March 4, 2007

The other day I heard about a dog committing suicide. But the dog was blind, so it was up for debate. One neighbour believed the dog knew what he was doing when he "jumped" down the stairwell. Another neighbour swore it was an accident and he slipped. Given the dog was old, that was also a factor. "They should have put that dog in therapy long ago," said the man who insisted it was suicide.

In New York, even dogs have therapists. When my friend Heather had a baby, her dog, Bud, was put on Prozac because he wouldn't eat or wag his tail. Finally, a dog I could relate to. "I don't know what to do," she said, "he's so depressed."

I've never wanted a dog before, but a dog that wants to lie in bed all day and doesn't care about going out? When I heard that I said: "Bring him over." He arrived with two cases and his own bed. I was feeling even more of a bond. A dog that packs more than I do: his special food, his toys, his hairbrush and his pills.

Dogs in New York are so stressed that in the past two years three dog spas have opened in my neighbourhood. And a doggy gym for the ones who don't like walkies. I wonder if dogs size each other up in the gym? Would a mutt be considered less attractive then a poodle? Or what about the little fat dog? Is she in the corner because nobody's interested in her? The popular dogs must make the antisocial dogs feel like crap. I've always thought a dog's life was problem-free, but maybe it's just as rough for them as it is for the rest of us. I wonder if there's a stigma attached to being depressed when they're around their friends. It's not like they can hide it if they're not sniffing the things they used to.

Being a dog in New York must be brutal. Chances are, you live in a tiny apartment with very little light and a view of the lamppost, 20 floors down.

If you belong to a single woman, your only job in life is to be upbeat and ready for a cuddle when your owner returns from a bad date or a friend's wedding. If your owner is a single straight man, you know you were purchased as a puppy as a way to pick up women. Now that you're full-grown and losing your cuteness, you've served your purpose and have anxiety attacks about being given away.

If your owners are a family, you've been ignored since the baby arrived or, if you're a playmate for the children, you're exhausted from being treated like a living stuffed animal. If your owner is a gay man, you're stuck in a Burberry raincoat every time there's a drizzle, and if you belong to a model, your paws never touch the pavement.

The only dogs in New York that seem well adjusted are the ones jumping out of the Wagging Tail van on their way home from doggy daycare in the country. That's because they don't have to go to the toilet on the sidewalk. Dogs always look embarrassed when they're pooping on the street. They have a look that says: "Can I get a little privacy?"

It's perfectly reasonable that a dog would commit suicide. Not being cute enough, having a bark that's too loud, having to be cheerful because that's what they're here for. If I was a depressed dog and my owner was telling me to cheer up all the time, I would jump too.