four-legged friends got a warm welcome or the bum's rush.
First stop, The Dirty Duck on the shore of Belfast Lough in Holywood, one of my favourite places for an al fresco drink and slap-bang in the middle of one of the best coastal dog walks in Co Down.
Although the beer garden at the Duck is at the front, you have to go in the bar to order your drink and, as there was nowhere to tether them, I decided to bring them in with me. Nobody seemed to bat an eyelid as we stood and ordered a Diet Coke for me and a bowl of water for them.
Of course there was the obligatory craic you always get in the Dirty Duck from two old fellas who shouted over to the barman: "Another refill for me, mate, and three pints of Guinness for the dogs!" Everyone laughed, Heidi barked and the barman politely suggested we took a seat in the garden.
Within a minute he was there with a big bowl of water for the dogs, who sloshed it all down. Thumbs-up to the Dirty Duck, not just for providing water but also for being so friendly.
It's a pity the same couldn't be said for the next stop. Crawfordsburn Inn is a great pub in many ways. What's more, it's the only pub for miles in a village frequented by dog walkers making their way to Crawfordsburn Country Park. You would expect dogs to be welcome, but they aren't.
In fact, when I popped my head around the door from the garden entrance we were told to leave. No, dogs aren't allowed in the grounds. It's company policy. Can't you see the signs? No, You can't get a bowl of water, because they shouldn't be here in the first place. No, you cannot sit with them at your feet, hidden under a bench, while you drink a cup of coffee. Err... why are you and your dogs still here?
We set off for Bangor. As we arrived at The Jamaica Inn with its fabulous covered terrace with sea views, we didn't even have to ask if dogs were welcome. Two large bowls were already set out so it was no surprise that there were three other dogs sitting there happily enjoying the ambiance and the attention of the friendly staff.
We completed our circuit around the corner at Bangor's other seaview bar, the Esplanade.
The outdoor terrace was buzzing with dog walkers who had stopped off for a cheeky pint. Water bowls a-plenty were lined up and filled, ready to quench the thirst of their canine patrons and so Bailey, Walter and Heidi drained one each, parched with the excitement of their first ever pooch pub crawl.