Once toted by fashionable women inside the folds of their gowns, diminutive pets have been the favorites of nobles from Marie Antoinette to Elizabeth II. The pseudo-royals of Hollywood also favor them, actresses and gossip-column fixtures like Tori Spelling and Mickey Rourke.
Now, thanks in part to their red carpet visibility, compact breeds are more popular than ever. “We’re seeing a nationwide trend toward smaller dogs,” said Niki Marshall Friedman, a spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club. For example, registration of the Brussels griffon has gone up 231 percent in the last 10 years; Norwich terrier registration has risen 91 percent.
Flaunted as fashion statements, pint-sized canines are, to some minds, the fur-bearing equivalent of a pair of Louboutin pumps or other accessory.
I like dogs and have always owned one. I also like cats, and with three kids, we always have a wide variety of pets hanging out at our house. At one point, we had two dogs, two cats, a rabbit, a hamster, and three fish. So, it isn't that I don't love pets. But I just don't get the dressing up with your dog thing.
Whenever I see or hear of a person who buys a doggie garment rack to hold all the sweaters, coats, and clothes for their pet, I have to wonder if it isn't compensation for not having children. The story mentions empty-nesters as pampering their pooches, as well, but almost every person quoted is a single professional woman. Is lavishing attention on your pet a substitute for a husband and children?
All this canine-human togetherness can raise eyebrows. No one is more mindful of the potential absurdities of a lap dog than some owners. "To some people in the office I could be considered borderline tragic," Ms. Lewis said with a laugh. "I figure life is short, so why not enjoy the frivolous, ridiculous side of it."
Not everyone is amused. The sight of Ms. Lazenby, tall, impeccable and fair-haired, dressed identically with her dog, has the potential to engender sneers, she knows. "It’s the classic Legally Blonde situation," she said. "If your dog has on a really fancy jacket and you have on a fancy jacket, too, it makes some people smirk."
I'm glad some of the owners can see the humor in their obsession. And, for the most part, there's nothing wrong with babying your pet with a Hermes coat if you can afford one. But even animal trainers are concerned that the trend goes too far.
They point out that pets are not accessories, and treating them like prize possessions, no matter how well meaning, can deprive an animal of what it needs. "Socialization, training and exercise are paramount," said Bash Dibra, a trainer based in New York. "Otherwise you have a problem." An overly coddled dog can become territorial and aggressive, Mr. Dibra said. "Sometimes the dog goes into a rage. It’s not a happy situation."
I'm the first one to say that pets are wonderful. I think taking care of pets teaches children compassion and responsibility, and there have been numerous studies showing the healthy effects pets can have for the elderly. But I don't want to eat in a restaurant next to one.