I was puzzled as to why Ingrid Newkirk, founder and president of PETA, would write a book about dog parties. After all, it’s well known that PETA’s president opposes pet ownership. As she told Newsday (Long Island’s newspaper), “In the end, I think it would be lovely if we stopped this whole notion of pets altogether.”
So why write a book about dog parties? If it’s better for dogs to live without human intervention, why in the world would she promote parties? All you have to do to answer this question is to glance at a few pages. Ingrid Newkirk, who has described herself as a “publicity slut,” wrote a book designed to appeal to dog consumers, the type who dress our dogs in clothes, take them on vacations, and throw parties for them, in order to push her anti-pet agenda … on us of all people. I believe it’s her desire to chastise this type of fully involved ‘pet parent’ into shame by means of this book. The cute cover photo of a dog with some balloons and confetti, the pink and green design, and the celebrity endorsements have probably enticed a few dog owners to buy the book. But then you begin to read it, and you come across the activist language that reveals Newkirk’s real agenda.
The entire first chapter is about how to praise your dog verbally. I’m not sure what this has to do with a book on dog parties, but it’s rife with insults and harsh judgments against people who carry their dogs in carriers, English speakers who don’t speak another language, and people who try to mimic Newkirk’s English accent. At the end of the chapter is a list of words you can say to your dog to tell the dog you love him/her. It occurs to me that if Newkirk really understood the people she’s writing for, she would know this entire chapter is superfluous.
More evidence of this struck me as I read Newkirk’s account of how a fellow PETA staffer’s dog enjoyed rolling around in anything dead. (She’s a dog, Ingrid. They all do.) Newkirk advises that we give the dog what he or she wants (Newkirk claims that she herself goes to the beach and collects smelly things like “decomposing crab limbs and fish spines” and mails them to the dog’s owner, so she can let the dog roll around in them. Her point is to find out what your dog REALLY wants to do when deciding what sort of party to throw. As Newkirk puts it, “Is there some unfulfilled talent, wish or pleasure that it is your duty, as the controller of your dog’s almost criminally restricted life, to ferret out of her?” Among the things she suggests that your dog might like is “winking.” I’m not kidding. It’s on page 28.
Sprinkled throughout this book are shocking stories of animal abuse, which really put me in the mood for a party. Also curious was her advice to warn any human guests who suffer from migraines that a dog party is not “a peaceful and sedate affair that one might expect in a library,” (does anyone expect it to be?) and encouraging hosts to tell human guests to wear overalls (because jumping and slobbering are encouraged). She spends several pages raving about a couple of famous mechanics who do a radio show, because, among other things, they advise listeners to go buy another car if their dog exhibits fear of riding in the current one. The author proves, page after page, that she has no idea what people who throw dog parties are like, or what their relationships with their dogs is like.
There’s lots of circling away from the topic of the book – which is parties – with such diversions as recommended hotels, hiking tips, movies that dogs might like, what religion a dog might be, why the symbol for the heart doesn’t look like a human heart, what Christopher Columbus thought of Chihuahuas, and a 30-question quiz to find out if you’re the type of pet owner you “ought” to be. The list, predictably, reads like it’s speaking to an animal activist, not a real pet owner. It includes such statements as, I never leave my dog overnight at the veterinarian, I will not make noise when my dog is trying to sleep, I will never make my dog get off the furniture, and I have provided for my dogs in my will. Predictably, there is a plea to make a donation to PETA.
Newkirk’s obvious contempt for dog owers – even as she tries to write a book for them – is evident in such passages as these:
- When talking to your dog, “sit on the floor so your dog doesn’t have to look up at you for once and suffer compressed dics in her neck.”
- “Remember that nasty animal experimentor Pavlov?”
- “Party hats should not be worn by adult humans or dogs of any age.”
- “Be clear that at this party … there will be no reprimands, harsh words or other improprieties.” Evidently, if a dog fight breaks out, Newkirk would choose let the dogs kill each other naturally, rather than employing any of that icky human intervention.
She gives practical ideas for invitations, such as making dog bone invitations (she then provides instructions for buying construction paper and cutting it into bone shapes … does anyone really need instructions for this?).
In the Guest List section, Newkirk states that “a hound would be happiest if the rest of the world spontaneously combusted, leaving just the two of you alone together.” Okay, a) why is this statement in a book about parties, and b) wouldn’t you think Newkirk would refrain from using language that reminds anyone of her staffer, Bruce Friedrich’s famous quote, “I think it would be a great thing if, you know, all these fast food outlets and slaughterhouses and laboratories and the banks that fund them exploded tomorrow”?
The rest of the book is about the same: random ramblings about stupid dog owners, stupid humans in general, the horrible treatment of animals (by people and organizations other than PETA, of course), and tales the good deeds of PETA, an organization that financies terrorism and openly opposes animal ownership of any kind. At one point, she recommends gifts for dogs, including one – permancy – in which she chides us, “It is the look in the eyes of every dog and cat who has been dumped at a shelter, while they watch their person walk out the door. And not compe back. Ever.” This from an organization which euthanizes more than 90% of the pets it takes in.
The bottom line is that like everything PETA touches, this book is filled with concepts of a loving pet/owner relationship that Newkirk herself does not believe in, and is designed to lecture, shame, self-aggrandize and most of all, separate you from your money. My advice? Take a long walk with your dog and keep your $12.95.