The absurd world of pampered pets

In the FT Magazine, Katie Roiphe writes about the absurd way rich New Yorkers treat their dogs. Now I’m not a believer in being beastly to dogs, but I often leave mine alone to fend for themselves for a couple of hours. I don’t think it does them any particular harm.

In the New York circles Roiphe describes, leaving a dog alone even for an hour would be thought to cause it permanent psychological damage: a whole industry has sprung up to look after the well-being of these over-pampered pets.

Here, for example, is a “website commenter” on the New York Dog Spa & Hotel. “My baby stayed here for five nights while we were out of town. I went in a few days prior to ensure that my needs were being communicated. Felt comfortable that they were addressed as requested and was VERY impressed that after I inadvertently left Bella’s carrots at home, the owner had someone pick up a bag so Bella could have her favourite snacks.”

If you are wondering, says Roiphe, why a dog needs to eat carrots or why it is being called a baby, “you are not fully apprehending the benefits of being a dog in certain neighbourhoods in Manhattan” (where, incidentally, the term ‘pet parent’ is now preferred to pet owner).

At Wiggly Pups, a “pet concierge” near Gramercy Park, there is a similarly “uplifting and civilised” environment: the dogs are provided with designer beds, soft music and dim lights at night, “transforming theclub from an active playroom to a dog’s den of peace and tranquillity”.

Or, if you would rather, dog sitters will come to your house to spend the night. By this point, says Roiphe, “part of me is thinking if you can spend $1,500 a month on doggy daycare and dog sitters, who needs kids”?

A friend of Roiphe’s, exaggerating only slightly, says: “When we went on trips the dog would go away to a dog spa that was more expensive than the hotel we were staying at. It’s like he would go to the Plaza and we would be going to the Holiday Inn.”

PJ O’Rourke’s fitness regime

Also in the FT Magazine, PJ O’Rourke is asked how physically fit he is. Hearteningly, he says: “I drink, I smoke cigars, my idea of exerciseis getting up at 3am to go to the bathroom.” But since he lives in the country on a farm, where there’s a lot of work to do, he’s in “reasonable shape”.

The American author and satirist’s most surprising response, however, is to the question of what he would like to own but doesn’t currently possess. “A matched pair of 12-gauge Purdey shotguns,” he says, “and pheasants enough to justify their possession.”

• The Hilton hotel chain has published what Judith Woods in The Daily Telegraph calls a “gloriously Pooterish” list of things that make us happy.

Here are three: finding an unexpected fiver in your pocket, sunshine and fresh sheets. The message is very Pooterish too, which doesn’t make it untrue: it’s the small things, not the big ones, that make us smile.

Tabloid money: the brand Beckham money-spinner

• “We learned this week that it now takes the average FTSE boss (annual salary £4.72m) two days to earn what the average worker (annual salary £26,500) makes in a year,” says Brian Reade in the Daily Mirror. We also learned that 33,000 of Britain’s richest earners “have been deliberately avoiding paying £5.1bn in tax”.

You can blame this just as much on the last Labour government’s “starry-eyed hero-worship of the rich” as you can on “Thatcher’s culture of greed”. Maybe that’s why “fair-weather friends” of Labour, like Sir Michael Caine, turned their ire on the party when Brown introduced the 50p tax rate in 2009. So it was no surprise that Caine was one of those “outed this week as tax avoiders”.

• “Michael Caine has paid countless millions in income tax in a glittering 60-year career,” says Tony Parsons in The Sun. Now 81, he’s still earning, and still paying tax. “Caine is not commenting on his alleged involvement in Liberty, an aggressive tax-avoidance fund…” It sounds “like a scam and it seems likely that anyone that stored their loot with Liberty will have to give it to HM Revenue and Customs”.

But Caine has spoken openly about his attitude to tax. He says if the tax rate ever goes higher than 50%, he will go back to America. “I will not pay the government more than I get – no way, ever.” If he leaves Britain, “the British taxman gets 100% of nothing. How is that good for our country?”

• “Posh says she sometimes goes to the supermarket herself,” writes Carole Malone in the Sunday Mirror, of former pop star Victoria Beckham. This may seem a bit unlikely. But saying it is “just a big tick in the ‘We’re just an ordinary family’ box, which helps boost the multi-million-pound money-spinner that is brand Beckham”.

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