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Old May 23rd, 2003, 12:25 AM
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Man's best friend not cheap date

MIKE BOONE
The Gazette

As the temperature inches up toward 30 (or, if you prefer, centimetres up toward 86), it's time to start thinking about how excessive heat affects man's best friend.

No, I don't mean the clerk at the beer store. That friendly fellow works in an air-conditioned environment, his comfort compromised only slightly by the heat coming off the Loto terminal.

The hot-weather victim I'm concerned about is the poor creature lying on your deck in a state of near delirium, panting heavily with his tongue lolling out.

No, I don't mean your brother-in-law after four rounds of Patriotes' Day margaritas.

We're talking about a creature who's helpless to beat the heat: the family dog.

From the earliest efforts at domesticating animals - depicted in drawings that show a cave-dweller having his leg humped during a mastodon hunt - the noble canine has been man's best friend and woman's best brand-new-pair-of-pantyhose-ripper.

Based on not-infrequent allusions to my Boston terriers in past columns, I get a lot of e-mail aimed at dog-lovers. (I can't imagine how I got on the penis enlargement list.) The holiday weekend brought a cheery Dear Mike blurb for the latest and greatest gadgets and gizmos designed to keep family pets cool and comfortable this summer.

The letter begins with a mind-blowing stat: American consumers will spend $31 billion on pet products this year. That averages out to what, about 100 bucks for every man, woman and child in the country.

Think about what an annual expenditure of that magnitude might do to alleviate the ravages of AIDS in Africa - not that anyone gives a shih tzu. The thing about people who weigh 90 pounds and are covered with lesions: they're not nearly as cute and cuddly as cocker spaniels.

It's obscene. But if your stomach can handle a visit to www.

bestproductsmediaguide.com, there are photos and descriptions of this summer's hottest pet products - including FlightSuits bird diapers (good luck getting them on - and off), Pearls au Lait ("milk baths aren't just for people anymore") and Animals and the Afterlife, a book of "heartwarming true stories that provide tremendous comfort" to bereaved pet owners.

The stuff is not cheap. The Drinkwell pet fountain, with its free-flowing stream of water that "helps prevent urinary disease in cats through proper hydration" runs $50 U.S. - about $48.75 more than I spent for the bowl that I fill with water and put on the kitchen floor for the dogs to lap at.

My favourite is Paws of Endearment from Remember Me Products. You send them a clay mould of your pet's foot and you get a paw casting with a "bronze-like" finish. Put it on the mantel, right beside your Plaster Caster replica Jimi Hendrix, from Remember the Sixties.
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