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OPINION COLUMN: TED KRUCKEL

Sniffing Around Doggie Parties, Runways, and Stage Moms

Photo: Courtesy of www.animalfair.com

Like all sane people, I vigorously resist celebrity culture’s inexorable onslaught of our day-to-day lives. I’m horrified that children’s parties now feature faux red-carpet entries, and that hundreds of consumers flooded stores looking for the white dress Lindsay Lohan wore to her indictment hearing.

So you may be surprised (I was) to hear that I enjoyed and completely approve of the celebrity dog events that have popped up around the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which ended last week in a win for a wolfhound of some sort.

I’ve attended and written about the dog show before, but this year I was lured to my first ancillary events. It may not be like the Oscars, the Grammys, or Sundance, but give it time.

I kicked off my evening at “Big City, Little Dog,” which was held at the New Yorker Hotel, which is I think where the Moonies used to live (thankfully, no one tried to mass marry me).

It was a surprisingly large setup, and truth be told, intimidating for more than one of the little dogs I saw. In the giant black room there was a two-story screen fronted by a T-shaped black fashion runway. The room had rope and stanchions everywhere, which I found kind of odd; certainly, it wasn’t keeping any dogs from going where they wanted to go. There was the requisite poop-and-scoop Astroturf area. A step-and-repeat was set up for V.I.P. dogs and the V.I.P. masters to pose before the paparazzi. A team from Fox miked one dog lady and got territorial when I started asking questions. I was told a team from Bravo was shooting there, though I didn’t run into them.

Everybody here has an agenda. The whole event was about some doggie fashion line that I’m not mentioning because 1) I forgot the name, and 2) overall I don’t approve of dogs wearing fashion. A sweater or raincoat, I’m cool with.

Then I ran into Karen and her dog Eli, who were both wearing rhinestones. Eli is a Chihuahua rescue; he had on a tuxedo and rhinestone tiara tie. The tie looked a little heavy, and Eli looked extremely unhappy to be there, so Karen wisely took him backstage for some downtime—but not before pitching me on her new show, Doggie Moms, which premiered last Wednesday on NYC Life at 9:30 p.m. Allie Kleva from the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment was there. They are, I gather, giving this show a free media platform to tell people about the wonderful world of professional dogs and the mommies who schlep them from audition to audition.

According to the show’s promotional postcard, Eli has raised more than $10,000 for the American Cancer Society and can be seen on a Milk-Bone box. When I asked Karen if Eli gets a percentage of the earnings she receives from making him work, she told me he is well taken care of. I then asked her if she was being compensated to appear on Doggie Moms, and she declined to answer.

I say all this only because later in the night, another dog advocate told me that the dogs and their owners who are appearing on Doggie Moms reminded her of JonBenét Ramsey and Mom with fur.

There was someone named Schmitty the Weather Dog, and another company was filming a pilot for a new dog show. It was like being on the ground floor of something really big. Only it was all about really little dogs. I was told the show’s finale would feature a surprise Great Dane to shake things up, and I wondered how all the little dogs felt about the big dog stealing the show.

Backstage, things were heating up for the big show. Just like a real fashion show, they had little cards taped to the floor where the talent was supposed to line up. I noticed the name of Travel & Leisure editor Nancy Novogrod (albeit misspelled), whom I know and like, and wondered what her dog was going to wear. That’s the kind of thing you think of at a doggie fashion show. I met a brother-and-sister pair of Italian greyhounds. The little girl was scared out of her wits, and I started to wonder if I should turn any of these professional dog handlers in to the A.S.P.C.A. (where my dog Turbo came from).

Across town at the decidedly swankier Carlton Hotel, Puppy Love @  Yappy Hour was taking place.

Put on by Animal Fair magazine editorial director Wendy Diamond, who also serves as C.P.O. (Chief Pet Officer), Yappy Hour is a floating monthly cocktail mixer. Last month’s was at the Kempton Hotel.

This event was a phantasmagoria of dog action. There was an adoption center (all three dogs were adopted, yay!) and fund-raiser for the Humane Society. The mixers also serve as a way for fellow dog owners to meet and possibly mate, which sounds crazy, but Wendy tells me “I’ve married a bunch of couples.”

Here there are dogs everywhere, not all of them in clothes and not all of them tiny. This is clearly a dog social event, and I am starting to feel really guilty that my dogs got left home.

Again there was the wee-wee area, but this event had a doggie buffet with treats and samples provided by Cesar dog food company and I can here offer an unsolicited testimonial. My puppy Jetta will eat anything (today including dental floss, complete with the container), but Turbo is very discriminating. Sometimes he wants a shrimp, sometimes he doesn’t, sometimes he wants a little cheese, sometimes he doesn’t, but he really loves the Cesar treats that are shaped like a little paw print. I wish they were a little bigger.

So after pocketing more than my share of dog food, I started mingling. I chatted with celebrity housewives and dog owners Dina Manzo and Ramona Singer, who posed in front of the step-and-repeats (sans pets), and socialite Tinsley Mortimer. I couldn’t help but be fascinated by TV fitness pitchman John Basedow, who was filming a segment of himself and by himself in the hotel lobby.

What gives, John?

“Well my puppy handler and my cameraman got in an accident and couldn’t come, so I’m shooting myself for my Web site.”

Oh, that’s awful. Were your dog wrangler or your cameraman hurt?

“It’s the same person, and no, thanks for asking, but they had to fill out forms. You know how it is.”

Well, I do know how it is to fill out police accident forms, but I have to admit I was starting to wonder about the employment polices of FitnessMadeSimple.com. But you can go there and decide for yourself, and maybe buy John’s new book called, wait for it, Fitness Made Simple.

I went to say thank you to Wendy, and I had to ask, aside from donations to the Humane Society, how do you make money on this program?

“Oh, I don’t know how to make money on these things at all—can you help me? I just do this because I love dogs and I want to get dogs adopted, and I love the Humane Society—you know they’ve been around over a hundred years, and they never turn any dog away—and I also love getting dog people together. Why don’t you get more involved? You have dogs.”

Sign me up, Wendy.