the fo­rum

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Deirdre Macken macken.deirdre@gmail.com

On the way to the nail sa­lon, I no­ticed a pro­mo­tion out­side an­other beauty par­lour. Re­lax­ing Makeover and Hairstyling. Tick. Cham­pagne and Canapes on ar­rival. Tick. Pro­fes­sional Photo Shoot. All good, ex­cept for the price at the bot­tom of the poster: $800.

You’d have to be a princess to af­ford that, I thought. Then I spot­ted one of the clients wait­ing in the re­cep­tion. No, I re­alised, to af­ford an $800 photo shoot, with makeover, hairstyling and canapes on ar­rival, you have to be a dog.

As I was early for my $25 pedi­cure, I wan­dered into the dog­gie sa­lon to make sure they were se­ri­ous. And, frankly, I was cu­ri­ous whether it was wise to serve dogs cham­pagne and canapes.

‘‘Oh, yes, that’s a great spe­cial,’’ the beau­ti­cian said, point­ing to a pic­ture of a dog that had the full treat­ment. The ca­nine had a shiny coat and neat san­i­tary trim but it still looked like the runt you would kick out of the lit­ter.

She passed over a groom­ing list that in­cluded a full groom for $115 that could be sup­ple­mented by a milk and oat soak ($25), aro­mather­apy and mas­sage ($25), a blue­berry fa­cial scrub ($5) and a pawdi­cure (and don’t th­ese sa­lons love play­ing around with words).

‘‘This is more than I pay for a birth­day fa­cial,’’ I said. She looked at me as if spot­ting an ear full of wax, a face in need of a blue­berry scrub and an at­ti­tude that could do with a san­i­tary trim. She shrugged. Dog­gie peo­ple don’t get non-dog­gie peo­ple.

Now, friends know I’m not a dog­gie per­son. I’m not in­ter­ested in strik­ing up con­ver­sa­tions with their dogs when I visit; I don’t un­der­stand why they’d want to bring their pet to my din­ner party; I’m afraid when a 50kg hound leaps up and licks me be­hind my ears; I don’t like be­ing greeted with a sniff to the crotch, not even by my friends. But even pooch-own­ing friends gig­gle at the dog­gie in­dus­try.

In my area, there are five dog sa­lons; two dog day­care cen­tres; dozens of mo­bile groom­ing op­er­a­tors; two pet psy­chol­o­gists; a cou­ple of cafes sell­ing pup­py­ci­nos; and a coun­cil ranger who doesn’t have a chance of fill­ing his dog pound.

All th­ese places have cropped up while beauty sa­lons for hu­mans have closed down and been re­placed by cheap nail sa­lons and Thai mas­sage pads. If you want real pam­per­ing in this area, you need to have four paws.

In case this is be­gin­ning to sound like sa­lon envy, let me tell you why I can’t un­der­stand why dogs need oat scrubs, mas­sages and canapes on ar­rival. The mis­er­able ex­pres­sion on the dog wait­ing in that sa­lon is a clue. The last time I saw a re­ally happy dog, it was rolling around in a dirt patch at the lo­cal park, chas­ing slow-mov­ing pi­geons and sniff­ing the bums of ev­ery dog that ar­rived in the park. It was deliri­ous with smells, rum­bling with friends and turn­ing into a dirty, fur ball of joy, and that was be­fore it chased the ten­nis ball into the drain.

Dogs like dirt the way ma­trons like man­i­cures. But some­where along the way ma­trons for­got this and fig­ured that be­cause they like mas­sages, pedi­cures, fa­cials, cap­puc­ci­nos and canapes on ar­rival, their dogs will like it too.

This seems bizarre to a non-dog­gie per­son. Would they also ex­pect a four-year-old boy to en­joy a night at the opera, a cat to ac­com­pany them to a restau­rant or a horse to en­joy a book read­ing? Or let’s turn it around. Should we ex­pect ma­trons to en­joy rolling in dirt, chas­ing birds and sniff­ing their friends’ crutches be­cause their dogs do? This may sound like the sour ob­ser­va­tions of some­one who goes to the cheap end of the sa­lon trade but there is a point to this.

If we in­sist on treat­ing dogs like hairy, lit­tle hu­mans, we are deny­ing their doggy-ness. When we douse them with unguents, we de­prive them of their smell of them­selves — a smell that may be their iden­tity. When we pa­rade them through a park on a short leash, they are re­minded of what they can’t do. When we treat them as a best friend, we deny them a mas­ter. When we breed them for qual­i­ties that make our life easy, we end up with some­thing that’s not quite hu­man and no longer dog­gie.

Friends say I don’t like dogs. Truth is I quite like dogs. I just don’t like dog­gie peo­ple.

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