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November 04, 2009

He Already Has a Fur Coat

By Elaine Viets   

Bassinetblue Would you buy a bassinet for your Chihuahua – a "snuggly plush cradle" with eyelet lace netting?

How about elf slippers with turned up toes?Elf slippers

When I researched "The Fashion Hound Murders," my new mystery shopper novel, I wandered into the world of dog clothes.

I was appalled. But then I’m a cat lover. My cats wear nothing but their own fur and they kindly coat our couch with it.

Dressing dogs like little people makes me queasy. Maybe I’d buy a warm sweater for a short-haired dog in winter. Even boots for those snowy sidewalks. But the bucks stop there.

Josie and her friend Alyce debate this issue in "The Fashion Hound Murders." In this scene, Josie mystery shops a mythical pet boutique for a dog she doesn’t have:

"I was looking for a dress called Strawberry Delight," Josie said. "I saw it on your Web site."

"That’s in our little dog clothes section," Patti the manager said. "It’s on sale."

She led them to a round rack with doll-sized dresses on plastic hangers. "What kind of dog do you have?" Patti asked, as she pawed through the clothes.

"A Chihuahua," Josie lied.Strawberrydelight

"What size is she?"

"Small," Josie said. Weren’t they all small? she wondered.

"We have small and extra-small sizes for our little dogs," Patti said. "How much does your dog weigh?"

"About five pounds," Josie said.

"And what’s her length?"

Josie held out her hands about six inches. "But that doesn’t count the ears."

"She’s probably an extra-small," Patti said. "But if the dress doesn’t fit, you can return it in thirty days, no questions asked." Patti pulled out a red-and-white dress dotted with strawberry appliques. A big gingham bow was planted on the back. Josie wished she’d had a dress like that for her daughter Amelia when she was a baby.

"You get the dress and hat for only $21.99," Patti said. "Don’t you love Chihuahuas? You can buy such cute clothes for them."

"And they come with their own fur coats," Josie said.

Alyce cleared her throat to remind Josie she was supposed to be a mystery shopper, not a canine critic.

"Look at this harness with angel wings." Patti pulled out a dog harness with floppy white cloth wings.

"Amazing," Josie said.

"We have an excellent selection of sports wear," Patti said.   Dog sweater   

"Thanks, but she’s not athletic," Josie said.

"What is your little girl’s name?" Patti asked.

"Amelia," Josie said, dredging up her daughter’s name.

"Lovely name," Patti said.

"We’d better get home to your fur child," Alyce said, nearly dragging Josie out of the store. "She’ll be wanting her lunch."

They made it to Josie’s car before they collapsed into their seats, laughing. "Good thing you gave your daughter’s name as your ‘little girl,’ " Alyce said.

"I don’t think Harry the cat would look good in gingham checks," Josie said. "They’d clash with his stripes. I can’t believe I just paid twenty-two bucks for a dog dress. These cutesy-poo clothes make me sick."

"That’s a little harsh, Josie."

"No, it’s not harsh," Josie said. "Little kids are going hungry this winter and shivering in the cold. Buying dog dresses is obscene."

"It’s harmless," Alyce said.

"Dogs should be dogs, not child substitutes. It’s useless and cruel."   

"Josie, why are you so judgmental?" Alyce asked.

"I’m not sure what you mean," Josie said.

"Many people think declawing a cat is cruel," Alyce said.

"But we gave Harry a good home," Josie said.

"And cut off his toe joints to save your couch," Alyce said. "You didn’t even try a scratching post first. Not that I’m in a position to criticize. I’m addicted to kitchen toys. The money I spend on high-priced slicers and dicers could be used to feed the poor."

"But you’re not a saint," Josie said.

"Neither are you," Alyce said. "We’re just trying to live our lives. So are the dog lovers. Give them some slack."


What’s your opinion, TLC readers? Should pets put on the dog (and dog clothes) or go naked as nature intended? Fhound


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I can't wait to read your new book, Elaine. I got my copy yesterday.

As for dog clothes, I think the little gingham and strawberry dress with the hat is adorable, but not for my manly miniature poodle Mikey. He's more of a flannel coat in the cold kind of guy.

When my MIL's little poodle died, she gave me her dog's yellow slicker and little paw boots. First I couldn't get over that her dog had a slicker and boots, but now I wish I could find where I put them since Mikey's decided grass is too prickly for his tender little paws.

So I guesss I'm on the help-them-when-they-need-protection-from-the-elements side of the argument. But Mikey did look really cute in his little Frankenstein costume for Halloween...

ML made a very nice dress coat for Blue, The Beastly Black Bounding Bollide. It was leopard print with old gold tasseled trim, nicely set off by Blue's short black coat and big Shar Pei-Staffordshire-Corgi muscles.

One of Blue's big interests in life is doing what we do. So when she saw us getting dressed for dinner, when we were on vacation up in Carmel, she thought this was a fine thing to do.

Yes, we went to a restaurant where canines and human could dine together. You got a problem with that? Blue enjoyed it. So did we. She hasn't seen fit to dress up with us again, so we haven't pushed it.

But that one time, she really did enjoy being a lady.

We had one English Bull Terrier that we dressed in T-shirts for curtain calls when he starred in local 'Oliver!' productions. He also wore sunglasses, hats, and T's when he was our dog club's booth dog at dog shows. He loved the attention and was a great ambassador for the breed.

Gavin wouldn't be caught dead in clothes. Patty has worn shirts to keep her from chewing stitches (you can see her in one on my Bull Pen page) but any other time she'd rather be nekkid.

As for spending a fortune to dress a dog? No way.

I always felt that Violet was embarrassed to wear her little red rain slicker. She usually only goes out in the yard, and I never thought it made her want to stay out there any longer than if she didn't have it on.

So, unless it is Halloween, I would say, no.

nekkid. naked. whatever.

My girls are a little too large to look cute in clothes. Most of the time when I see dogs in clothes, it makes me laugh. And I think that's a good thing.

LOL, folks. TLC has a live and let live attitude -- if the pets like to dress, fine, but you're not going to force them.
You've almost convinced me to dress up the cats. Except those steak knives they have on their back paws would probably cut a vital artery.

I have 3 dogs, all small. We do have a couple of sweaters for when it snows, because they're so low to the ground. But I really think people can go overboard with the wardrobes. I feel bad for the dogs.

I was bemused by a woman who was on an episode of The Dog Whisperer - she had dyed her poodle pink.

Our Dalmatians were too outdoorsy for cute clothes.--Dresses aren't good for chasing squirrels. But I was always tempted at Halloween! Their outfits were shredded in minutes. You can't command a Dalmatian to do anything. You can ask nicely, but they'll probably veto your suggestion.

No. No. No. To dog clothes.

Yes. Yes. Yes. To more restaurants and places allowing dogs!

Tom, in many Paris you see dogs in restaurants all the time. They are the best behaved dogs I've ever seen, too. But even in that capitol of couture they don't dress the dogs.

Elaine, although I've never had a cat I would think that dressing a cat would fall under the same heading as putting the cat in the shower with you. Wouldn't be pretty.

Can you tell my vote? "No" to clothes on animals. They don't have a choice about whether they live with dignity or not; it's up to us not to take it away from them.

Come to South Florida, Janet Lynn. There are outdoor restaurants here that put down bowls of water for your dogs. A Greek restaurant will even bring fruit for your bird, since people here bike with their parrots on the handlebars.
Gives us a nice international touch, and the dogs are better behaved than some of the people in the bars.

I once put a pair of angel wings on my dear dog, Jinn. Just for the Christmas photo in 2000. She's been naked ever since. You never saw a more miserable canine angel. It was clear she'd rather go to hell, if hell didn't require a dog to wear a costume.

As my part time job involves delivering pizzas to the west county neighborhoods Elaine writes about, I have seen all manner dogs in clothes. Once a year for Halloween I can handle. "But Bitsie is so cute it lavender!", no way.

We do have one regular customer who has this chair http://www.potterybarnkids.com/products/hybrid-solid-anywhere-chairs_1/?pkey=bsoft-seating
for their dog.

Why yes Elaine, it is in Frontenac.

Elaine and the STL gang, see you on Saturday.

I will speak as one who is allergic to dogs and cats - love your pets, enjoy them, dress them up, whatever you want - but if you have them out among people, please be sensitive. Please don't think I'm a bitch because I won't pet - or hold your pet. Please don't give me the stink-eye if I have to leave your store because you have a big cat on the counter. I prefer to stay out of the ER, and many other people have allergies that are severe enough that the reaction is significant, too.

Oh - and NO there are not NON-allergenic dogs or cats. I'm allergic to the dander and the fur - there are breeds that are less offensive to my allergies, but none are immune.

I don't expect you to allow me to blow cigarette smoke in your face - please don't ask me to suffer the animal equivalent.

I have a friend who costumes his chow every Halloween for the Halloween photo card (there is also a Christmas card photo of the chow with Santa -- apparently the amusement never palls). Our cats? Nah, I don't think so. When I'm looking at I Can Has Cheezburger (http://icanhascheezburger.com/) and I Has a Hotdog (http://ihasahotdog.com/), I notice that the dogs are frequently dressed up, the cats rarely.
Right on, Kathy! (as we used to say some epochs ago).

Kathy, as a reporter,my favorite dog owner line was "he won't bite."
Then the little yapper would chomp the visitor -- usually the photographer with me. I learned to be wary of cute little dogs with sharp teeth.
Dog furniture along with the dog clothes, Alan. Guess it all goes in the dog house.

Kathy? I promise. I don't even take my small dog to my best friends home...

For the most part, Bonnie goes about nekkid. However, due to her proximity to the ground, grass, leaves, snow...I do put a coat or sweater on her when I feel it is warranted.

I do like to torture her with costumes, but only to run to the local petsmart when they are doing Halloween or Christmas photos. Then, as soon as we are done, off it comes.

As for the cat? Heck, I can barely convince her to stay in the house for an hour before she is crying. She was a stray who graced me with kittens (all of whom I found homes for..in pairs!), so appreciates the food and the kind thoughts, but she cant stand being inside. Although, she and the dog actually cuddled on the sofa for a bit the other night!

I worked for a man who took his cat to visit Santa each year and had a photo from every visit. The cat always looked less than thrilled.......

Mary, think about poor Santa. I hope his visitors were all housebroken.

Memo to Sweeney; take a couple antihistamines before you ever get within a block of me. Blue and the three cats consider me furniture.

Elaine, I consulted with my dog blogging book critic, Daisy, the fashion hound and she said a cool scarf and an occasional crown or fab collar is tolerable but ixnay wigs, dresses and booties. When it's extremely cold, short haired dogs welcome sweaters on their walks and an occasional Halloween costume. This galley didn't turn up on her review stack but Daisy promises to keep an eye out for this book! She says:
probably will rate three dog bisuits!

Oops, Daisy just barked that I misspelled a very important word. BISCUITS. THREE DOG BISCUITS and maybe a bone!

I tried the doggie boots for my Norwegian Elkhound, having been properly alarmed by all the stories of the dangers of salt to a dog's feet and "tender pads." After convincing him that I really did want him to wear the things, he allowed me to attach them to his feet.

I have never seen a dog look more forlorn, and he believed the boots prevented him from moving his feet. So I had a paralyzed dog with the saddest eyes ever. After removal, his dignity and mobility returned.

My cats would never forgive me if I tried to put clothes on them. Nor am I sure they'd sit still long enough for me to try. Growing up, I had a friend who dyed their poodle green on a regular basis, which I never understood.

Lynne said...

nekkid. naked. whatever.

As Lewis Grizzard said in an episode of Designing Women (he played the Sugarbaker's brother):

Naked is when you ain't got any clothes on.
Nekkid is when you ain't got any clothes on and you're up to somethin'.

In the interest of full disclosure, my dogs do get fashionable (and sometimes seasonal) scarves (bandana-like) when they get groomed. But I don't consider those clothing, more an accessory.

And Bea, I did try boots for one of my dogs once, because I thought he would like them on rocky hikes. He kept shaking his foot like he stepped in bubble gum on a hot day. And stood there, looking at me, like, WTF - take it off!

I have much less of a problem with a $21.99 Chihuahua dress than I do with $200 baby Gucci shoes (trust me, they're in the Neiman Marcus catalog). Which is not to say I don't pity the poor Chihuahua . . .

Our cats wouldn't wear collars, much less the cute reindeer antlers I got for them one Christmas. My grandpuppies wear cute collars, the occasional sweater or t-shirt, and that's about it. My horse wore tasteful blankets and very plain tack, except for her show gear. Thank heavens I rode English - it saved me a fortune in silver conchos :)

Mostly, I like my critters au naturel.

Allergies here, too, so no furry critters, except the Petster robot cat. It never occurred to me to dress him. My Frog, Prince, wouldn't have allowed for any clothes either. . . I'm still waiting to see if he comes back for this winter. (The Frog and Friends CD should appear on CD Baby within the week).

I'm not crazy about clothes on animals, but Kevlar vest for police dogs and id vests for service dogs are cool. Sweaters and coats when it is cold and they aren't used to it work also. Oh, and I do laugh at the dachshunds with the hotdog costume at Halloween.

but other than that...

I'm not sure I would have even tried to put reindeer ears on our Lab...and Max the cat has no truck with even being wrapped in a towel, much less a cute little outfit. And, I'm not sure, but unless the owner makes the outfits, I'd bet child labor is involved somewhere someplace. Better to spend the money in a donation to the Humane Society, Best Friends, or another reputable animal charity and help some otherwise 'nekkid in the cold' furballs find good homes. :o)
Got the book Elaine...featured on the New Mass Market Tower at work...but going fast!

A great book with a wonderful dachshund and all her costumes: Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie. No pictures but you can so visualize the belted trench coat and black fedora.

They make Kevlar vests for police dogs? That's so great! Working clothes are not included in the dog-clothes ban - they are needed!

My long-departed, but still missed, canine had feet issues, and we tried the booties to keep the salt grime off of her paws as well, Laura. Your description of your dog's reaction made me laugh - it's so perfect! I swear my dog looked at me that day with her ears down and said, 'Seriously???'

Santa Claws!!! They do pet time at our local mall one Sunday for time with Santa. I haven't taken Bonnie, but years ago, I did take my grandparents cat after grandma died and grandpa was in a nursing home.

Squiggy ended up on TV!!! Here there were 100's of dogs, a lizard, and only three cats. The two other cats were in crates, but Squiggy spent her time drapped over my shoulder like a mink stole! It was hysterical. And grandpa loved that picture (which I still have!).

Melissa, you can throw me a bone or biscuits any time.
Bea, the story of your elkhound was so touching. And you listened to your animal. Good for you.
Pam, that was a perfect description of nekkid vs. naked.
Holly, the kitty wigs make me want to call the Humane Society.

I put a bandana on the corgi--ONCE. He pranced around like he was hot shit for awhile, but when the long point worked it's way around to the front and with his short legs, he caught a claw in it. He attacked it when I got it off of him.
Cats have more sense than to go for the clothes. If you should, bloodlessly, get clothes on them, they will give you the look from hell or they will hide because they're embarrassed!
I have to run to Petsmart today to get some sensitive skin dry food. Tipsy is licking his fur off & looks like he's got the mange! Happened once before & it was a food allergy. >>groan<< for what this food cost, I could be feeding him deli roast beef!

At least sweaters keep hairless doggies warm; one of the all-time stupidest trends was dressing concrete geese. What a waste of money.

And Elaine, doghouses? Who keeps their dog outside anymore? We have farm friends who keep their animals outdoors, but that's about it.

One of the amazing facts I uncovered when I was writing a book with a chapter on the horse/riding industry was how much money is spent on riding clothing and accessories. It's a staggering amount; in 1992 it was already a $2 billion industry.

We had a Samoyed who did not like getting her feet wet. She loved being outside in the winter (I'll have to download the pic I have of her in the snow. She looks so regal and snooty) and loved the snow, but hated getting her feet dirty or wet. She would stand there & lift each foot, one at a time, and shake it delicately. She would get this frown on her face like she was "too good" for dirt.

I miss that dog!

Holly, I was probably responsible for approximately one half of that yearly total - and I only showed locally! I just transferred ownership of my beautiful mare (she's going to be a horsey Mom next year, we hope!). I'm pretty sure that my jacket and show shirts can be worn with jeans, but my semi-custom Sergio Grasso Bergamo tall boots (http://www.paulemorin.com/sergio_grasso.htm) are just sitting sadly in the closet.

Let's not even talk about accessories . . .

Just yesterday I measured my grand-dog Duncan the pit bull. This is so I can start sewing his wardrobe. What respectable Pibble doesn't have a nice fleece coat and matching doorag!

Allergies have kept me from close acquaintance with critters in recent years, but my dogs in earlier times always lived either out of doors 100% of the time or were allowed in the house only briefly if very ill (or in the case of the best terrier ever, on Halloween, where he met trick-or-treaters at the door and barked smartly if anyone got too greedy). Nothing like a good doghouse, a good carpet scrap for the pooch to wrestle into a comfortable heap in the corner, etc. If the water dish was freezing over, some attention would be paid to making sure there was enough fresh water and extra 'covers' to burrow into, but my grandmother taught us to recognize that natural critters know how to survive without central heating units run by thermostats.
Clothing? A purposeful dog-on-a-mission might enjoy the ever-useful bandana, but other than that, my dogs always thought we humans were hilarious with all our layers of unnecessary clothing.

The book was really great!!! You are writing more Josie books right?

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