The favorite pooch of nineteenth-century Parisian prostitutes is this year’s New York “It” dog. French bulldogs have bat ears and scrunched-up faces and a tendency toward flatulence, but that hasn’t stopped a high-low assortment of hipsters from scooping up (and after) this latest canine fashion piece.
“It’s a great little wash-and-wear dog,” gushes Brian Kilcommons, co-author of Metrodog: A Guide to Raising Your Dog in the City. “They get dirty, you can wipe them down easily enough.”
At a recent Humane Society benefit, swimsuit model Audrey Quock strutted around with her seven-month-old, gold-collared Frenchie named Clarence Boo Boo Quock. She blew off the breed’s penchant for passing wind: “They’re so cute that they make it cute.”
The American Kennels pet shop on the Upper East Side says it’s gone from almost no sales of Frenchies six months ago to two dozen in the past few months. A descendant of the full-size English bulldog, French bulldogs became popular in late-nineteenth-century Paris in both salons and brothels. Soon, wealthy New Yorkers on European tours, notoriously trusting of the French on questions of couture (and canines), began toting them home. Mrs. Peter Cooper Hewitt and Mrs. P. Lorillard Ronalds Jr. showed their Frenchies at the 1896 Westminster Dog Show.
But the breed fell out of popularity after World War I. Now it’s back, and one beneficiary – and victim – of the boom is the Greenwich Village French Bulldog Association (gvfba.com), where owners have posted photos of their dogs along with biographical data: “Ruby’s Turn-Ons: Peanut Butter, E! Turn-Offs: Pugs.”
The GVFBA started when Ruby, owned by Robert Moritz, met Kafka, owned by Tim and Marie Tupot Stock. The owners set up a Website depicting a fictional love affair between the dogs. Soon e-mails flooded in. “It started out fun and laissez-faire,” says Stock, who must tend her newborn (human) and is not always able to minister to the 265-member club. “Now people are demanding their dogs’ photos up on the site.”
Hot as this dog (which retails for around $1,000) is, its stylish days could be numbered. Former “It” dogs like Jack Russell terriers have fallen from favor – hard. “People realize they made a mistake and dump them,” warns Kilcommons, noting that one third of dogs in shelters are purebreds.
For now, though, few owners feel they’ve erred. “They are very trendy,” Quock admits. “I see them a lot, but only downtown.” She stops for a moment. “But then again, I’m never uptown.”