DESIGNER Roberto Cavalli is selling leopard-print underpants for dogs, proof positive that our treatment of pets gets ever more lavish. Some animal spas now feature flat-screen TVS, bedtime stories, swimming pools and even a soft tissue therapy called myofascial release. But is this what Rover really wants? Armed with a hidden microphone and a Japanese device that interprets dogs’ remarks, this reporter went undercover to investigate. Here’s the transcript.
Reporter: (Whispering) I’m hiding underneath a boardroom table surrounded by eight dogs and one woman. The border collie at the head of the table is called Rex.
Rex: (Barking gruffly) All right, gentledogs, I’m calling this meeting to order. We’re assembled today to discuss the details of our revolutionary new project, BFF Hotels. Pom-Pom, will you kindly sum up our plans?
(Pom-Pom, a Shih Tsu wearing a black leather bustier and pearls, stands on her chair.)
Pom-Pom: (In short, sharp barks) Thank-you, Rex. Our first spa hotel location launches in two weeks. Our human friend Brumhilda came up with the slogan for our spa hotel chain -- “Nothing’s Too Good For My Best Friend.” The campaign features an Afghan with her ears up in curlers, winking slyly at the camera.
(The Dogs chuckle.)
Pom-Pom: After we open, Brumhilda’s role is to greet the human companions and walk them through our façade, showing them the king-sized bed where each dog will supposedly sleep, the foie gras he or she will allegedly eat, the gardens where he or she will ostensibly be walked and let off-leash for supervised play, and the daily tea ceremony, where each dog winds down from its grueling day of sleep, picture books and massage with a ceramic bowl of lukewarm green tea. “Owners” -- oh hateful term! -- will get the impression of a spa the celebrates good taste, cleanliness, quiet, and spirituality, with dog-loving humans in charge. They’ll shed their tears, say “bye” to Sparky, and head out the door. As soon as our security confirms that they’ve left the premises, Sparky will be ushered into the real thing.
(The Dogs laugh heartily. A basset hound, Bernard, turns to Pom-Pom with a smirk.)
Bernard: Will you please remind us of what that is, Pommy?
Pom-Pom: (Wagging her tail) Gladly! We’ll take Sparky by elevator, a treat in itself, into the underground “wreck room.” There, his eyes will goggle -- of course, the pugs’ eyes always goggle -- at the set-up, which consists of a bunch of ramshackle couches reeking of cat, a trampoline for the Jack Russell terriers, used shoes and socks for the Labradors and retrievers, and -- no offense, Penelope --prissy plastic chews for princess-y dogs of both sexes. They’ll enjoy unsupervised play for as long as they like. Every half hour, Brumhilda will come in and sprinkle cheezies, pretzels and slices of pepperoni pizza around the area, and smear peanut butter on the furniture.
(Several of the Dogs begin panting. Butch, a bulldog in a spiked collar, stands up.)
Butch: (Anxiously) What will our clients do when they’re fed up with playing?
Brumhilda: (Barking -- she is bilingual) May I answer that one? (Pom-Pom nods) They’ll be able to choose, Butch. Some -- the metrosexuals -- will prefer to have their nails done and their buttocks massaged while they watch re-runs of Entourage on the giant TV. We try not to judge. Real dogs, however, will opt for a free run with the pack along the highway to the closest muddy bog so they can wallow and wrestle. Then we’ll point them in the direction of the beach for “off-leash aromatherapy,” also known as rolling in whatever dead stuff they can find.
(A coonhound, Bo, raises its head lazily from its paws.)
Bo: (Baying) Golly! The human companions are gonna be mighty ticked when they get a load of that.
Brumhilda: (Smiling in a conspiratorial fashion) Every client's last day at the spa is devoted to cleaning, brushing, and removing brambles. Their owners will never know.
Rex: We have other special options, don’t we, Pommy?
Pom-Pom: (Wrenching herself away from licking her hind leg) Huh? Oh, do we ever! As you know, some clients are brought to us for “personality adjustments.” Their owners may not admit it, but their weary, frazzled look speaks volumes. Brumhilda will coax out a few details about the “problem” before the companion leaves. Then she’ll take Fozzy, or whomever it may be, in to see our resident psychologist, Peaches O’Flannagan. Peachy will conduct a session that may appear to be routine bum-sniffing but will actually delve much deeper.
Bo: (Sardonically) And what will she do with clients who are “mental,” as my owners used to call me? I think it had something to do with living in rural Alberta and getting a snootful of porcupine quills five days in a row. For some reason, they blamed that on me and not the frickin’ porcupine.
Pom-Pom: Well, the treatment will depend on the problem. A lot of our clients will enter “Rodent Rehab.” That’s where they’ll spend two hours in a mock forest with a scented hologram of the animal they most enjoy harassing, whether it’s a squirrel, a rat, a mouse or a skunk -- although skunks aren’t actually rodents. Our clients will never be able to catch these irritants, since these versions don’t really exist, but they will be immersed in their smells and sounds. This deliberate, extended exercise in frustration has proved to be an effective deterrent in clinical trials. Afterward, of course, they’ll get to romp in the “wreck room,” where the chemical stench of skunk or squirrel that they bring to the party will simply add to the festive atmosphere.
(A Doberman, Adolf, stretches ostentatiously.)
Adolf: Vat about ze loners? How can magnificent beasts such as myself find peace in ze midst of zis BFF chaos?
Pom-Pom: There’s always the meditation room, featuring a large bed covered with a down duvet. An artificial pool of light streams down on it when there isn’t enough sunlight to sleep in. There’s also a lot of Philip Glass music, or silence, if you prefer.
Adolf: (Agitated) I just zot of somezing! Are zer going to be cats in zis place?
Pom-Pom: (Shuddering) Of course not! BFF is all dogs, all the time.
Adolf: (Suddenly energized) Girl dogs and boy dogs, in ze same rooms?
Rex: (Cheerfully) Certainly, and even some who are undecided. As far as we’re concerned, BFF Hotels is our Club Med, where clients kick it old school. Meeting adjourned. Anyone for Snausages?
(The Reporter wags her tail.)