One of my co-workers has an autumnal tradition of spending a week of quality time with her dog, Alfie, around his birthday.
Some may find that eccentric, but even she is skeptical of a trend I saw reported in The Wall Street Journal.
“Dog birthdays are turning into elaborate social events,” barked the headline.
Yes, professional party organizers are raking in megabucks for lavish festivities centered around the anniversary of a dog’s birth or some other canine milestone (the anniversary of the pooch’s adoption, the anniversary of the legalization of dog poker, the anniversary of suing Pope Francis for not dispatching an exorcist to deal with that creepy possessed vacuum cleaner, etc.).
Gourmet treats, dog-oriented games, gift-wrapped presents, rounds of “Happy Birthday to You” and stringent rules (“Yes, we allowed you a ‘plus one,’ but not a ‘plus 100’! To the flea dip with you!”) are the order of the day for these celebrations attended by tycoons and celebrities with more kibble than God.
Proud pet owners insist that dogs can sense when something special in their honor is in the works, but why assume that dogs know the hoopla is related specifically to their birthday?
Maybe they’ll become anxiety-plagued because they think the special attention is a diversion from bad news. (“Are … are Mommy and Daddy getting divorced??? Or … did that vet lie about neutering being a one-time thing?”)
Some owners think that a mass assemblage of their dog’s acquaintances or long-separated siblings (along with the dogs of the master’s friends) is the greatest thing since sliced bread snatched from the dinner table when no humans are looking.
These are the same cockeyed optimists who think that a harmonious Thanksgiving means bringing together both sets of in-laws along with copious amounts of Uncle Bubba’s favorite potent potable and a collection of political yard signs.
The whole idea of a guest list made up entirely of humans and dogs seems problematically species-ist, anyway.
Maybe if the dogs got a vote, they would opt to invite a few giraffes, ostriches or pandas. Or monkeys to do some fast and furious flinging! (“Bet you won’t complain any more about having to operate a pooper-scooper, master!”)
I know people love their fur babies and want them to have their dreams come true on their special day, but narcissism plays a outsize role.
To a large extent, this is about status symbols and conspicuous consumption (although not as conspicuous as King consuming whatever he dragged out of the garbage can).
The flashiness and competitiveness will only get worse. Already there are social directors, dog trainers and dog therapists on hand for the parties; but attention-seekers will keep trying to top themselves.
Any day now, an Ivy League dean will be hired to caution the dogs, “Don’t speak! Don’t speak!”
High-powered lawyers will be on hand to coach, “Who’s a good victim? Who’s a good victim?”
The CEO of IKEA will be unable to turn down lucrative side gigs custom-assembling furniture on the party grounds to satisfy the attendees’ amorous inclinations.
Dogs will get to take turns flying a Sopwith Camel and strafing the Germans. (“Curse you, offshore wind turbines!”)
What’s it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live? Or do all dogs go to heaven and suddenly realize, “Hey, that cheapskate should have been giving me SEVEN parties every 12 months”?