Loaded dogs

Four-legged Rich Kids of Instagram

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - CONTENTS - Story Ben Machell

hat do you get if you com­bine images of con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion with pic­tures of cute an­i­mals? A vi­ral sen­sa­tion that was wait­ing to hap­pen. When first con­fronted with th­ese pho­to­graphs of dogs sur­rounded by all the trap­pings of ex­treme wealth, your ini­tial thought might be, why is this hap­pen­ing? But this is the wrong ques­tion. Re­ally, what we should be ask­ing our­selves is, “Why has this taken so long?” Be­cause if you know any­thing about the in­ter­net, you will know that two of the things peo­ple love to look at more than any­thing else are: a) voyeuris­tic images of con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion; and b) pic­tures of cute, slightly an­thro­po­mor­phised an­i­mals. Com­bine the two and – tada! – say hello to Rich Dogs of Instagram, the vi­ral craze that was pretty much guar­an­teed to hap­pen at some point.

Wit­ness, for ex­am­ple, a ter­rier pos­ing with a glass of pink cham­pagne on the deck of a yacht. A trio of poo­dles wear­ing sun­glasses and sit­ting in a vin­tage con­vert­ible. A smug-look­ing pomera­nian en­joy­ing a man­i­cure on a pink and gold throne. Ev­ery­thing about th­ese pho­to­graphs – right down to the trop­i­cal blue skies, Chanel shop­ping bags and bot­tles of Moët – will be im­me­di­ately familiar to any of the mil­lions of peo­ple who reg­u­larly visit the Rich Kids of Instagram blog, the web’s pre­mier repos­i­tory of images culled from the so­cial me­dia ac­counts of the world’s most af­flu­ent youth.

To be a Rich Kid of Instagram (RKOI) is to en­gage in the shame­less cel­e­bra­tion of wealth and priv­i­lege, and their pho­to­graphs are equal parts kitsch, crass and weirdly com­pelling. Half the time it’s im­pos­si­ble to fig­ure out whether they have ab­so­lutely no idea how ob­nox­ious they seem, or whether they’re per­fectly aware and sim­ply don’t care.

The Rich Dogs of Instagram ac­count was cre­ated in Fe­bru­ary by Amer­i­can writer Kaylin Pound, and was con­ceived as a piece of satire. “See­ing all that frivolously spent money [on Rich Kids of Instagram] made me feel like I needed to do some­thing to make the world a bet­ter place,” she says. “I was think­ing of other ways to make fun of the rich kids, and I was ac­tu­ally sur­prised no­body had done it with dogs yet.”

She scoured the web for pho­tos of the most ex­trav­a­gantly pre­sented pets, find­ing regular mod­els in Cookie the York­shire ter­rier and Mini Pita the shih tzu. You will no­tice, as you scroll through all the images Pound has col­lected and cu­rated, that par­tic­u­lar breeds tend to re­cur. Pugs. Minia­ture schnauzers. Chi­huahuas. Small, yappy fash­ion-ac­ces­sory dogs that could con­ceiv­ably fit in your Louis Vuit­ton hand lug­gage.

Proper mutts, in other words, are thin on the ground. And this shouldn’t come as too much of a sur­prise. The Rich Dogs of Instagram we see here ob­vi­ously all be­long to Rich Kids of Instagram any­way be­cause, as a rule, nor­mal peo­ple don’t tend to post images of their pets stand­ing atop

a huge tower of bun­dled ban­knotes or wear­ing di­a­mond-stud­ded col­lars. It makes you won­der whether it’s even pos­si­ble to satirise ef­fec­tively the Rich Kids of Instagram at all, given they seem to be do­ing a pretty good job of it them­selves via their own pets. But it also poses a much broader ques­tion: Why are we so at­tracted to videos and pho­to­graphs of lov­able an­i­mals? What is it about them that hits such a sweet spot in our psy­che?

Ac­cord­ing to Bri­tish clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Dr Cecilia D’Felice, a huge fac­tor is the in­creas­ingly an­o­dyne, tech­nol­ogy-fo­cused lives we lead. “Many, many mil­lions of peo­ple are now com­pletely seden­tary, sit­ting in an of­fice in front of a com­puter screen, dis­con­nected from na­ture,” she says. “But th­ese an­i­mals are el­e­men­tal. We project qual­i­ties onto them. The things that they do can seem very funny when they’re ac­tu­ally just in­stinc­tive. We imag­ine they have a sense of hu­mour, and that al­lows us to have a cer­tain amount of re­lief from our own work ex­pe­ri­ences of sit­ting in front of a screen.”

But how come we par­tic­u­larly en­joy see­ing images of dogs living the high life? A few Rich Cats of Instagram do ex­ist but, to be hon­est, they don’t ex­actly ex­hibit the same joie de vivre. On the one hand, this could just be a ques­tion of prac­ti­cal­ity. I mean, have you ever tried to get a cat to wear a pair of sun­glasses or sit on the back of a thor­ough­bred horse long enough to take a pic­ture? Ex­actly. But I think there could be more to it. We spend our en­tire lives hav­ing cats lord it over us, and deep down, I don’t think we re­ally want to see them lord­ing it over us even more. It’s part of the rea­son why so many of the most popular on­line cat videos show them star­tled, con­fused or mildly hu­mil­i­ated. It’s hubris. We like to see them brought down a peg or two, ba­si­cally.

But dogs? Loyal, un­fussy, de­pend­able dogs? They de­serve their sparkling wine and their sports cars and their ex­otic hol­i­days. Ev­ery dog has its day and here are lots of them, hav­ing theirs. And even if they don’t re­ally know ex­actly what’s go­ing on, they still seem happy enough, which just makes us like them even more. At the end of the day, pho­tos of dogs look­ing as if they’ve just sold a For­tune 500 com­pany are al­ways go­ing to make us laugh.

“Dogs on planes are funny,” says Pound, who sug­gests this is not a phe­nom­e­non we need to over­think. “Dogs with Chanel shop­ping bags are funny. I mean, there’s just al­ways go­ing to be some­thing re­ally funny about a dog wear­ing a fur coat.”

Have you ever tried to get a cat to wear a pair of sun­glasses or sit on the back of a thor­ough­bred horse long enough to take a pic­ture?Ex­actly.

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