As a general rule, a dog needs a sweater about as much as a caribou needs a hat rack or America needs a Romney presidency.
Yet an ethically bankrupt Mormon retains a plausible shot at election while pet clothing remains a $300 million-per-year industry, thus proving that caribou are often smarter than humans. Yes, I realize there is the occasional Mexican hairless forced to brave the Alaskan winters and that may indeed enjoy the added warmth of a man-made coat, but dog clothes are really for people.
More specifically, dog clothes are for people whom I mock. Or did. Until I became one of Them (reluctantly of course, and only after vehement protest and the negotiation of a blood-inked treaty stipulating the occasional seasonal use of a single shirt/sweater of masculine design that would neither diminish the dogs’ mobility nor tarnish their roguishly charming aesthetic and that I would not pay for because I can barely afford clothing for myself).
It started with a skull sweater, which my boyfriend—who, excusing the mere idea of putting clothes on a dog, is an otherwise tasteful person—insisted was perfect cold-weather fashion for Miles. Miles has short, slick, wiry hair that is common among many Catahoula leopard dogs; at 75 pounds, he is also well insulated by a blubber-like layer of fat padded by years of covert food thievery.
My stomach turned and so did my eyes as Anthony slid the sweater over Miles’ barrel-like frame. I could not bear to watch my rugged hiking companion, who has done just fine on countless winter outings in the Montana and Colorado backcountry with only his natural coat, receive purse-dog treatment.
Then I looked. And dammit if he wasn’t adorable. Shirts for the other two pack members followed; a Jack o’ lantern and a football jersey. They are likewise almost sickeningly cute.
I don’t believe that clothes make a man (unless the man in question has nothing else going for him), and they certainly don’t make a dog. But they can make a dog even cuter, I suppose, and they provide additional interaction and attention that canines crave.
I may have come partway around on dog clothes, but nothing will change my mind about Mitt. He probably didn’t even put a sweater on the family dog before strapping it to the roof of the car for road trips. Caribou are more thoughtful.