Rena Church, the public art director for the city of Aurora, is a nice, pleasant person. And she has a cute, tiny dog, a Chihuahua mix named Rula.
Their dream? To do what is now forbidden: ride together on Metra.
Rena can almost envision the triumphant day. She's seated on the train, looking out the window, enjoying the view. And little Rula sits on Rena's lap, in a tiny little dog-carrying case.
"First of all, I hate to drive," Rena told me the other day on WLS-AM radio. "I spend a lot of time going to festivals, and my friends and I take our dogs because we don't want to leave them alone at home for hours on end. … If I could take her on the train, I wouldn't have to drive."
Service dogs are allowed on all public transit, but the rules for pets vary.
Little dogs, even the vicious ones, may board airplanes if the owner gets permission from the airline. But Amtrak forbids it, as do major bus lines.
Small pets in carriers may ride the CTA. But Metra, the commuter rail agency in Chicago and suburbs, also forbids pet dogs. But Rena wants your help to persuade Metra to break its old stupid rules and allow tiny dogs in carriers on trains.
She has a petition going, on Change.org. Many of the supportive comments are heartfelt. But I told her I had a problem.
I hate her idea.
And I told her I'll use all my powers to crush the hopes of cute little Rula and her kind, art-loving mistress.
"Oh," said Rena.
That's right, Rena and Rula, I am your enemy now.
Rena has somehow found a Tribune video of me promising to crush her dreams, and she's posted it with her Change.org petition. And, yes, I will crush her dreams. Little Rula's dreams too.
We didn't start out like this when I interviewed Rena. We started out friendly, and I asked her about the name of her dog:
Is Rula named after Rula Lenska, the big-haired British actress in the Alberto VO5 hair spray commercials of long ago?
"Very good. Bingo!" Church said happily. "That's exactly. Almost no one gets that."
Things went downhill from there.
At least she was decent enough to want to know why I hope to crush her dreams. So I told her.
Not all of us have tiny little dogs who can sit on our laps like coyote bait.
For example, my own pooch, a German shorthaired pointer named, appropriately, Zeus the Wonderdog, can't possibly sit on a lap. His head wouldn't fit into that tiny carrying case. But that's not the worst of it. The worst of it is this.