Tom Tabor and Ross Guedry were having lunch with their best pals, Harry and Beau, Tuesday at an outdoor cafe on Lincoln Road.
Everyone was well-behaved. Tabor and Guedry had salad. Their goldendoodle and cocker spaniel nibbled on some doggie treats.
It was just another day on one of South Florida’s most dog-friendly streets.
Still, an underlying tension filled the air as dog owners and cafe workers discussed a horrific scare that happened on Labor Day weekend when a dog mauled a 26-year-old waitress.
“It’s terrible what happened, but people are responsible for their own dog’s behavior. Some dogs are more gentle than others,” Tabor said. “Part of the reason we come down here is so we can walk the dogs and they enjoy it.”
Tabor, Guedry and their pets were lunching at the Cafe at Books & Books.
Alvyn Lopez, a waiter there who gave the dogs a treat, says he’s careful when he approaches dogs.
“You have to know how to treat dogs,” he said. “You can’t just approach a dog any which way you want. If you expect nothing to happen to you, you’re living a fantasy,” Lopez said.
“People want to blame it all on the dogs, but the owners have some responsibility.”
It’s unclear what set off the cane corso breed that ripped into waitress Amy Calandrella’s lip on Sept. 1. When the Van Dyke Cafe server bent down to give a dog a bowl of water, the dog bit her lip. She needed more than 300 stitches and underwent more than seven hours of surgery to repair the wound.
The dog was released to the owner and no citations were given, according to the report by Miami-Dade Animal Services.
The owner of the dog, Teri Guttman Valdes, did not answer her phone Tuesday. Valdes, who lives in Coral Gables, is an attorney who works in labor and employment law and has represented police officers.
Although Lopez, the Books & Books waiter, hasn’t seen any dog vs. server incidents, Books & Books waiter Dan Mitchell said he has been bitten twice.
When a Dalmatian bit Mitchell, the owners quickly left and didn’t apologize. The second time, another dog bit his pants and left a small hole.
“Stuff like that happens all the time, but this case here is one in a million,” he said. “I don’t think it should create an issue.”
Dogs are welcome at most Lincoln Road restaurants and some shops even put out bowls of water for passing pets. In Miami Beach, there are no laws that require muzzles on any breed.
According to state law, any dog owner whose dog has not been declared dangerous, but is known to be dangerous, can be charged with a misdemeanor if the owner is reckless in an incident in which the dog bites someone. Police were called out to the Van Dyke incident but no charges were filed and the dog was allowed to remain with the owner.
Just as they frequently do, Ashley Terwilliger strolled Lincoln Road Tuesday with her best pal, Kaya. She said owners need to control their dogs.
“It’s not the dog, it’s the owner, the owner on a lot of levels,” said Terwilliger, accompanied by her 10-month-old mixed boxer. “If you know that could be a possibility, why would you bring your dog to a restaurant?” she said. “Then what happens is your dog ruins it for everybody else.”
Winston Thomas, visiting from Freeport, Bahamas, shared a beer with his daughter and her fiancé at Van Dyke Cafe Tuesday afternoon. He said that dogs should have muzzles when they are out in public.
“If that was my daughter, they would pay for it,” he said of the waitress attack. “If you have an animal that’s vicious like that, it should be under lock and key.”
Miami Herald staff writer Anna Edgeron contributed to this report.