Overcome by seasonal busyness, I barely had time to get a hair cut… However, as I sat next to Rochelle - pictured here with the appropriately named Tangle, the larger-than-lap lapdog, I asked myself the vital question ‘why do people have pets?’ Aren’t pets just an expensive, time-consuming nuisance - an additional distraction, making the normal stuff of life even more complicated? Then I had a Eureka moment: The last decade was probably a great one … if you happened to be a dog. No need to worry about the recession, mass terrorist atrocities, the outbreak of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the tsunami, climate change, or being saddled with massive global debt – not, at least, if you were a dog.
In the New Year's Eve edition of the Daily Mail (see cutting left), there were pictures of Kelly Brook with her newly acquired ‘pug of love’ – aka Rocky. The puppy was a Christmas gift from her boyfriend, Danny Cipriani. Of course, there’s nothing more timeless and romantic than the gift of a puppy – some might say it’s as near as you could get to having your own offspring, minus the physical trauma. However, we should never forget that owning a dog is a huge responsibility – it’s not just for Christmas, it’s for life. But, at least you can sell a dog - or give it to someone with more time and patience, if you find you don’t have the appropriate qualities required for its upbringing.
Over the past decade, especially amongst the well-heeled, dogs have become the style accessory of choice. As a result, the dog business (no pun) has bucked the economic downturn, with significant growth in sales of dog foods, clothing, services and all manner of curious canine accessories. According to estimates from the UK Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, dogs account for £1.1 billion in food sales per annum, while the doggy treat market is worth around £203 million annually. There are hypoallergenic and preservative free animal foods, gourmet/fine-dining pet foods and even specially formulated versions of human Christmas dishes for dogs. Incidentally, around one in three pets in the UK is overweight.
In London, Harrods has recently quadrupled the size of its pet department to 11,000 square feet and hosts an annual pet fashion show called Pet a Porter. According to the Telegraph Magazine, past shows have featured a £250,000 diamond dog collar by jewellery designer, Stephen Webstier, a miniature bridal outfit by Vivienne Westwood and a gold lame jacket by dog-lover, Ben de Lisi.
Stateside, Dara Foster, the self-proclaimed ‘pet stylist to the stars’ says that in the past few years there’s been a surge in people realizing that that their dog's appearance is an expression of their own style.
To this end, America spends approximately $43.5 billion a year on its pets – including luxuries and indulgences such as miniature mansions for cats and dogs at up to $35,000 a pop, on special flights via the cleverly customized Pet Airways … and even on pet plastic surgery.
In December 2009, the publication of the book Dogs in Vogue made it official: dogs are the ultimate fashion accessory. Click here to see some photos from ‘the book that celebrates 100 years of canine chic’. And, if that's not enough, why not join the many (more than 350,000 so far) who have viewed this video of ‘How much is that doggy in the window?’
Our dogs have come to define us, our humanity, our very raison d’etre:
The Daily Mail, for instance, states that Kelly Brook’s “transformation from model to A-list actress is finally complete” due to her new pug, “a pet of the sort favoured by Hollywood celebrities.” It adds that “Cipriani’s decision to buy her the dog has led to more speculation about the growing seriousness of their relationship.”
By the way, the latest celebrity pet is said to be the micro-pig – reputedly adored by the Beckhams, Paris Hilton and Charlotte Church … and just what does that say about the style of these stars?
Needless to say, some dogs, like Mr Winkle, have been celebrities in their own right for many years.
Yes, dogs have certainly had it good in the past decade – in the press, you’ll find many examples of animals bequeathed funds in their owners’ wills. In 2007, Leona Helmsley reputedly left a staggering $12 million to her white Maltese dog – substantially more than she left her four grandchildren. Actress Lucy Gordon, 28, who recently hanged herself in her Paris apartment following an argument with her French boyfriend, left a net estate of £71,518, of which some £6,270 ($10,000) was specifically requested to go to “a trust fund for my dog Meelon to take care of her financially to the end of her days.”
According to the American Pet Products Association, 70% of dog owners now list their pet as ‘like a child/family member’. It’s hardly surprising then, that advertisers in the UK should want to offer you the chance to “talk to your dog”. Apparently, there’s “lots more to dog talk than just barking”. A special new guide offers “detailed step-by-step instructions on how to establish a truly meaningful two-way communication with your pet”, which is great if “you’ve always wondered what your dog is thinking”.
For the less dedicated, there’s always the option of a virtual pet. Neopets.com currently boasts around 260 million neo-pet owners…
Alternatively, you might like to invest in a cute little dog that’s a lot less troublesome to maintain, like one of these curiously quirky and collectable vintage pooch brooches from ShopCurious. There’s no need for feeding, walking, or grooming - though you’re very welcome to stroke your dog brooch if you wish, or even to talk to it, if you’re so inclined - after all, you never know what it might be thinking…
I rather suspect that ‘man’s best friend’ might be wondering if the dog of a decade that’s just ended will give way to a howler of one to come.
PS Woof, woof! = wishing you a curiously happy New Year x