Miou-Miou perched on the bar stool at the bistro, teetering a little, staring hazily at the people around her, a beatific, half-open smile on her lips. Every now and then, a hand would graze her side or carelessly drape itself around her waist, but she made no protest, nor would she betray the least sign of distress when a total stranger scooped her into his arms, pressed her slender body tightly against his own, then, just as suddenly, deposited her back on her seat, as happened time and time again.

It was to be expected, after all; Miou-Miou had chosen to come to Casanis, a cafe so intime, so Gallic and so crowded that male patrons routinely played footsie with the date of the man seated next to them by mistake, not that anyone minded. It was that kind of place, and Miou-Miou was that kind of dog; a teacup Maltese, to be exact, ten months old and nine inches long, with silky white hair, paws slimmer than stiletto heels, and an insatiable yen for pate and moules a l'ail. She was a canine Lolita, and in her brief career as a cafe dog she'd seen lots of things a dog's not supposed to see.

Ever since the recent fall fashion shows - in which Lilliputian pooches beat babies as the fashion prop of choice, their addled heads and skittering eyes popping out of Chanel and Prada handbags like the creature in Alien - New York's premier avenues, bars, boutiques and cafes have entirely gone to the dogs. These things have a way of going top-down, and so it didn't take long for New Yorkers to twig that Madonna sports a chihuahua, as do comedienne Rosie O'Donnell and actress Selma Hayek, while actress Maxine Bahns flouts convention by trotting about town with her frothy white shih-tzu Carlito (or is he a bichon frise?). Now, the rush on Malteses and papillons, toy poodles, King Charles cavalier spaniels and all other specimens of what the Germans call "airdogs" (himmelhunde) - so named because they spend all their time with their feet off the ground - has dog breeders panting to keep up with demand. Meanwhile, mortified owners of big dogs walk them in the grey morning hours before anyone important might be awake to spot them out with yesterday's hound.

In the West Village, men with Oscars in personal grooming can be observed gingerly feeding their miniature apricot poodles snippets of artichoke- topped pizza. In Central Park, bikers and rollerbladers zip down the bike paths, dogs jouncing along behind them in Gucci backpacks or demi-zipped into coat fronts. While on Houston Street and Fifth Avenue, the chic, Japanese, cyber-Hepburn crowd promenade at all hours in silvery jackets, their long-haired chihuahuas peeking out of their pastel designer reticules. Needless to say, the best restaurants and boutiques have instantly come to heel; bar the door to a miniature pinscher and leave your sales out on the sidewalk.

Indeed, so intense is the mad dog craze that the trendy B Bar, a glitzy showbiz and fashion hangout on the still quasi-skanky Bowery, made headlines last month when over-solicitous guests, convinced that the house dog, Sam (a wheaten Irish terrier puppy), might catch a chill as he romped on the bar's terrace, congested B Bar's reservation phone lines. B Bar had to call in the story to the New York Post in order to free up the phone. "His ancestors all ran through the freezing Vermont woods chasing moose," Sam's owner, Howard, a manager at the bar, reassured the tender- hearted PC public. "He wasn't cold, he's an animal." After all, dogs are the only fashionable creatures who are still allowed to wear real fur in good conscience.