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All these places have cropped up while beauty salons for humans have closed down and been replaced by cheap nail salons and Thai massage pads.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.