One of my all-time favorite articles about dog people was written by Nell Scovell in the February 1987 issue of Spy. The story,“How Rich is that Doggie in the Limo,” is a concise ethnography of the spending habits of the dog owners of the Upper East Side back in Bonfire of the Vanities-era New York City. These dogs travel by chauffeured limo back home from the grooming salon. They get carried around in Louis Vuitton bags designed with proper ventilation. They get cosmetic surgery for eye-lifts and blemish removal. And they get placed on strict diets not prescribed by their vets:
“A well-balanced diet is particularly important for Suzie, a Park Avenue miniature poodle with a weight problem. She’s not fat, but Air France has an eleven-pound limit on animals flying in Le Club class. Since Suzie must apparently travel to Paris every year, she is required by her mother, Lucille Lowy-Solomon, to diet. ‘It’s a good thing she likes celery,’ Solomon says.”
Poor Suzie! If she flew JetBlue in 2019, she wouldn’t have to worry about being less than 11 pounds. (Dogs can be up to 20 pounds on JetBlue.)
Scovell captured an essential quality of dog ownership, that many of us treat our dogs like they’re people—perhaps they’re our children, siblings, mini-selves, or best friends. They have dinner with us, sleep in bed with us, and are given the same dignities as us. At the end of the story, you find out that the late society doyenne Pat Buckley’s two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, despite their pedigreed upbringings, do not do any tricks. “It’s too undignified for words,” she told Scovell. “How many people do you see who sit up and beg?”
I live on the Upper East Side myself, and some things have changed since Scovell’s story. Eukanuba was considered an expensive dog food brand at the time ($9.99 for an eight-pound bag, according to Scovell) because it was high-protein. Now, we’re looking for the brands that are human-grade, grain-free, and organic—at minimum. But one name caught my eye in the story: Karen’s for People and Pets, a dog boutique on Lexington Avenue that was once frequented by Grace Kelly and Andy Warhol.
Upon further digging, I found out that Karen’s is now Canine Styles—which just happens to my favorite pet shop in the neighborhood. It’s where we bought my Miami-born dog’s first pink barn coat that got her through her first frigid New York City spring. It’s where we bought her shearling coat that has gotten her through three winters and counting.
And it’s where we get some of her wackiest toys, like this Koko Chewnel stuffed perfume bottle that Artemis loves to chase. More of an Hermès household? You can get an Hairmès toy in the shape of the actual brand’s iconic orange box. Now, it’s true that your dog doesn’t care about labels. But in every conversation I’ve had with a dog parent for Argos & Artemis, the number-one reason for buying a chew toy was because the toy made the person laugh. I love the image of my dog chasing after her Koko Chewnel bottle like it’s a squirrel. It’s sweet, and it reminds me that the most precious thing I have in the world is my dog.
What was the last toy you bought for your dog? Please tell me! Artemis gets bored easily. Her favorite toy is probably my index finger.
Photography by Sylvie Rosokoff