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Thursday, November 27, 2008

In all the flap about dog togs, I should explain that there is, at least in my mind, a difference between putting a shirt on your Boston terrier occasionally, in the privacy of your own home and yard, and taking that dog out in public dressed. (We'll ignore, for the moment, the incongruity that, while I wouldn't be caught dead walking my dressed dog down Front Street, I happily show him and his stylin' sweaters and shirts to 25,000 people on this blog...)

Ignoring that slight disjunction, think of it as the difference between cross-dressing for kicks at home, and performing a full-on drag act on stage.

I spotted this poodle at King's Kreamy Kreations (yes, that's the real name, and no, I don't know why they couldn't spell it King's Creamy Creations) in downtown Marietta three summers ago. She seemed pretty happy, even though her slightest motion produced a tappity tap tap sound from her tiny bound feet, stuffed into shiny vinyl shoes. I couldn't take my eyes off that dog. I was convinced that this is the kind of thing that makes dogs turn on their owners and rip them to pieces in the night. Don't you see something ready to snap in those eyes? Maybe I was projecting onto that sweet little ball of curly fluff, but to me this is just wrong. Shoes for a search and rescue dog who works so hard he wears his pads off, sure, but shoes for fun? Nope. We're interfering with normal locomotion here, and for what? Just to be cute? Big thumbs down from the Animal Fashion Police.

At the fair this past fall we were sitting on a bench minding our own business when a couple pushed a stroller right up to us. They had big smiles on their faces and they obviously wanted us to admire their umm...dog. The Yorkie looked utterly dejected, her ears pasted back and her eyes ashamed. She was wearing a pink dress, and worse than that, she was riding in a stroller, at the fair no less, when there were so many wonderful things to smell and taste all around her. I have little doubt that she needed a stroller because she refused to try to walk in the dress.Maybe it's the bow, maybe it's the gaggy pink, maybe it's denying a healthy, energetic terrier the right to use its muscles and walk for Pete's sake, but it was all I could do not to ask the owners what they could possibly be thinking. I forced a wan smile, whispered  my condolences to the Yorkie, and looked away. Phoebe and Liam crooned in sympathy. This is not a doll, this is not a baby; this is an animal, and she has the right to her dignity. Looking in their gleaming eyes, seeing their proud smiles, I could see that the owners were much too far gone to reach, so I let it go, reminding myself that if this dog lived in China or Peru, she might be dinner, so by comparison she had it pretty good. Being called someone's "furkid" beats stirfry any day.

And so I leave you with my double standard. It's a bit complex, so I'll spell it out. By my double standard, it's OK to put a shirt on Chet occasionally for a few minutes
to snap a couple of pictures, as long as he seems to be having fun

Mether? Are you done yet? This 3T human toddler shirt binds me at the legpits. Clothes designed for dogs are better. And you need to know that this pumpkin you carved looks like a pig.

but shoes and strollers and pink dresses on other people's dogs, nuh-uhhhn.

Hypocritical? You bet. I'm splitting tiny black Boston terrier hairs here and I know it.

Happy Thanksgiving, Chet Baker fans everywhere. It is so good to be home and receiving kisses and cuddles from my Human Kids and my Human Husband and my little black doggeh once again. Can you tell I read The New Work of Dogs by Jon Katz in one sitting on the plane to Guyana? Highly recommended, especially for those of us who can't help blurring the human/dog line now and then.

13 comments:

I think the pumpkin looks like a squirrel... and Chet looks like either a Zen Buddhist or a Kung Fu Master (as to those other pooches, they just look siiiilly)!

THANK you!

This is what I mean when I say I am against clothes on dogs.

Occasional Ralph Lauren Polo's in the privacy of your own home (and for blog-exploitation purposes) = Good.

Doll clothes and strollers and Halloween costumes = Less than good.

I love the pumpkin.

~K

Just one word in defense of dog strollers: a friend of mine has an extremely aged dachshund, who is suffering from a brain tumor. The dog has difficulty walking/balancing and so my friend brings her to their old favorite places in a dog stroller. C.C. can still greet her friends, still be petted and loved, still smell new smells, still accompany her beloved owner, none of which she could do without the stroller. It gives her a little extra time to have quality of life before the inevitable. Dressing a dog like a dolly and parading it in a pram? Puerile and pathetic. But stealing a few more months together? That's acceptable, no?

I also love the pumpkin.
W.

Sniff...I grew up with a dachshund who could have used a stroller at the end. He loved gingersnaps and cheese and pancakes and we lovingly fed him to death, something that won't ever happen to Chet Baker. Thanks for the reminder, Wendi. Yeah, strollers can be good.

Kathi, thanks for the note. Hugs to you.

The dachshund story reminds me of another: yrs. ago I did some pet-sitting one summer and one client had a dachshund that could barely walk, having MANY ailments -- the client was going out of town on an emergency and warned me ahead of time that the dog might not make it thru the week -- I was told not to feel bad at all if the dog died on my watch, but simply call the vet and all arrangements had already been made.
I was relieved when the owner returned in a week and that assignment was over, so nervous was I of the dog passing under my care.
Imagine my astonishment when 3 years later, out of the blue, I got a phone call from the same guy (he had kept my no. the whole time) asking if I could possibly pet-sit his pooch again; he had another emergency trip to take -- incredibly, the same dog was STILL ALIVE.
I don't know if this is more a testament to the will-to-live all creatures can possess, or to the weak understanding our highly-touted medicine has of its subjects... sometimes, just as humans may 'hang on' lest they feel they are letting their friends and loved ones down, I think our pets do the same for us.

I don't know whether to touch this one or not! People use pets as companions and sometimes child substitutes. There is some incongruity to your message. You are chastising some who, in your opinion, go too far in this endeavour yet you do it often with Chet. It might be in different ways but you do set him up as a human companion or child substitute as well. I see nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think it is great. Many dogs need a sweater or coat in the cold weather. In some cases it is an abuse to put them out in the cold without it.

Julie, I have to say I have so enjoyed these last two blog entries. Ok, first let me say as a breeder of Boston's I always remind people who are buying their first one that these dogs have only a single coat, not a double one like many other breeds possess, and need the additional warmth that a polo shirt will provide. That said, Chet just looks too darn cute in his to deny him being a fashionista. So clothes are good with some restraint...no I just can't see dressing a yorkie up like "My Little Princess" dolls, they have plenty of coat that the good Lord gave them, and KatDoc's rottie would look ridiculous. So I must agree with you whole heartedly about dressing up the dogs. My favorite picture of him dressed by far is the one you sent me of him in an old rag wool sock on his back. What a dog! Glad you are home too. Thanks for the Thanksgiving smile!

Northern Birder,

As a writer and blogger,I have the most fun while balancing on the tightrope of self-deprecation and judgment. There's no question that Chet is much more than an animal who is allowed to share our house. I freely "use" him as a child substitute, a hiking companion, friend and confidante. He fills many small holes in my life that the people I love are often too busy, absent or distracted to fill.

I try to make sure that he's enjoying his work in all those roles, including that of (very) occasional dress-up doll. The minute the ears go back and the eyes roll or his gait is altered, the garment comes off. I want to be very clear about that. Yes, on the surface it's ridiculous to point fingers at others who dress up their dogs when I'm indulging in it myself, but I do think there is a distinction to be made between a few minutes of dressing up for fun--only as long as the dog is enjoying himself--and turning your dog into some kind of miserable and perpetual My Little Pony or Baby Dear. In order to do that, you must stop listening to the dog, and I try never to do that to Chet. With his expressive face, it's quite obvious when he's enjoying himself and when he isn't, and if Chet ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!

When my cocker spaniel, Sophie, had a run-in with a groomer's razor (the gal, who has since been fired by Sophie and me) burned her on her side by getting the hot razor too close to her skin) I had to get Sophie a shirt to wear so she wouldn't lick at the owie.
I can't TELL you the expression on people's faces in JC Penney's when they overheard me on the phone with my mom saying "I think I could get her a onesie and just cut a hole out for her tail to go through." The looks I got were priceless.

What was that movie with Jack Black, Gwyneth Paltrow in a fat suit and Jason Alexander with a tail? Because I'm seeing his tail wagging right now. Thanks, Judy, I think...

but you have a good point--like Chet's necessary sweaters, dog clothes can have a valuable function on occasion.

I really have enjoyed your posts Julie.

I have you linked on my blog and if you find it worthy would love a link back.
Connie

http://birdsothemorning.blogspot.com/

Occasional underwear on dogs ... funny and cute.
Dressing them up in freakish costumes ... weird.

Chet is a good sport.

Cesar Millan would have some interesting to say about this!

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