Jewish World Review May 30, 2002 / 19 Sivan, 5762

Ian Shoales

Ian Shoales
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Consumer Reports

Pooches in sharkskin suits and the end of dog tags | According to the Associated Press, last December, over three and a half million pets have now been implanted with microchips. "When a pet is brought to a shelter or clinic," the article stated, "workers can use a handheld scanner to read the chip's number. A computer database then matches the pet's owner, medical history an other pertinent information."

These chips have had other uses as well. When a football player from the Philadelphia Eagles abandoned his 3-month-old puppy last year, the SPCA and police traced the microchip to the pet shop where the dog was purchased, and the player was arrested. Whether his trial was shown simultaneously on Animal Planet and Court TV, I do not know.

The larger significance of this? The dog tag will soon go the way of Kenny, Oprah's Book Club, and Penthouse Magazine. Instead of a metal disc announcing to the world that our dog's name is Fluffy and he lives on Elm Street and, yes, he's had his shots, we have now miniaturized that information and stuck it under the dog's skin where it can only be accessed by the Proper Authorities possessing the Proper Equipment.

Even as we give our animal friends the equivalent of an unlisted number, we are pampering them at a level heretofore only achieved by ancient Egyptian princesses.

In March, 2002, the San Francisco non-profit, PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support), which helps those with debilitating diseases care for their pets, held its annual fund-raising event, "Petchitecture, an auction offering fanciful pet homes created by local designers."

Called "The Pedigree of Pet Palaces," it showcased a variety of habitats, from "the Martha Stewart-inspired K-9 Cabana to the Airstream Dogabout." Others included "Chateau Fideau, constructed from an aged oak wine barrel....; the Pup Tent; the Lean on Tower, inspired by Dr. Seuss and Alice in Wonderland; and Cats Cradle." Three of these mini-mansions were pre-sold for $2,000 each. Buyers included Elizabeth Taylor and Esprit founder Susie Tompkins.

And what is the modern canine house dwellers wearing? Last December, USA WEEKEND informed me that "(d)iscerning four-leggers have cashmere sweaters, faux fur jackets, three-piece sits, fluffy pajamas and, at holiday time, elf and Santa suits in their closets."

I learned that Karen Thompson, owner of Karens for People + Pets, "a high-end boutique and salon in Manhattan," who numbers among her customers, "Mariah Carey, composer Marvin Hamlisch and handbag maven Kate Spade," offers a pet bag in real crocodile for $4000. (Or, if you're budget-conscious, you can get a faux version for a mere $350.)

Even top designers like Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Salvatore Ferragamo now offer pet items. You can buy a shopping tote with matching jacket for $400. You can even purchase a lizard skin leash and collar set for $240 ($400 for alligator).

I had a dog when I was a boy that used to chase lizards. I had no idea what he would have done had he actually caught one. Now I know: he would have trotted over to his tailor and turned it into a nice suit of clothes.

This spring a brochure for an upscale Manhattan kennel came into my hands. It is called Biscuits & Bath Doggy Village, a "30,000 square foot center dedicated to doggies and their parents!" Features include a lap pool, indoor running field, and gift boutique. Oh, and Friday nights there's live blues and jazz. "Sip some wine and munch on snacks while your dog runs and plays with some canine buddies."

Our canine buddies might not have tags as they howl along with a Vince Guaraldi tune, but we'll still recognize them. Why, there's Snoopy now. Can't miss him, really. He's over there, in the fedora, wraparound shades, and alligator boots, with the mortgage papers wagging out the back of his sharkskin suit.

JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.


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03/12/02: Life in the warehouse
01/28/02: Shoes and food
01/24/02: Suspension of disbelief has nothing to do with whether we accept something as real or not
01/22/02: Save the Grand Ole Opry?
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12/11/01: KNITTING!
12/07/01: Conspiracy by the 'fat suit' lobby?
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11/15/01: Literary tips in a jar
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© 2001, Ian Shoales