BRIAN KIERAN: Old folks and pets a breed apart

The lengths some people go to personalize their pets is a head-shaker

Brian Kieran/guest columnist

I knew some explaining would be required when a colleague caught me surfing the Internet for information about tutu-wearing canines.

Old folks and their pets, eh? We are a breed apart.

From the get go, let me assure you I am not looking for a tutu for Carmello, my three kilo Mexican rescue dog – part Chihuahua, part terrier, part vagabond. This alpha beach bum would not stand for it. Anyways, they don’t make tutus that small.

No, the real reason I was searching the web was to gain some psychological insight into the mindset of a senior dog owner who would subject his mutt to that degree of humiliation.

This cautionary tale starts a month ago. We were RVing in the Okanagan, camped beside a monster motor home from the States.

Our neighbour is a retired dude of considerable stature and girth, sporting an epic mustache. He looks like the kind of bad boy who, in his younger days, might have run the local chapter of Satan’s Avengers out of Dudley’s Saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota. Did I mention he is wearing a Harley Davidson T-shirt?

Even lounging in his camp chair this old biker looks dangerous.

Out of left field prances this beady-eyed, butt-ugly excuse for a dog, some kind of pug-Shih Tzu cross wearing a denim tutu and matching collar.

This aberration leaps onto the ample stomach of said retired biker and begins licking his face. The X-biker’s partner, wearing a matching denim outfit – I’m not making this up – is goo-gooing baby talk to encourage this sad degradation of an elder human and an innocent, albeit ugly, canine.

Carmello, who would normally be barking like crazy, is transfixed. I turn his head away and whisper: “May God strike me dead if I ever do that to you.” The old dude looks at me and wordlessly promises a beating with a tire iron if I so much as blink in his direction.

Now, I know some latitude needs to be applied when it comes to seniors and their pets. I’ve read the research: 95 per cent of us talk to our pets, no harm, no foul; 82 per cent of us report that our pets pick us up when we feel sad; 71 per cent say pets help ease our physical pains; 65 per cent believe physically touching their pets reassures them that they are not alone; and, 57 per cent admit that they confide in their pets, telling them secrets they don’t even share with humans.

That said, dressing Missy up in a denim tutu is just plain wrong.

Well, what goes around comes around. The other day Carmello and I were at the park, just chilling on a bench watching the ocean go by. The poor little tyke suffers from allergies that itch terribly. He was cradled in my arms on his back and I was gently scratching his tummy … a perfectly acceptable human/dog interaction as far as I’m concerned. I may have been whispering a few words of canine encouragement in one of his rather large bat-like ears, the kind of positive reinforcement any vet would endorse. And, he may have lifted his head and stuck his tongue lovingly up my nose, hardly something I had any control over.

A young woman was passing by with her Boxer in tow and I caught her staring in disbelief at this innocent and entirely explainable scene. As she pulled her pet away I swear she whispered: “May God strike me dead if …”

Well, at least he’s not wearing a denim tutu, I muttered to her back as she fled down the path.

Brian Kieran is a journalist and communications specialist.

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