We pet owners are being bombarded by manipulative marketers who are hell-bent on exploiting our increasingly deranged obsessions. Deranged? At this point it’s a safe bet that somebody, somewhere in Manhattan is having sex with his or her dog, such is the level of canine fetishization currently gripping our pet-infested isle. Though bestiality has never entered my own erotic vocabulary, if there was a law against the inappropriate fondling of domesticated animals, I would definitely be on some hideous F.B.I. “petophile” list. Just ask our Norwich terrier, Liberace! As he knows all too well, I am frankly incapable of keeping my hands from grabbing his furry little haunches. Let me assure you that I have never-thank God!-felt the slightest frisson of sexual desire when touching what my husband Jonny and I refer to as “his various areas.” The same cannot be said of Liberace himself, who humps my leg vigorously at least once a week.
In order to find out what, if anything, was going on in the little guy’s head, I invested $99.95 in the latest Japanese pet-communication system, the “Bow-Lingual” bark translator. Using “voiceprint” technology, the Bow-Lingual translates your dog’s bark: A microphone around his or her neck sends the bark to a handheld unit that receives and analyzes the data before providing you with a text-message translation. Liberace’s readouts, though inconsistent and impudent, were mercifully devoid of erotic intention: “These are my rules,” “Don’t bother me” and “Give me the stars and moon” being the most common. According to the folks at Takara, the Japanese company that has so far sold more than 300,000 Bow-Linguals, this is not a gag gift: The Japanese prime minister gave two Bow-Lingual systems to Vladimir Putin last May, and Matsumi Suzuki, an eminent Bow-Lingual researcher, has been called upon to authenticate supposed voice recordings from Osama bin Laden, fur chrissakes! Bow-Lingual devices can be purchased from the Sharper Image stores and, improbably, from Lord and Taylor.
Shirley MacLaine didn’t need voiceprint technology to channel her dog’s thoughts; she- quelle surprise! -did it herself and then spewed the resulting ramblings into her latest book, Out on a Leash: Exploring the Nature of Reality and Love (Atria Books, $23.95). The big shocker? Shirl’s fab little rat terrier, Terry, is more insanely New Age and bonkers than her showbiz owner. If Ms. MacLaine’s channelings are to be believed, the average pooch’s thoughts read like a series of inspirational office-wall plaques, e.g., “Humans should play more … ” and “The more deeply she [Shirl] learns to love, the younger she’ll be when she dies.”
Other canine curiosities currently hitting the stores: a little book called All About My Dog (Broadway Books, a steal at $12.95), an insanely detailed Q&A that allows you to annotate your borderline J.R. Ackerley–ish obsession. Questions include: “Do you feel embarrassed when your dog sees you naked?” and “Has your dog ever had a kosher meal?” (In case you didn’t know, J.R. Ackerley was that English bloke who was in love with his German shepherd and penned My Dog Tulip , a touching homage to their amour fou . It’s currently going for $10.36 on Amazon.com.)
On a more wholesome note: The William Secord Gallery, the world’s schmanciest dog-painting resource, is about to unveil an exhibition and sale of the work of Bert Cobb, an American artist of the early 20th century who drew and painted rich folks’ pooches. These uptight, anal-retentive dog portraits will add a Bill Blass butch restraint to your décor-without the gasp-inducing prices that punctuated the deceased and closeted fashion designer’s recent, highly charged estate sale. An 8-by-10-inch drypoint Cobb etching of your fave breed will set you back a mere $1,800. (Compare with the Bill Blass estate bunny painting, for which Nina Griscom paid a whopping $66,000.)
Another reason to visit the Secord Gallery is Mr. Secord himself. Not only is he good-looking in a classy, Blass-y kind of a way but, as the world’s leading authority on 19th-century dog paintings, he’s in a unique position to scour the stately homes of England for ancestral portraits of your dog. The Secord Gallery is located at 52 East 76th Street; for more info, call 212-249-0075.
Re proliferating dog-tote options: We used the lesbian, airline-approved “Sherpa” bag; anything else would be too nelly for Liberace, who is very masculine despite his name.
P.S.: Shirley and Terry met in a previous life in ancient Egypt. According to Malibu Shirl, Terry was a canine deity named Anubis.