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Heavy Petting

There is no such thing as unconditional love, but try telling that to these New Yorkers and their dogs. Elizabeth Hess and Mary Ellen Mark found them in Park Avenue penthouses and pied-à-terres, in Long Island and Staten Island. They met dogs in minks and limos, dogs that receive acupuncture and nutritional counseling, dogs that enjoy swimming lessons and take massage therapy for their nerves. You don't have to be loaded to spoil your dogs, although it doesn't hurt. For richer or poorer, they'll love you fiercely. They might also decide to run your life.

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Bernadette Peters and Kramer
"Kramer reminds me of Kevin Kline," says Bernadette Peters. "Sensitive and goofy." The actress's passion for dogs goes way beyond her own pets; she lends her support to rescue groups and promotes shelter adoptions. Peters found Kramer, a mixed terrier, at a city shelter in 1998. A few months later she and her husband, Michael, adopted Stella, a boxer mix, at another shelter. (Stella, alas, refused to cooperate with the photographer.) "One evening I came home and Michael had ordered takeout ribs for the dogs," Peters remembers, smiling. "The three of them were sitting on the floor eating."

Cindy Adams and Jazzy
"If I could put mayonnaise on him, I'd eat him," says New York Post columnist Cindy Adams of her Yorkshire terrier. She had her furrier make Jazzy a red mink coat for his birthday, and she threw the pooch a party, inviting twenty of his closest friends. Mary Tyler Moore brought Shana, a schnauzer adopted from a New Jersey shelter. Joan Rivers arrived with two Yorkies (Lulu and Veronica) and a fetching bulldog (Spike), who was the largest dog present. Bryant Gumbel came with his tiny white Maltese, Cujo, and his girlfriend, Hilary Quinlan. "If anything happened to my dog," says Adams, "I'd go under the wheels of a speeding truck."

Jack Pierson, Tom Borgese, and Angel with bird
"I don't have a bumper sticker that says i love my chihuahua," confesses artist Jack Pierson. Nevertheless, Pierson and Borgese are smitten with the little dog. Angel "was a total impulse," admits Pierson. Initially, he had gone to the Humane Society of New York to adopt a cat but was rejected when he said he needed a mouser. Angel joined three birds, all Sun Conures and all nameless, at Pierson's loft on Canal Street. "I saw the birds in a flea market the day my brother died," the artist explains. One is a loner, but the other two seem to enjoy popping their heads in and out of Angel's mouth.

Oleg Cassini, Miracle, and Flynn
The fashion designer famous for his work with Jackie Kennedy has made his own Camelot on a Long Island farm that is home to a growing community of dogs and miniature horses. Cassini, who has created a line of elegant fake furs, describes himself as an ardent animal-rights activist, and he adopts pets in need. Miracle, a dwarf miniature Arabian, came to him through a charity event. Flynn, his adopted Shih Tzu, has eleven canine compatriots. "I went into a shelter and there were so many sad dogs just sitting there," Cassini says. "So I took them all home."

Gringo
Gringo may look placid in his nun's habit, but he wasn't always thus. "I spotted Gringo in a small village in Mexico," says Diana Haas, a magazine art director. "Some kids were swinging him by his tail and pouring hot soup on him." When she brought him home to New York, "Gringo was terrified of children," Haas says, "so I got him a therapist." She took him to see veterinarian and behaviorist Amy Marder. Now, Haas says, he's healthy inside and out: "Look at his teeth. I brush them every night."

Lisa Quiñones and Taco Bell
Quiñones carries Taco around in a harness on her chest as if he were her infant. When he's not strapped in, he follows her everywhere. For Halloween, he was a bunch of grapes; in the Empire Diner's costume contest, he won "most edible."

Rachel Richter and Bessie
If Bessie could have crawled into Rachel Richter's mouth, she'd have been one happy puppy. In some states, these two soulmates might be arrested; at the first annual Great American Mutt Show in New York, they won a prize. The show, a spoof of the purebred snobbery of the Westminster Kennel Club, was exclusively for mixed breeds, with such categories as "Longest Tail," "Best Trick," and "Most Misbehaved." What did Bessie go home with? "Best Kisser," of course.


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