• It's a dog's life

    From hard labour to a beauty contest

    A BORZOI flirts with a Pekingese; a Great Dane with a Chihuahua. How does each even know that the other is the same species as itself? No other animal possesses such variety, nor such manifest genetic elasticity. Nor, probably, has any other animal had its genes so manipulated to please human fads and fancies.

    It is not entirely a one-way street. Dogs, those self-domesticated wolves, are adept at manipulating their chosen companions. Dog owners take a heap of punishment from their beloved pooches: trudging round in the rain, spending their all on vets' bills, apologising to undoggy people for yapping or biting or smelling. And not just these days. Remember Launce, the man-servant in Shakespeare's “Two Gentlemen of Verona”, who took the punches on himself when his wicked dog Crab stole a pie, killed a goose or pissed in the dining chamber?

    Owners can be saps but they have, over the years, done some very strange things to their mutts. To fit in with passing fashion, dogs have been stretched and shrunk, their noses pushed and pulled, their coats curled and straightened, their skin wrinkled—and not with age. This “painting with dog genetics”, as someone cleverly called it, is a relatively new development.

    It is true that dogs, which began distinguishing themselves from wolves well over 12,000 years ago, have always adapted themselves, or been adapted, to fit with human requirements, growing longer legs for hunting, bigger bodies for guarding, thicker coats for sled-pulling. Their temperaments changed too: a guard dog knew it must bite, a herding dog knew it must not. But except for the over-privileged few, who were happily sybaritic as the cherished pets of the great and good and rich, these dogs worked for their living, and they were bred selectively to make them better workers.

    All this changed in the second half of the 19th century. With the birth of kennel clubs (first in Britain in 1873, followed closely by the American Kennel Club), breeding clubs and dog shows, a dog's life changed from hard labour to a beauty contest. Although about eight out of ten pure-bred dogs never see the inside of a show ring, there are now aesthetic, rather than workmanlike, standards that breeders, and many owners, aspire to. All a dog has to do, writes Desmond Morris, in his excellent dictionary of dogs, is “to look good, walk proudly and not bite the judges”.

    Until then, dogs were mostly dogs. Owners of canine aristocrats proudly trace their animal's descent back to the pharaohs, Aztec kings, Spanish conquistadors, Chinese empresses and so forth. And indeed there were modern lookalikes in ancient times: something looking like a saluki is said to have turned up in western Asia in 3000 BC. The Romans specified six types: guardians, shepherds, sporting dogs, war dogs, scent hounds and sight hounds. But there was always a fair amount of cross-breeding and, even in relatively modern times, most dogs that were not dismissed as curs or lurchers, fell into the general categories of mastiffs, collies, terriers or pointers.

    Today there are 300-400 separate breeds recognised by kennel clubs worldwide (196 recognised by Britain's Kennel Club, and 156 by the American Kennel Club). And these recognised breeds are being split into ever smaller, more precise categories: there are now, for instance, two types of cocker spaniel, and two types of Welsh corgi, each with its own gene pool.

    The separation of genes is crucial: the purity of each breed, or sub-breed, is zealously preserved and protected. The only qualification needed to register a puppy with most kennel clubs (and thereby to obtain the pedigrees that are essential for successful showing, breeding and trading) is that both its parents were registered as pure-breds of that particular breed.

    Stephen Budiansky, the author of a terrific book, “The Truth about Dogs”, suggests that this obsession with dog purity originated in late Victorian Britain, and has a touch of racist eugenics about it. He mentions books and articles written at that time, and into the 20th century too, that excoriate mongrels and other weaklings for contaminating the purity of bloodlines. The inbreeding to preserve the purity of small-population breeds sometimes has results that get him thinking of the haemophilia that ran through the blood of all those royal European cousins.

    The physical standards that each breed should aspire to are laid down by the kennel clubs in meticulous detail. The British rules for a bulldog's head go on and on for no fewer than 240 words; a pug's foot should be “neither so long as the foot of the hare, not so round as that of the cat”; a King Charles spaniel must have a coat that is “long, silky and straight...never curly”; a Pekingese should have a “slow, dignified rolling gait in front...close action behind”, and so on through thousands of daunting, sometimes poetic, words of aesthetic instruction. Since the judges at the all-important dog shows assess an entry according to the exactitude with which it conforms to these arbitrary standards (“this little girl took my eye...wish she had more wrinkles”), an ambitious breeder will exert him or herself to design a replica.

    The first dog show was a social affair held by English aristocrats to raise money for charity. Now they are a deadly serious competitive sub-culture: mighty battles of pride and money against a sometimes murky background of back-biting and back-handers. A blue-ribbon dog, the very model of a champion, fulfilling every condition in the rule-book, is the parent that all ambitious breeders want for their puppies, passing on his aesthetically perfect genes.

    There are sometimes regulations limiting the number of litters a bitch may produce. But there have been none, at least until the Netherlands introduces some incendiary new rules next year, about the number of times a champion sire can mate, or his semen be used. So the proud beauties give of their best, again and again, even father to daughter or brother to sister, to produce the perfect breed-standard specimen. Over-use is the rule rather than the exception. It is almost, in Mr Budiansky's inimitable words, cloning the old-fashioned way.

    But, alas, the almost-cloned puppy carries its parents' imperfections as well as their aesthetic perfection: unwanted genes are channelled down, in ever greater concentration, alongside the desired ones. There is nothing inherently evil about inbreeding dogs, or line-breeding as it is cosmetically called. Similar methods are used all over the place, for instance in the breeding of dairy cattle. But, unchecked, it can, and is, producing lamentable results.

    These are basically of two kinds, though inter-linked. First, the inherited diseases and disorders. With the intense use of “popular sires”, especially in the rarer breeds with small populations, the animals within a breed become ever more closely related as the generations go by. Undesirable traits, from weak hearts to weak eyes to weak hips, are passed down the line along with the bushy tails and bright eyes. Responsible breeders will not mate an afflicted animal; but many dogs are silent carriers, showing no sign of the disorder themselves but passing recessive mutant genes on to their offspring.

    The quest for perfection

    In the closed-book breeding conditions that prevail, which allow for no cross-breeding or diversity to creep into the blood, certain defects have become breed characteristics: blindness in setters, for instance, or heart disease in boxers and Boston terriers, or deafness in Dalmatians, or hip dysplasia, that disabling misfit of ball and socket in the hip joint that troubles a large number of different pure-breds.

    Cross-bred dogs are not immune. But, refuting the old racist ideas about degenerate mongrels weakening the race, actuarial statistics worked out by pet-insurance companies, and quoted by Bruce Fogle in his encyclopedia of dogs, show that cross-bred dogs have a median life expectancy of 13.2 years compared with the seven years of some pure-breds, including bulldogs and Irish wolfhounds.

    Second, there is the exaggeration of certain desired physical features to the point where they harm the dog: a creeping extremism, done in the name of fashion, that causes disorders. Man, or woman, decides that it would be nice to make dogs bigger or smaller, or with squashier faces and noses, or with hairier coats, or with ever more wrinkled skin. When carried to an extreme, it has led to many breeds of dogs being unable to breathe or reproduce or move in a normal way.

    Humans have done extraordinary things to their animals. Much of the dog-designing is well intentioned. Sometimes it has positive results: the exquisite sense of smell of some dogs, for instance, has been fine-tuned to help to sniff out drugs or, more excitingly, to detect the early signs of prostate cancer before a scan can do so. Much of it is harmless: West Highland terriers, for instance, were bred to have white coats after a careless owner shot his brown pet by mistake for a fox.

    But the results of genetic redesign are not always so benign. Bulldogs, it was decreed, should have big heads. Now they are so big that they cannot pass through the birth canal and most bulldogs have to be born by caesarean. Dachshund bodies were lengthened, giving them hernias. German shepherds, once straight-backed, looked more alert with sloping backs; but this has done their hips in. Spaniels, it was decreed, should have longer, heavier ears; but this has affected the ear's anatomy. And a veterinary surgeon's nightmare sometimes comes true: the eyeballs of a Pekingese can actually pop out.

    Working dogs are often turned into something else. The Yorkshire terrier, once a tough little ratter, has been miniaturised, resulting in slipped kneecaps and collapsed wind pipes. Mr Budiansky tells of American owners of Border collies who unsuccessfully fought to keep their working dogs off the list of recognised breeds for fear that they would be transformed into furry, useless creatures.

    And fashions have a tendency to change. In the late 19th century, it was thought that it would be nice if the King Charles spaniel had a flatter nose. Then, in the 1920s, an American noticed that the little dog in a Van Dyck painting of Charles II had a long nose. So the King Charles had its nose lengthened again to make a new breed, the cavalier King Charles, which has become immensely popular and intensely inbred—and whose heart troubles now shorten the life of affected dogs by four or five years.

    Kennel clubs and breed clubs, cast as snobbish or money-grabbing villains by some animal-rights groups, are acutely alive to the increasing prevalence of inherited diseases among their pure-bed dogs. They differ, however, over how to tackle the problem. The Dutch Kennel Club, deciding that the times are serious enough to justify desperate measures, is passing stiff new regulations; others hope to achieve much the same result with information, incentives and peer pressure. All are helped by the scientific explosion in DNA-testing for hereditary diseases.

    The testing is crucial to avoid passing on recessive mutant genes that do not show up in any obvious way in the parent, but can kill or maim or blind its puppy. Identifying a dog or a bitch as a carrier would not ban it from being mated: a single recessive mutant gene does no harm, and to ban the animal would shrink an often tiny gene pool to an even tinier one. The trick is to prevent it being mated with another carrier. That is what is fatal: if two carriers mate, some of the offspring inherit a bad gene from both dam and sire, and are thus hit by the disease.

    For the moment, DNA tests for dogs are available for fewer than 20 diseases, affecting some 50 breeds. This is only a beginning: dogs are known to suffer from 350 inherited diseases. Of those, the precise mode of inheritance is known of about half, and is usually a single gene mutation.

    The British Kennel Club showed that it took all this seriously by appointing a molecular biologist, Jeff Sampson, to be its canine genetics co-ordinator four years ago. All the same, British DNA-testing is severely limited, mainly because it costs so much. It is, however, used to detect PRA, a form of blindness that affects a number of breeds, including Irish setters and Cardigan Welsh corgis, and CLAD, an immune-deficiency disease, that afflicts several types of setter. Enormous store is set by this testing. The CLAD test was introduced only in 2000, when it was discovered that 12% of the breed suffered from it; but the tests are going so well that the Kennel Club believes that all setters should be clear of the killer disease by 2005.

    Testing is both more popular and more possible in America, where the Kennel Club, the Canine Health Foundation and breed clubs pour money into genetic and other research, amounting to at least $1.4m this year. DNA tests are available for a range of diseases including haemophilia for Cairn terriers, muscular dystrophy for golden retrievers, and narcolepsy for dachshunds, Dobermanns and Labradors.

    Of course, in America as everywhere else, there will always be greedy, unscrupulous breeders, and every breed club has a different code of ethics. But there is considerable peer pressure, the American Kennel Club insists, to test a dog early for whatever disorder tends to afflict that breed. Early auditory tests for Dalmatians have cut down their deafness, orthopaedic X-rays for German shepherds are helping with their hip trouble. A breeder who skips corners, claims the club, is a bit of an outcast: to have certified tested dogs is a mark of honour.

    But it is the Dutch who are ahead of the field. The Dutch government has signed the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, which obliges member states to safeguard the health and well-being of their pets by national legislation, and the Dutch Kennel Club takes the obligation seriously. During the 1990s, it carried out health inventories to see if there was truth in the belief that pure-bred dogs, because of inbreeding and exaggeration of type, suffered from more genetic problems than other pets. The answer was an emphatic yes: in every one of the 30 breeds of dog surveyed, the incidence of hereditary problems was unnaturally high.

    The Dutch Kennel Club puts less faith than others in testing, arguing that most diseases and disorders still do not have suitable, or affordable, testing methods. By the time science has caught up with the problem, harmful genes may have spread all over the breeds, both in visibly affected dogs and in a much larger group of invisible undetectable carriers.

    The cause of the problem, kennel-club experts concluded, was current breeding policy. So they decided to cut down the inbreeding. And since persuasion, they felt, had got nobody anywhere, they decided to make the changes mandatory. Until now, the Dutch Kennel Club, like its fellows, had to issue a pedigree to any puppy born of two certified pure-breeds of the same breed. But, from the new year, the Dutch will issue two sorts of certificate. A pedigree will be given only to puppies bred under stipulated breed regulations; puppies that do not meet this standard, will get a mere “certificate of descent”.

    Over the past few months, the various Dutch breed clubs have been working out the regulations for their specific breed. By far the most controversial of these rules tackles the “popular sire” syndrome: the over-use by breeders of a single champion dog. From now on in the Netherlands, the number of times a particular dog is allowed to be used for mating will depend on the size and the problems of his specific breed. For instance, if a dog is allowed only 12 matings, the breeder of the puppies from the 13th mating will be denied a pedigree certificate.

    The Dutch, with their touch of autocracy, are exploring this new route, insisting on more diversity within a breed and punishing those who refuse to comply. Other clubs demur, saying their members do not like being ordered about, and would rebel against rules and regulations. It is nicer, they say, to be gentler. But can the Dutch experiment be extended to undoing some of the harm caused by exaggerating the way certain dogs look?

    Since breeders want their dogs to win at shows, and judges assess the dogs by breeding standards, the logical step would be to change those standards. On this point, however, there have been only the smallest of small concessions to health and well-being. The standards no longer call for anything to be “excessive”; indeed, that is discouraged. And diamond-shaped eyes, which caused all sorts of eyelid troubles, are no longer demanded. But all this touches only the edge of the problem of dogs that have been disabled by a whim of human fashion.

    The notion of diversifying within a breed is controversial; outside it is still taboo. Nobody wants to end the joyous variety of dogs. And dogs themselves can be tremendous snobs. “I am his Highness' dog at Kew;/ Pray, tell me sir, whose dog are you?” wrote Pope, with understanding. But they would flourish more if breeders tried harder to ensure that each generation reflected a greater diversity, perhaps injecting a drop of hybrid vigour into the narrowing aristocratic bloodlines. The circular world of breeders, kennel clubs and dog shows rules against this. But it is not much good looking drop-dead gorgeous if you are going to drop dead.

    Dec 19th 2002
    From The Economist print edition

    votre commentaire
  • La Tour Eiffel en patins à glace

    La Tour Eiffel chausse ses patins à glace: une patinoire sera installée du 10 décembre au 23 janvier au premier étage du plus célèbre des monuments parisiens.

    Jusqu'à 80 personnes à la fois pourront s'adonner aux joies de la glisse sur une surface de 200m2 et à 57 mètres au-dessus du Champ de Mars. La patinoire sera ouverte tous les jours de 9h30 à 23h. L'accès sera gratuit pour les visiteurs et les patins seront prêtés contre une pièce d'identité, précise dans un communiqué la société d'exploitation de la Tour Eiffel.

    En décembre 1969, un plan de glace avait déjà été installé sur la plate-forme du premier étage. L'ours du Cirque de Moscou avait alors été le premier à l'essayer. AP

    Sur le Net: www.tour-eiffel.fr

    PARIS (AP) mardi 23 novembre 2004, 15h53

    2 commentaires

  • votre commentaire
  • Dans un monde inquiétant, sur lequel on a peu de prise, croire que ses rêves peuvent se réaliser rassure

    Le rêve, nouvel opium du peuple

    Vecteur, voire catalyseur des idéaux – de luxe, de pouvoir, de star, d'argent... – le rêve se voit hissé au rang d'absolu jusqu'à quitter les limbes du sommeil pour s'ancrer de plain-pied dans la réalité.


    Jusqu'en janvier 2005, Diesel met en scène des dormeurs dont on peut connaître les rêves sur le site : www.diesel.com 

    Chemise en popeline brodée d'un croissant de lune et d'étoiles issue de la collection printemps-été 2005 de Moschino Uomo (200 €. Tél. : 01 53 01 84 10) 

    <script language="JavaScript"></script><script language="JavaScript1.1"></script><script src="http://www.smartadserver.com/call/pubj/445/3201/136/S/1070746800/target?"></script>

    Lovés sous la couette ou campés devant un café noir, à quoi pensez-vous le matin ? A ce rêve germé pendant la nuit, décousu, bizarre, incompréhensible, enchanteur ou cauchemardesque. Et vous n'êtes pas les seuls. Dans sa dernière campagne de pub, la marque de jeans Diesel met en scène des dormeurs alanguis. Celle d'Emporio Armani s'intitule The Dreamers, tandis que le très branché magazine américain Visionaire propose une édition titrée Dreams... Côté mode encore, le créateur Hussein Chalayan a inventé, pour l'été prochain, un nouvel imprimé Rêves peuplé de tigres métamorphosés en monstres et autres oiseaux gargouilles. La marque Cosmic Wonder a présenté sa collection de l'hiver avec des mannequins déambulant l'oreiller à la main. Et chez Issey Miyake, la doudoune se transforme en sac de couchage... Le besoin de rêve serait-il à ce point pressant qu'il faille aujourd'hui l'afficher ?

    «Notre marque milite pour la liberté, la créativité, l'imagination... autant d'ingrédients qui constituent le rêve», commente Stefano Caputo, directeur marketing de Diesel France, pour expliquer sa campagne publicitaire. Exemple : un jeune homme dort en plein jour, affalé sur une table de ping-pong. Pour en savoir plus, direction le site Internet où vous accédez au rêve – format vidéo – du protagoniste de la pub. «Une trentaine de vidéartistes ont participé au projet, poursuit Stefano Caputo. Chacun s'est imprégné d'une image et attaché à donner vie au rêve du personnage figurant sur la photo. Parmi la trentaine de films, certains sont légers, d'autres très durs mais tous reflètent une projection individuelle. Habituellement, nos messages publicitaires sont plutôt d'ordre social et collectif. Celui-ci évoque la faculté de chacun à développer ses rêves à titre personnel.»

    Dans un monde qui tend à l'individualisme forcené – comme en témoigne la toute dernière enquête du CCA menée par l'équipe de Bernard Cathelat – le rêve apparaît comme une valeur refuge, la seule qui permette de développer ses désirs propres sans s'embarrasser des contraintes de la réalité (voir aussi l'interview de Samuel Lepastier). «Ces dix dernières années, nous avons observé une évolution de la notion de loisirs, souligne Bernard Cathelat. Hier, le temps libre était con sacré à une activité extra-professionnelle. Puis il est devenu un pur moment d'oisiveté, de glande, une parenthèse dans une vie épuisante. On a ensuite fait l'apologie de la sieste et enfin du sommeil évasion, récréatif : ce que je ne peux pas vivre dans la réalité, je vais le vivre à travers mes fantasmes.»

    Pour Rémi Sansaloni, char gé d'études marketing chez Secodip, cette échappée onirique est indissociable de la montée croissante de l'irrationnel : face à la déroute des idéaux collectifs et pour contrer les grandes et petites difficultés quotidiennes – le stress, le terrorisme, le chômage... – nos contemporains s'inventent de nouveaux espaces de liberté individuelle dans lesquels tout est enfin à leur portée.

    Rêver sa vie devient alors un moyen de renouer avec sa toute-puissance, et s'adonner aux jeux virtuels ou aux croyances paranormales, une façon de maîtriser un univers qui, d'ordinaire, nous échappe. Une évasion peu onéreuse, voire gratuite, et d'autant plus facile qu'elle ne repose que sur la volonté, le talent, le don. «Le rêve positivement onirique, avec ses histoires de princesses et de princes charmants, est

    vraiment tenace depuis plusieurs saisons, relève Vincent Grégoire, à l'affût des tendances au bureau Nelly Rodi. Le prochain film, le deuxième, sur les aventures de Bridget Jones, sortira sur les écrans en novembre.»

    De valeur refuge à sa traduction dans la réalité, il restait un pas que le rêve n'avait pas encore franchi... jusqu'à aujourd'hui. «Cette année, notre enquête met en exergue un nouveau phénomène, témoigne Bernard Cathelat. La «médiamorphose», telle que nous l'avons appelée, importe le rêve dans la réalité, donne à croire qu'il peut définitivement s'inscrire dans la vraie vie pour tout un chacun.» C'est le mythe de Cendrillon revu et corrigé par la télévision, du «Loft» à la «Star Ac», de Loana à Jennyfer. Fermez les yeux, rêvez, croyez-y fort et vous serez exaucé.

    Catherine Maliszewski

    Le Figaro, 15 novembre 2004

    votre commentaire

  • Scampering to the Height of Fashion

    </nyt_headline /><nyt_byline version="1.0" type=" " />By MICHELLE SLATALLA (Published: October 28, 2004 in The New York Times)

    </nyt_byline />
    <nyt_text />

    OTTO is a very patient dog.

    He sits with glacial perseverance at the feet of someone eating a salami sandwich. With a look of gentle concern reminiscent of Mother Teresa's beatific gaze, he wills a scrap of the sandwich to fall to the floor - he does not care how long it takes and he does not care if it is only a crumb - and then pounces. In this way, he gets what he wants.

    We brought home a new puppy last week.

    Otto has been ignoring her.

    Meanwhile, she capers under his legs, runs laps around him, gallops up to sniff his nose and attacks his tail while he tries to sleep. Then suddenly she gets exhausted and flops down to nap - using Otto's bone for a pillow.

    Otto is waiting for her to leave.

    "Her name is Sticky," I said.

    He looked away.

    "Be nice to her," I said. "She looks up to you."

    He gave me the skeptical look of an 85-pound Labrador retriever who believes that anything that weighs 4 pounds does not even qualify as a dog.

    "She's just a different breed, a papillon," I said. "Remember how you used to sleep with the cat?"

    As the tiny puppy skittered past, managing somehow to carry one of his tennis balls by its hairs, Otto conveyed with his eyes his fervent hope that I would at least get her some stuff of her own. And soon.

    So I went online to look for miniature tennis balls. Little did I know, as I began to navigate the unfamiliar terrain of sites that cater to the needs and whims of small dogs, that I was about to enter the realm of the nauseatingly cute. Suddenly I was visiting sites with names like teacupspuppies.com, classypets.com and www.thepamperedpu.com.

    I was still a little surprised that I even had a purebred toy breed from a breeder. After a recent column in which I mentioned I was looking, at least 100 readers wrote to chastise me for not considering a rescue dog. So I spent weeks considering dogs at www.petfinder.com, where 163,809 pets were available for adoption one day last week. But in the end, I bought a puppy with a happy, family-friendly personality from a litter bred for temperament.

    "Rescuing a dog is always a good thing," said Gail Miller, spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club. "But it all depends on what you want and what you feel comfortable committing to. So many rescue dogs have special needs because they've been abused in the past or may have emotional problems you don't have time for. It's what fits your lifestyle that you have to think about."

    I ended up with Sticky. And that's how I ended up learning about products like hypoallergenic pet biscotti ($27 for a three-pack at the Pampered Pup site) and the Crown Princess rhinestone-studded collar at morrco.com (priced from $29.99 for a size that would fit Sticky to $49.99 for a size that would fit Otto).

    I could not picture Otto wearing a Crown Princess collar. I could only picture Otto eating a Crown Princess collar or burying it in the mud or carrying it in his mouth like a dead duck as he swam across the pond at the dog park. In fact, as a big-dog owner, at first I had a hard time imagining any useful application for such items at The Puppy Shop as the toy Plus Octopus ($4.99, "lots of legs, lightweight ... squeaker inside") and the leopard print dog jacket ($9.49, "sure to place your dog in the height of fashion").

    Then I noticed that the dog pictured in the leopard print jacket was a papillon. And that the dog in the picture was not shivering the way Sticky does when she goes outside at night.

    I realized I was a small-dog owner, as well.

    "Small dogs are like babies, and they need a whole different set of supplies from big dogs," said Kimberly Walker, co-owner of Teacups, Puppies and Boutiques, a bricks-and-mortar business in Hollywood, Fla., that owns the Teacupspuppies.com site. "During wintertime, they need sweaters because they get chilled. They need small bowls, not a big bowl that's like a bed for them. And tiny tennis balls."

    After ascertaining that Ms. Walker was familiar with big-eared papillons, I confided to her that Sticky was the cutest and smartest one ever born. But, I said, I had one concern. "It's the ears," I said. "Instead of sticking straight out from her head like Sally Field in 'The Flying Nun,' they flop over."

    "It's because she's teething," Ms. Walker reassured me. "Some people tape them up, but they'll go up by themselves. One day you'll look at her and her ears will be up."

    On another topic, she wondered if I had considered a dog carrier. "You could walk around the mall with her in something that looks like a purse or a briefcase, so nobody's the wiser," she said.

    Now that she mentioned it, I had been wondering if I could sneak Sticky into stores with me.

    Ms. Walker recommended that

    I take a look at her other site, mushucanineboutique.com, which features a wide selection of canine carriers she has designed, including the Weekender ($399, looks like a leather overnight case) and quilted leather carriers in four colors, including baby blue and baby pink, ($395, airline-approved).

    Something about them reminded me of my long-lost Barbie carrying case. Intrigued by this new universe of adorable and ridiculously small gear, I felt a reawakening of the same latent tendencies that in my childhood prompted me to line up dozens of pairs of tiny Barbie shoes in color-coded rows beneath matching Barbie frocks and teensy Barbie gloves.

    Suddenly I saw myself inhabiting a world of tiny faux fur coats with matching tiny faux fur blankets (in five colors at allaboutphoebe.com). I still couldn't see myself paying $150 for the faux fur combo. But clearly I had a lot of shopping to do.

    First, a physical reconnaissance mission. My dog-crazy town in northern California harbors a perfect store for my needs. It's called Alpha Dog, it sells tiny leather collars studded with chrome hearts ($30 for size XXS) and it operates an Internet store at alphadog.com.

    As I browsed among the tiny soy protein bones (all natural, $2) and the squeaky stuffed ducks ($10, comes with extra squeaker), the owner noticed I was holding Sticky under my coat.

    "How cute," the owner said. "She looks almost like a papillon."

    "She is a papillon," I snapped. "Her ears are down because she's teething."

    It was a testament to the high quality of the merchandise that despite the unfortunate exchange I couldn't resist buying the duck, the bone and a little leather collar decorated with daisies ($18; a similar style decorated with paws is online at the Alpha Dog Web site).

    For now, I am holding off on major purchases, although I covet the dog sweater emblazoned with a skull and crossbones at smalldogmall.com ($48 for extra-small; the matching leather collar is $18). But at dogtoys.com (where a line on the home page asks, "Squeaker Trouble?"), I bought some miniature tennis balls ($3.95 for a package of three) for Sticky.

    And for Otto? I bought a Happy Dog Jumbo tennis bone ($14.95, in the "Really Rough Toys" category).

    "Notice it's called the Happy Dog bone," I told him as Sticky licked his nose. "Not the resigned, long-suffering, enduring-unspeakable-tortures-in-silence bone."

    Slowly, deliberately, Otto lay down, willing to wait it out.

    E-mail: Slatalla@nytimes.com

    1 commentaire

    Suivre le flux RSS des articles de cette rubrique
    Suivre le flux RSS des commentaires de cette rubrique