December 6, 2023 | Rome, Italy

Runs Errands With Dog’

By |2018-03-21T18:33:46+01:00September 11th, 2008|Lifestyle Archive|
My three-year old niece shouted, "What a hairy baby!" Photo by Erica Firpo.

few weeks ago, driving down a small road in southwest Florida, I spied a couple pushing a red baby buggy. With an ever-increasing number of friends attaining Babymomma and Babydaddy status, I have become rather well versed in the world of buggies, prams and strollers.

I am fluent in Bugaboo, Orbit and Stokke, have translated Inglesina and Peg Perego, spun some tales in MacLaren, and high tea’d with Silver Cross. My friends’ prams are limited edition, haute couture accessories to rest babies and designer shopping bags.

It was easy to identify the InStep Suburban Safari Jogging Stroller, and then jump into a discussion with my older sister about whether or not InStep is owned by Schwinn, and whether or not I would ever get a pram as ugly.

My three-year old niece shouted “What a hairy baby!” forcing our attention from the design of the pram to its occupant — a year-old Field Spaniel mix wearing a baseball cap and neckerchief. “He doesn’t like the pavement but still needs his daily walk,” his owner told me, as she gave him water from a baby bottle.

During Rome summers, in my incarnation as “Runs Errands with Dog,” I often carry Bella in my arms, so that her paws won’t stick to the melting asphalt. If I don’t, she cries, and later I have to clean her toes from the stickiness. Most pet owners can relate. When Charlotte lived in Milan, she rarely walked her Pug on extreme cold or hot days because he would literally faint after three minutes, forcing her to resuscitate him by mouth-to-mouth as only a former Bondi Beach life guard could. So when I saw dog-in-buggy on a hot Florida afternoon, I could almost understand the necessity. I definitely understood the fashion vibe.

In Bella’s closet, she has a Burberry-style travel bag, a harness from Harrods, a Coach leash, a Burberry leash, a Ralph Lauren raincoat (with removal wool liner), three handmade wool sweaters, a hand-tailored Palermo team jersey, and a scarf/beret/boots ensemble. Although most were gifts from a former beau who was more interested in my dog than me, I did choose some of her “classic” looks and admit that I love styling and accessorizing my dog whenever I can. When Bella looks good, I feel good.

We happily stroll the streets in our nattiest threads knowing that we are a stylish couple that has no need for anything else. There are some people who condescendingly critique this penchant of “playing Barbie with your pet,” but is it really any different than festooning your kid or kid-to-be with the hottest celebrity baby items?

Today’s headline news is inundated with images and information about baby bumps, baby chumps, maternity gear and maternity in general. Everyone may be pregnant, IVF is the new black, and catwalks are crowded with Empire-waist prego dresses worn by Disney’s 15-year-old, not-yet-pregnant divas.

Ironically, pet pampering is on a similar, upward trajectory — with an ever-increasing number of magazines, stores, spas and even hotels dedicated to pets. Are the non-parenting gang substituting potential parental feelings on pets? Perhaps. Are they just “getting ready” for family life? Not exactly. In fact, I think that the opposite may be occurring.

In an addendum to the philosophy that if one can handle full-time care of a pet, then one can easily raise a child, I postulate that if you dress up your pet, you’re redistributing any paternal/maternal tendencies, and in fact infantilizing yourself. Yep, dressing up our dogs, cats and guinea pigs makes us feel younger (and potentially cuter), and focuses our attention away from all this baby talk.

Note: A friend has stated that perhaps it is my age and social group. All my friends are having children or already have a corral of them. She does not think the world is over-saturated with baby talk and imagery. I ask her to please read and then take a stroll, er, down via del Babuino — where dressed-up dogs avoid the wheels of aerodynamic, designer buggies.

About the Author:

Erica Firpo wrote The American's pet advice column from 2006 to 2009. She is a freelance travel and culture writer who lives in Rome with husband, daughter and faithful sidekick Bella. She has worked for Fodor's Rome edition, Luxe City Guides and National Geographic Travel, as well as writing art reviews for Zing and other U.S.-based magazines.