At first, I figured New York Dog was an over-the-top parody of dog magazines, perhaps published by the folks who put out the Onion.
Then I decided that New York Dog must be some kind of communist propaganda, designed to get the toiling masses enraged that the rich treat their dogs better than their employees.
But now, after a systematic study of all three issues, I've concluded that New York Dog is exactly what it appears to be: a magazine about just how crazy you can get about dogs if you happen to have way too much money.
Apparently, I'm not the only guy confused about New York Dog. After the first issue debuted last fall, a French reporter -- ever on the lookout for new examples of American idiocy -- e-mailed the editors to ask: "Who are your readers, and do they take the articles seriously?"
Editor Leslie Padget quoted that question in her column but did not reveal how she answered it. She could have replied that the mag appeals to the kind of dog fanciers who flock to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show -- which concludes tonight in New York -- as well as to connoisseurs of the absurd. Both groups will love it.
After all, you've got to love a mag that publishes stories titled "Dogs on Atkins!" and "You've got pee-mail!" and "Are mutts the new black?"
New York Dog is a courageous dog mag that dares to take on the toughest canine issues. An article titled "Insure or not so sure?" weighs the pros and cons of purchasing health insurance for your pooch. A piece called "I can't go on . . ." tackles the tragedy of doggie depression. It asks: "Does your dog need Prozac?" And answers: Yes, if it's recovering from the "death of a beloved caretaker or a best doggy pal."
In "Ruff Justice," the magazine consults celebrity divorce lawyer Raoul Felder on how to keep your dog in a custody battle: "Start a diary showing that you are the primary caretaker. Note how many times you walk the dog."
And in "Zen and the Art of Canine Maintenance," the mag covers holistic medical treatments for dogs -- aromatherapy, color therapy, ozone therapy and "Dr. Bach's Rescue remedy," a fluid placed on the paws to calm nervous or shy dogs. That article is illustrated with eye-catching photos of Jeff Levy, a veterinary acupuncturist, jabbing needles into a couple of cute pooches.
America is awash in dog magazines -- Dog News, Dog World, Dog Fancy, Dogs USA, Dogs Today, Modern Dog, and Bark, which bills itself as a literary mag about dogs. Some are more serious than others, but nearly all are prone to weird excesses: Who can forget the Dog Fancy article on how to do a palm reading of your dog's paw? But none can match the sheer jaw-dropping goofiness of New York Dog, and few would even think of running a piece like "Not in front of the dog, dear!," which raises this provocative question:
"Can making love in front of your dog disturb it so much that the resulting trauma might be long lasting, or even permanent?"
The answer is: Yes, it can. Your dog could get the wrong message and decide to join in the fun. Or it might mistake your moans of love for cries of pain and attack your partner.
But, of course, New York Dog isn't just a serious magazine about the myriad problems of dog ownership. It's also a frivolous mag about all the stuff you can buy for your dog if you happen to be both rich and nutty. This stuff is displayed in glorious fashion spreads worthy of Vogue. Maybe they should have named the mag "Dogue."
The current issue has two classic fashion spreads. "Doggy Bedlam" is eight pages of photos of cute dogs and lovely female humans, each modeling the latest in high-fashion pajamas. And "Bow Vows" is nine pages of photos of a dog wedding in New Orleans -- including a delightful shot of the groom, Pilot, decked out in top hat and tuxedo, standing atop a big white wedding cake next to his lovely bride, Cookie, who looks absolutely radiant in her frilly white gown, pearl necklace and white corsage.