When my friend Jenny called and said, “I need you to come shopping with us. You’ve got an eye for detail,” I’ll admit, I did feel a bit of superior fashion sense wash over me. Yeah, I could pick out a wardrobe that would make Paris Hilton proud. So if I could lend a hand, who was I to argue?
So off we went on an overcast day in June to drop some cash in what I expected would be some of Princeton’s upscale clothing stores. I thought nothing of Jenny bringing her pug, the infamous Good Golly Miss Ginger May Care as she was recognized in the AKC world, but known to the rest of us as Ginnie. All wrinkles with a permanent grin and big bulging eyes, you couldn’t help but smile when you looked at that face. Ginnie’s, not Jenny’s. At one time, it could have been either, but I’m pretty sure Jenny has had Botox. I’ve noticed wrinkles missing despite her protests to the contrary.
“Can we hit Starbucks on the way back?” I asked, knowing how shopping can wear out the best of women. A jolt of caffeine can get us moving again.
“Sure,” Jenny said, as she drove her Mercedes into the Princeton North Shopping Center. She pulled into a parking spot and announced, “We’re here.”
“Here, where?” I asked her.
“Utopia For Pets. Where else am I going to find a dress for Ginnie?”
“Whoa. A dress for Ginnie? You needed my expertise to pick out a dress for (oops, I almost said your dog) Ginnie? Does she have a big date or something?”
Jenny smiled and I realized what they say is true. Owners start to resemble their pets. Big brown eyes, goofy excited look — and now without the wrinkles. (She’s not fooling anyone.)
I had no time to protest. Jenny had already hooked up Ginnie’s leash and was trotting her over to the store. I hurried behind like some entourage in tow.
A sign in the store window said: Voted Best Pet Boutique in New Jersey by New Jersey Life, Health and Beauty Magazine. Snazzy place.
The store was filled with Poodles and Poms, Shih Tzus and Llahsas, Collies and Dachshunds. I wondered, wouldn’t wiener dogs go to the Short and Long store?
Pet parents squeaked toys and rattled boxes of treats. Discussions involved play dates and trips to the V-E-T. And obedience school —where I’m sure they learned what V-E-T spells.
Jenny called me to a corner lined with racks and racks of girl clothes. Ribbons, bows, glitter, and buttons adorned outfits from casual wear to bathing suits to formal wear. I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror and saw that look dogs get when hanging their heads out of car windows. This place was an assault on the senses.
“What do you think?” Jenny asked, holding up a purple satin dress with a frilly skirt.
“You didn’t tell me the occasion,” I said, trying not to laugh.
“Oh, her boyfriend is having a Bark Mitzvah.”
“Yeah,” she said, intensely scrutinizing the dress. “Didn’t you know that Samuel the pug is Jewish?”
“I thought he was neutered, not circumcised.”
“Don’t be silly,” she said.
My friend was picking out a purple dress for her pug who was going to a Bark Mitzvah, and I was the silly one. Oy!
Jenny maneuvered Ginnie’s paws into the garment and tried to close the Velcro without much luck. “Hmm, do you see this in the next size?” she asked me.
“What? No seaweed wrap before the party to get her down a size?” I smiled. I was getting into this.
I was thumbing through the rack when another woman pulled the purple dress in the size I was searching for.
“Oh, this is perfect!” she shouted, snatching it off the rack and out of my reach.
“Hey!” I said. “That’s our dress.”
She brushed me off with a wave and proceeded to try the dress on her Bichon.
I could read the disappointment on Jenny’s face.
“Maybe they have another one,” I offered.
“No, Ginnie couldn’t wear it anyway. That bitch is going to the same party.”
I raised a brow at her.
“What? She’s a female, she’s a bitch.”
“Whatever. Look, let’s find something else. There’s plenty here to choose from.”
Poor Ginnie was put through an arsenal of gowns in every color imaginable. Even I had to admit she looked stunning in a black Park Avenue number. Okay, it was Bark Avenue, but it looked like a canine version of Gucci.
Even the bitch’s human mom drooled with envy.
“That’s the dress!” I said to Jenny.
She agreed and took it off Ginnie so it wouldn’t get wrinkled. Ironic, huh? The wearer could be wrinkled, but not the dress. The more I shopped, the more I got into this whole idea of doggie duds.
By the time we reached the counter, Jenny had amassed a basketful of accessories, including glue-on bows (move over you knot-top dogs!), jeweled collars, a bottle of cologne that was “guaranteed to bring out the show dog” in any breed, and a few novelty T-shirts with cute phrases like Princess in Training and Pampered Pooch.
When the sales clerk rang up the total, Jenny didn’t even bat an eye. Ginnie was her baby after all. I started to feel a bit envious. Neither Jenny nor I had any children, but there was no denying my friend was the best dog mom I knew.
“Oh, look,” someone said from the front of the shop, “it’s starting to rain.”
I left the counter and headed back to the racks. “Where are you going?” Jenny called after me.
“You can’t leave without a rain coat,” I said. Ok, a couple of hours in a pet boutique and I’d been converted. I could see myself going to play dates and classes and doggie birthday parties. Forget Starbucks. I was going to ask Jenny to stop at the puppy store instead.
Chelle Martin recently won 2nd place in the Northwest Ontario Writers Workshop fiction contest in the mystery category. She was the only non-Canadian winner overall. She’s the dog mom of two Chihuahuas who are the inspiration for her proposed series, “Dog Mom Mysteries.”