Women

Our hectic urban lifestyle stifles the animal inside. To rekindle a relationship with our primal values, an increasing number of us are braving the constraints of city life to look into the wet, adoring eyes of the most faithful companions. Landon Nordeman’s photographs, taken behind the scenes of the Westminster Dog Show in New York, tell a lot about our bond with these furry creatures. According to anthropologist Marion Vicart, who studies the relationship between humans and dogs, this companionship could very well become indispensable to our well-being.

Sadie, a beautiful four-year-old Scottish terrier, displays the perfect sheen of her ebonycoloured fur in front of a sea of photographers. Everyone in the specialised media is at her feet. Sadie has just won the most coveted award, the ‘Best in Show’ trophy. Away from the crowd, Landon Nordeman calmly walks around the podium. He waits. And then the miracle happens: Sadie turns around like a movie star and looks right at him. Time stands still. Landon takes the picture. How can she not be scared, accept this effervescence around her without a single twitch of her lacquered brows? Training is only part of the answer. According to Marion Vicart, these little fur-balls are ready to do anything to please.

Description: After two long days of grooming and competition, this young Scottish terrier has just won the ‘Best in Show’ trophy at the 134th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, in New York. Photographers swarm around her as she poses like a true professional

After two long days of grooming and competition, this young Scottish terrier has just won the ‘Best in Show’ trophy at the 134th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, in New York. Photographers swarm around her as she poses like a true professional

Unconditional love

Dogs can learn incredible patience and accept our oddest fancies, for the mere privilege of sharing moments of affection with us. Some say this unconditional love is self-interested, because our affection is vital for the dog, who comes to expect a tasty reward. Even so, these gorgeous animals are able to bear noise, heat, brushes, hairspray and other artifices of the pageant – almost with a smile.

Description: Many events surround the Westminster Dog Show, particularly dog fashion shows. Famous pooch Preston Casanova’s expression contradicts his Californian owner’s. But the pink Mohawk-ed Pomeranian accepts the situation

Many events surround the Westminster Dog Show, particularly dog fashion shows. Famous pooch Preston Casanova’s expression contradicts his Californian owner’s. But the pink Mohawk-ed Pomeranian accepts the situation

Dogs improve our well-being

Mindful, faithful, affectionate and understanding, dogs seem to possess all the qualities we look for in a loving mate, and that is undoubtedly why they are so popular. In today’s world, when we mostly communicate with each other through digital screens, body contact is becoming scarce. But with dogs, everything is communicated through direct contact: looking, petting, togetherness. Which is perfect, since that is exactly what we need. Studies show that dogs have a levelling effect on our lives. When we are stressed, their presence appeases us. If we feel down or tired, they energise us. This has mostly been observed among the elderly who feel revived by the presence of a dog. Therefore, it is clear that they improve our inner balance and well-being, when our daily life seems designed to constantly disrupt it. But there is a catch: all these beneficial aspects come at a price. Not only does it cost a good amount of money (price of the dog itself, food, health care, etc), but there are many constraints for the city-dwelling dog owner: the animal has to be walked in the wee hours of the morning, even on Sundays; you need to find a big enough piece of lawn; picking up its droppings, even before breakfast.

Description: This is a charity dinner for dogs who visit sick patients in hospitals. The owner of this poodle just had to draw the chair, and the dog very naturally sat down before a glass of martini. He is clearly accustomed to eating at the dinner table

This is a charity dinner for dogs who visit sick patients in hospitals. The owner of this poodle just had to draw the chair, and the dog very naturally sat down before a glass of martini. He is clearly accustomed to eating at the dinner table

 

A daily, heavy challenge

Owning a dog can become a daily, increasingly heavy challenge. This is why there have been so many abandoned puppies. But people still buy them. Faced with our collective enthusiasm to live with these friendly pooches, city officials are making changes. Some cities (like Lyon in France) have finally decided to make the city more dog-friendly.

And it’s about time, too! Big luxury brands understood this phenomenon a long time ago, and launched designer pet accessories lines as well as used excellent breed dogs in their ad campaigns, as was the case for Louis Vuitton in Fall 2011. This is a surefire sign that this market is fast expanding with a lot of promise.

Obviously, these artifices have an unnatural effect on the animal, making it the object of all the anthropomorphism we can muster. Some designers even create clothing lines for them (in New York, this is called ‘doggy couture’) or household objects such as dog dishes that allow them to eat at the family table!

Description: Backstage, Jake, a vizsla, waits on the lap of his owner, who wears a crisp outfit and polished shoes. The lady’s legs seem to prolong the dog’s body. They are quiet, at peace, almost as one

Backstage, Jake, a vizsla, waits on the lap of his owner, who wears a crisp outfit and polished shoes. The lady’s legs seem to prolong the dog’s body. They are quiet, at peace, almost as one

Symbol of our social status

Is the animal’s otherness so frightening that we go to impossible extremes to humanise it? This is only a hypothesis, but the fact remains that today, owning a dog is a defining signature of our personality. The breed, even the name symbolises our perceived social status. In 2012, dogs have definitely become a foxy accessory! But then everything else in our lives is becoming extremely complicated, too. Human relationships have grown excessively elaborate and complex, requiring constant decoding on our part. Many layers of meaning are within our speech, body language, expressions... Our relationship with technology has also exponentially developed these past 20 years. All this is dizzying!

Description: The big department store Saks Fifth Avenue organises a promotional dog event, to present latest collections of luxury canine accessories to owners from all over the world. This Yorkshire is trying a few on. Its name is Prada

The big department store Saks Fifth Avenue organises a promotional dog event, to present latest collections of luxury canine accessories to owners from all over the world. This Yorkshire is trying a few on. Its name is Prada

Living together in harmony

Even though mankind’s relationship with dogs is very ancient (domestication likely began some 15,000 years ago), it is much more simple and primeval. It, therefore, provides much more peace, comfort and reassurance to us. One look is enough. In his book of short stories called City, sci-fi writer Clifford D. Simak imagines a distant future where a refined canine civilisation has been left behind on earth by mankind. Perhaps this is going too far, but we can imagine a future where humans and dogs continue to live in harmony. Side by side.

Description: On the red carpet, a woman in a wheelchair and her bichon are waiting for their turn. She is reading an article on pet progeny. The dog seems rather interested by the surrounding bustle, but remains in place

On the red carpet, a woman in a wheelchair and her bichon are waiting for their turn. She is reading an article on pet progeny. The dog seems rather interested by the surrounding bustle, but remains in place

Landon Nordeman lives in New York. He has no dog. Life in NY is too complicated. Marion Vicart is a French sociologist working on a development project in the Great Lyon (France) for better integration of dogs in the city. She has a golden retriever, Moksha. The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show takes place every February, in NY. Visit Westminsterkennelclub.org for more

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