This article was originally published in the October 2017 Princeton Echo.
I used to think that the hottest days of the summer were called the dog days because even dogs know enough to lie in a corner and wait out the heat. But the truth is that those sultry weeks in August and early September are named after the ascendancy of Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, in the zodiac sign of the Great Dog, or Canis major.
How appropriate, then, that some fortunate American dogs enjoy a five-star treatment year-round. As I have recently discovered, the spectacular advantages enjoyed by the one percent have crossed the species border and spread to our canine cousins.
It used to be that when we went on vacation, we dropped off our golden retriever at a kennel. It was a back-to-basics barracks where the proprietor ruled the anxiously jumping dogs with an iron fist and iron cages. Now such stern tactics are déclassé among dog owners in the best neighborhoods. These owners check their dogs into Chateau Poochie or one of the many other dog resorts operating as upscale bed and biscuits. There is no long row of open cells and a cacophonous din of yelping dogs.
Instead every Fido has a private room free of even disturbing odors thanks to the state-of-the-art air conditioning system. Here are all the amenities of a luxury spa. There is an army of cooks, hairdressers, masseurs, swim trainers, nail care providers, dentists and other loyal caregivers. Each little Marie Antoinette gets a pedicure for each of her four legs. At cocktail hour, customers enjoy a “dog martini,” a bone spiked with peanut butter. If, in spite of everything, Fido or Fikkie — to pick a classic Dutch name — feels anxious at night, someone will read a story and sleep next to him — the ultimate role reversal between man and animal.
The phrase “it’s a dog’s life” used to represent the miserable destiny awaiting every canine. Nowadays, it is synonymous with boundless luxury, at least for the hairy, happy few. A week in such a five-star dog’s den will cost about a thousand dollars. Nonetheless, waggy-tailed resorts like Chateau Poochie are sprouting around the country. Six billion dollars are spent in the United States on pet care every year. In the breathtaking mountain town of Aspen, Colorado, I once saw a special dog bakery offering the most delicious cakes, festooned with bite-sized chunks of chicken and pork tenderloin. It looked so mouth-watering that I almost bought a cupcake for myself.
“I think it’s too expensive,” objects my neighbor, who opted to bring a dogsitter to his house rather than check his new puppy into a dog hotel while he took his vacation. “But I know I get value for my money. There is video surveillance, so I can follow him every minute. It’s just as if we’re together on vacation. And at the end he is rested, and I am, too. “
So it goes. The American politicians may fight and debate about Obamacare, but nothing is wrong with Fikkiecare.
Pia de Jong is a Dutch writer who lives in Princeton. Her bestselling memoir, “Charlotte,” was published in July in the U.S. She appears at Labyrinth Books on Nassau Street on Tuesday, October 10, at 6 p.m. She can be contacted at piadejong.com.