In our multi-part exploration of the secret lives of well-off dogs, it’s time to talk fashion. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the great European luxury houses have responded to the desire to treat our dogs as we do our children by launching designer apparel and accessories for the canine contingent. Pucci has $350 dog carrier, and Louis Vuitton goes them one better with a monogrammed one for $965. Pet bling is a thing, too, and there are reports of an owner spending $250,000 on a diamond dog collar.
The high life requires lots of parties and photo ops, and nearly one-third of dog owners report having held a birthday party for their dog (only a third? Come on, people – every dog is supposed to have its day!) Spot Experience in mid-town Manhattan has become the preferred high-end birthday party location. Then there are the holidays, which require Halloween costumes, holiday gifts, and new outfits for the family photo. Get out your wallets, Mom and Dad! The website Bark & Co is all about supporting doggie fun, starting with its BarkBox, which is a monthly subscription service for treats and toys modeled on beauty company BirchBox. They’ve established several social outings for dog owners and their pets, including a gathering of 8,000 in Brooklyn called BarkFest.
As with humans, sometimes the posh dogs just like to hang with each other. But not at the dog park – too many paparazzi. The Ruff Club in the East Village of Manhattan, founded in 2013, appears to be the world’s first membership-only luxury social club for dogs. For those looking for more friends, Twindog describes itself as Tinder for dogs.
If you or your dog decide to have people over, it’s important to have nice digs. A simple dog house costs about $20, but if you want to go big, you can order a custom-built $30,000 dog house with running water, lights and air conditioning (you can make it a replica of your own home: Georgian colonial, farmhouse, hacienda, or Swiss chalet). Paris Hilton famously spent $325,000 on a two-story mansion for her six dogs.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, your pet’s name does matter, so don’t do anything too cute. The website Baby Dog Names is a good place to get ideas. According to the American Kennel Club, the top trendy names for male and female dogs right now are Sawyer, Jack, Elsa and Bella (I am chalking these last two up to the popularity of “Frozen” and “Twilight”). Ideally, breeders say the name should be short, crisp and no more than two syllables. Like Lassie.
For dog and owner alike, socializing requires good grooming. And you guessed it – there are lots of expensive ways to fluff up Fluffy. Depending on size, in-store grooming can run from $25-125 per visit (most owners groom their pets once a month). Mobile groomers will come to you, for a fee range of $75-200.
Ensuring psychological health is high on every dog owner’s mind, and of course there is a world of dog toys to provide entertainment and exercise. But that’s not all. To keep a dog’s stress in check, in any large city you can also treat a dog to acupressure, reiki, yoga class, massage, other spa treatments, and should the need arise, psychiatric treatment. There are anti-depressants for dogs. Need additional ways to help your dog chill? The Ultra Calmer Canine Stress Relief Sonic Collar form Pet Acoustics uses musical tones to relieve pet stress from thunderstorms, fireworks and other noise phobias. And there’s always Bowser Beer, a non-alcoholic and non-carbonated doggie beer, so that you can both grab a cold one at the end of a long day.
Wealthy puppy parents still love to travel, so many luxury hotels now welcome dogs and other pets. PetTravelGuides.com is a good resource for finding dog-friendly hotels, restaurants and parks. Starwood Hotels’ LTD (Love That Dog) program provides pet room service, side-by-side owner and pet pedicures, dog walking services and custom-made dog tags upon arrival. Alaska Airlines has a pet safety guarantee. Pet frequent flyer miles cannot be far behind. If you do decide to leave your dog behind when you travel, luxury kennels (now known as “boarding hotels”) abound, exemplified by the Pooch Hotel in Sunnyvale, CA in the heart of Silicon Valley, which promises cable TV and webcams in every room, limo service for pick-ups and drop-offs, a swimming pool, treadmills, and a “Spaw” with facials, fur coloring and aromatherapy. All for $100 per night, and you need to book early because the most expensive rooms run at 99% capacity. If Asia beckons, you can check your dog into The Wagington in Singapore, a luxury pet hotel sited in a 1920s bungalow. Or you could go the Airbnb route with DogVacay – sitters can either take your dog to their home, or stay with the dog in yours.
If you’re concerned about predeceasing your beloved dog, in 42 states and Washington D.C. you can now establish a trust for your pet. Leona Helmsley famously did this for her Maltese, Trouble, leaving him $12 million in her estate (a judge later reduced it to $2 million). A pet trust can specify a trustee, preferred groomers, breeding instructions, the type of food and exercise to be given, and even burial instructions for your dog. It should stipulate what happens to any trust funds left after the pet is deceased, and you can put in provisions to prevent foul play (in case your trustee turns to out to be a Cruella de Ville). Alternatively, in your will you could leave your dog to a friend, along with a cash stipend to care for the animal (one estate lawyer called it the dog’s dowry).
After spending all of this money on your dog, it might cheer dog Moms and Dads to know that there is a real possibility of some financial return, thanks to social media. You could make your pet into an Instagram star. The BarkCam will help you get a good photo. Accounts dedicated to dogs are generating thousands of dollars in advertising revenue for their owners, and there are talent agencies that are solely devoted to getting brand sponsorships for social media canine stars. Why not your little darling?
By the way, if taking on full-time ownership of a dog is too much time or expense for you, there’s good news. The sharing economy has penetrated this sector, and the Bark ‘N Borrow app can help you find a dog to “borrow” for the night or the weekend. The app reportedly has more than 70,000 users. Need a chick magnet for a Saturday stroll in the park? There’s an app for that!
So what’s next? Luxury product and service providers will keep finding ways to coax wealthy pet owners into providing an appropriate lifestyle for their dogs, at home and away. The Related Companies, a New York real estate developer, has aggressively marketed pet amenities as a selling point in its most expensive properties, expanding its proprietary program Dog City to more of its buildings (tenants can get day care, training, and weekly visits from groomers and vets).
The Internet of Things will surely continue to transform the experience of pet parenting, increasing transparency and control for both owners and pets. In a smart home, surely there will be machines to refill a pet’s food supply at scheduled times and alert owners if the water bowl is empty. I read an article that speculated that soon face-mapping will enable a dog to smile and have food released to its bowl (or have a door opened so that it can go outside). I imagine that Alexa, Siri and Cortana – those ever-improving chat bots – will soon be able to recognize dog barks and provide the necessary response without human involvement. No More Woof is a headgear prototype created by the Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery to help translate dog brain waves into language. The future is very nearly here.
Many of us here at Dandelion Chandelier have now decided that maybe it would be nice if a well-off dog’s life were our lives. But since we are doomed to remain on two feet, it seems fitting in this dog-eat-dog election year to give a politician the last word on the enduring value of a canine companion. D.C. can be a lonely place, and it’s really hard to know who to trust. Kudos to Bo and Sunny for keeping our First Family in good spirits. In the immortal words of Harry Truman: “If you want a real friend in Washington, get a dog.”