Most canines may live like dogs, but some of New York City's pooches enjoy amenities once exclusively reserved for their masters.
Cocktail parties. Limousines. Attorneys. Acupuncture. Manicures . . . er, make that pet-icures.
"New Yorkers do everything over the top. Owning a dog in New York is a lifestyle," says Rob Abner, publisher of D.G.N.Y., a bimonthly magazine about dogs. This dog culture, he estimates, pumps a half-billion dollars into the local economy each year.
The city offers dog psychics, a $15 do-it-yourself dog wash, a cafe and lounge where dogs and owners mix. Even day care is easy to find.
"Sometimes I think dogs live better then their owners," says Tony Darcia, manager of Run Spot, Inc., in Manhattan. The center-cum-dog-run cares for about 70 canines a day, for $15 to $19 each, depending on size.
Most dogs are unwelcome on public transit, but that's no problem. Roger Spear, the white-gloved chauffeur for Doggy Style, picks them up, with or without chaperons, and offers them treats if they get restless in his stretch limo. Round trip within Manhattan, with 20-minute wait time: $40.
Then there's Make Your Pet a Star, workshops offered near Times Square by Bash Dibra, a behaviorist who trains animals for TV and movies. Under his guidance, more than a thousand dogs have discovered the finer points of acting. The cost for owners? $400 for six weeks of basics, $750 for eight weeks of advanced training.
For those seeking more than material comforts, the Church of the Holy Trinity welcomes worshippers with wagging tails, but each must bring a human. "I don't think he has a very sophisticated metaphysical view or many sins to forgive," says A. Punschke, a Manhattanite whose Siberian husky snoozed in the center aisle. "But I'm happy to be here, and he's happy when I'm happy."
Why do some New Yorkers treat their dogs like humans? Is it status, or snugness, with such close proximity in cramped apartments?
To Wallace Sife, a Brooklyn psychologist specializing in pet bereavement, dogs can provide the antidote to "the impersonal city."
"Some people may find it a bit strange," concedes Kathleen Leonen, manager of Brooklyn's All Pets Go To Heaven funeral parlor, "but what we do here makes people feel better."
For $1,000 for casket and burial, a deluxe R.I.P.