A Valentine’s Day promotion aimed at finding a mate for the family pet is just crying out for a ‘Check out the bitches’ headline, which in most other contexts would be considered highly offensive.
But a canine dating service is just one of the things on offer at Chorlton based dog store Betty and Butch.
Described by its owners as the 'UK’s first dog life store', I went along expecting it to confirm my fears that a growing western obsession with dogs as lifestyle extensions was doing little more than feeding a huge industry in unnecessary products.
With an alarming range of frivolous products on offer, at a time when the number of abandoned dogs suggests we have not got the basics right, I was somewhat sceptical about how receptive South Manchester residents are to a cocktail lounge for dogs on the prowl.
Conforming to any formal dating protocol is not immediately evident in my own labrador’s ‘sniff it and lick it’ approach to the opposite, or indeed the same, sex. He shows no inherent interest in having his nails buffed, nor in smelling of anything other than the muddy puddles to give vent to his lingual compulsions.
But pet pampering is big business in the UK, with the impact of the recession seeming to have only negligible effect on spending on our pets.
According to the Office for National Statistics the reduction in the price of dog food is the main factor contributing to a slight reduction in spending on pet care, suggesting we are still willing to splash out on the dog.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the clothing options at Betty and Butch were more utilitarian than I’d expected, with not a tutu in sight.
Owner Angel Moore described the store as the 'only whole life total care store for dogs'.
Angel who is a trained groomer is proud to provide a more individual service than many professional salons and said: “Each dog has an appointment and is allocated a groomer. We don’t have a waiting list with dogs kept in cages but try to recreate comfortable conditions the dog is used to at home."
The owners I spoke to during my visit had both booked their mutts in for a full style and set and readily admitted to spoiling their dogs.
Catrin, who has Hugo groomed every couple of months, said: “He had a wash and trim six weeks ago and was still smelling good three weeks later.”
Russell’s owner Natalie said: “Mum knits jumpers for Russell, but he is not so keen on wearing them.”
So what exactly is on offer at a doggy dating event that promises canine cocktails for the discerning mutt? I called back on the eve of the dating event, which kicked off on Saturday, to find Angel preparing bouquets of roses.
A wall of red hearts with dating messages was on display in preparation for the lighthearted event in a business which has the more serious aims of promoting responsible treatment and care of dogs.
Betty and Butch offer not just the wash and blow dry but regular advice sessions on looking after your dog, first aid and Reiki massage, something which Angel believes is particularly beneficial to dogs who are ill.
With the content of many industrially prepared dog foods coming under scrutiny, the shop also offers a range of organic meals and hypoallergenic dog products for those who don’t want their dog to smell of…well…dog!
All the products have been tested on Duke, the owners' rescue dog who was the inspiration behind the product range of shampoos and skin balm for dogs.
I have to say I was impressed at how relaxed Duke seemed as he reclined on the sofa in the pleasing surroundings of the store located on Barlow Moor Road in Chorlton.
Angel was pleased with the space afforded by the new premises allowing ample space for grooming as well as running events such as the Valentine's Day love-in.
He said: “We don't know how many dogs to expect for the doggy dating event but we had 56 dogs at the Christmas event so who knows.”
I even had a chance to investigate the grooming salon at the rear of the shop and chat with the young apprentice who was drying a spaniel sporting what seemed to be a fetching bob. On closer inspection it was just some neatly trimmed ears.
Winner of the 2008 EnterPrize Award, Angel is keen to offer employment and training opportunities in a micro-businesses which is doing well despite the recession.
So no bomber jackets or Dog-Martin's at this store, although I did come away with a piece of antler for my dog and a promise to return for a more nutritious bag of food...maybe some Reiki...but I'm afraid my canine is more self cleaning than scent of 'Woodland Dream', so might just have to forgo the fragrance.