Dog people divide into two well-delineated categories - those who have lost all understanding of hygiene or aesthetics and those who would own a walking, talking, living doll if they could buy one. The former cherish grease-stained sofas, hairs in the carpet and flecks of dried gravy on the kitchen floor, and exchange French kisses with the little darling. The other lot, well; a dog or a cat, however endearing its character quirks, is still at heart a ruffian that likes to spend time belly-down in mud and rolling in dead things. Why we pretend otherwise is a mystery.
Still, it's great for trade. A pet, like a baby, opens up a whole new world of shopping. As the valley girl said, the only thing that distinguishes us from the apes is our ability to accessorise. The brotherhood of companies dedicated to meeting this desire grows by the year, and we hand over tens of millions of pounds in pursuit of the perfect place for an animal evolved for sleeping under a bush to lay its head.
One such is the Comfy Pet and People Company of Bradninch, Devon. Their "Waggers" mail-order brochure, a fold-out of accoutrements for the pampered pooch, is terrific: an education in how refined the needs of pet-owners have become. It features five different types of doggy-bed. Their original hollow-fibre cushion (pounds 18.50-pounds 43.50), first made by owner Carolyn Skinner six years ago, has been joined by a "snuggler" (pounds 10-pounds 16), an elasticated fleece which turns any box into a bed, a plethora of basket liners, a car boot-shaped duvet (pounds 19-pounds 30) and one on legs in case Lambkin is bothered by drafts. Oh, and there's also the tunnel (pounds 25.50-pounds 34.50), a mattress- and-duvet combo for Rambo to crawl into.
There's more. The presentation, and the greens, navys and tartans of the products, is suggestive of country living, though one gets the feeling that much of the appeal is to the twisted urban soul. There's a brilliant Dri-bag (pounds 11.95-pounds 27.95), a sewn-up towel into which you zip Rover when he's damp and stinky. Waterproof bed-liners protect the hollow-fibre "if your dog is wet, muddy, incontinent, in season or sick". We don't lock Bonzo in the garage these days. Some things - a flea collar made to look like a Country and Western bandana (pounds 4.50) - are just plain daft, and some are witty. Top fave is the catnip vet doll for chewing, clawing and beating up, though the joke will probably be lost on Tiddles.
Phone them on 01392 881285 if you fancy a waxed cotton whippet coat to go with your Barbour. If you don't, you're probably happily rubbing Lassie down with the towel you'll be using later when you get out of the bath.