- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 17, 2005

Once, dogs did not rule the world. They did not send greeting cards, get massages, attend parties for other dogs or force their owners to trail along behind them like zombies bearing little plastic bags.

Once.

But now dogs do rule the world, and there’s nothing any of us can do about it. They have their own designer perfumes, chaise lounges, ice cream, milk baths, Halloween costumes, mood collars and funeral urns. Soon, no doubt, the halls of Congress will heed the commands of DogPAC, the Republican Dog Committee and Democratic Dogs for Peace.

Soon.

First, let us issue this official disclaimer: No dogs were hurt in the making of this column. No special-interest groups contributed funds or reviewed the editorial contents. Cats will receive equal time in the near future, as per the requirements set forth by the International Cat Rights Foundation of Elizabeth, N.J.

But back to those dogs.

In olden days, dogs were, well, dawgs.They ate kibble or things like Pard and Alpo from stainless-steel bowls; the very apex of their experiences involved rolling in something dubious, turning over a garbage can or riding in the back seat of a humongous automobile, head out the window, jowls joyously aflap.

There was substance behind that old saying, “It’s a dog’s life.”

Ah, think of it: the days when dogs were dogs and owners were glad of it. So were the dogs.

Something went awry, oh, about 20 years ago, when the American dog-spoiling industry was born. Savvy marketeers tapped into a kind of collective pet guilt that had been brewing ever since somebody’s Aunt Madge suggested that dogs were really people — or at least, her dog was a person.

Oh, how cute. How charming. Fifi is such a little lady. Nothing is too good for her.

Oh, woe is us.

Now, doubtless, the well-meaning Aunt Madge owned either a Pomeranian or a toy poodle, and her idea of humanizing a dog was to use affectionate nicknames and offer the little dogperson some steak every now and then.

But it was a eureka — make that a dogreka — moment for entrepreneurs. Hey. Dogs are people. Why shouldn’t dogs have their own low-cal dinners and T-shirts? Yes, why not?

Those innocent and modest beginnings have since turned into a $34 billion extravaganza — which is how much Americans spend on basic dog needs each year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That is double what we spent just a decade ago and more than we spend on human goodies such as sporting goods, toys or jewelry.

Now, we don’t want to appear to be dogophobes. This column is, in fact, dedicated to Charlie, Daisy, Honey, Junior, Chrissybell, Christmas Waif and Superdog — dogs we have known, loved and cleaned up after over the decades.

But a dog mood collar?

— perhaps a boon for dogs on the way to the vet. Granted, there is great comic relief in the idea. And dogs these days are subject to angst brought on by the fact that many believe themselves to be human, although they still drink from the toilet.

Meanwhile, dog party planners around the nation are offering Pupperware Parties and bark mitzvahs, complete with yarmulkes and menorah biscuits.

There’s a lot of dog cologne out there, too. The Crazy Dog Co. offers baby powder freshening spray for dogs, while Bark ‘n’ Bath comes in four scents. And, yes, one can procure an engraved nickel-plated pet urn for about $20. While several companies offer birthday cards from the dog, there also are birthday cards for the dog made from edible rawhide.

But wait. A change may be afoot, or apaw, as the case may be. Dogscooter, an upstart company in Washington state, is offering a product meant to inspire the American doggy to do something other than whine, eat and drool. Dogscooter is marketing dog wagons — as in dog-pulls-human wagons.

“If you can’t walk him enough, if he pulls your arm off, if you would not want your mother or daughter to walk him, if driving to the dog park each night is difficult/boring/expensive, if the Iditarod grabs your imagination, try the new dog sport: dog scootering,” the company advises. “You and the dog are a team.”

Woof. Now that’s more like it.

Jennifer Harper covers media, modern life, political culture and other timely topics for The Washington Times’ National Desk. Contact her at [email protected]washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.


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