Hong Kong Tatler

By Anna David

Aldous Huxley theorized that our human fondness for dogs rests in the fact that “to his dog, every man is Napoleon.” But is feeling like a French emperor worth the $60 billion that Americans spend on pet accessories annually? Worldwide figures are just as high, with reports that the British dole out roughly $135 million a month on their pups alone and predictions that pet-related businesses in Japan will net more than $9 million in 2004. There are, of course, sound reasons behind the ever-increasing sales figures. As plenty of couples decide to forgo children in order to pursue advancing careers, the love (and money) that might have gone into sending their children to college has one simple destination: An extremely pampered pooch. “Most of our clients are empty nesters who either can’t or don’t want to have kids, or whose kids have left home,” says Monica Hannah, co-owner of the Quintessential Pet, an online store that sells pink diamond dog necklaces for $6500 and dog beds for up to $25,000. “They’re usually middle-aged, upwardly mobile women.”

Michelle Pollak, president of Los Angeles-based La Petite Maison, a company that manufactures elaborate doghouses for up to $25,000, believes that the amount of money being lavished upon dogs isn’t simply a trend but is here to stay. “People are living longer – in old age, they dote on their poodles the way they do their grandchildren,” she reasons. “Also, we’re single for longer. I’m 38 and haven’t been married. To us, pooches are our babies.” Melissa Lemer, whose company Silver Spoon threw an elaborate Dog and Baby Buffet party for an array of celebrities including Jason Priestly, Rachel Hunter and Tori Spelling, echoes the sentiment. “A new baby is the same thing as a new dog to anyone who’s a dog lover, so why wouldn’t you get them everything?” she reasons.

Perhaps no group of people spoils their four-legged babies like celebrities. Paris Hilton, who’s been known to knock around town in matching mum-and-doggy pink Chanel suits, has turned pampering her chihuahua Tinkerbell into something of an art form. Even the men in her life indulge the little one – rumor has it that when news of her sex scandal leaked out, an ex of Hilton’s shipped Tinkerbell a diamond necklace. Supermodel Gisele Bundchen’s Yorkshire Vida (which means “life” in Portuguese) has also been the recipient of some romantic gestures: Supposedly, Bundchen totes Vida around in a Louis Vuitton sac de chien which was a gift from beau Leonardo DiCaprio. Even more indulgent is the tale that Bundchen hired a Hollywood limo service to shuttle herself and Vida the few blocks from the Standard Hotel to the Chateau Marmont so that the little one wouldn’t have to hoof it.

There’s certainly no shortage of clothing, accessories, treatments, treats, holidays and delicacies that celebrities – and the non-famous — can lavish upon a favorite creature. From water beds and cashmere coats to dog houses filled with every last amenity a human could want, dogs seem to have acclimated to the high life just fine. And though no one – yet – has invented a device that teaches dogs to talk, suffice it to say that if they could, they’d probably tell us that an old bone and a ratty blanket simply isn’t up to par.