There was a full-page, color ad in the Style section of this past Sunday's New York Times highlighting some of designer Ralph Lauren's product line for the holidays.

The ad featured two gorgeous models, one looking somewhat bored and distant while the other, a perkier model, sat open-mouthed as though ready to speak. The models were positioned in front of a backdrop of fallen snow and blue sky with an evergreen tree just slightly out of focus. The showcased product worn by the pouting model – a bright green vest, emblazoned with the famous Ralph Lauren insignia – immediately captured your attention. This was Ralph Lauren doing what Ralph Lauren does best: selling a sexy, exclusive, and expensive lifestyle.

As any reader of the Times or almost any magazine knows, there is nothing unique about a full-page Ralph Lauren ad – especially during the holidays. But the models in this ad were dogs – as in the canine kind – advertising Ralph Lauren's line of high-end attire for pets.

Now I'm sure Ralph Lauren has run ads for its pet line in the past and I probably didn't pay any attention to them. But there is something about advertising "Polo Dog Alto Vests" during this time of economic concern/crisis (concern if you have a job/crisis if you don't) that I found, well quite frankly, offensive.

Don't get me wrong, I love pets – especially dogs. Our house still isn't the same after putting our ailing 13-year-old Norwegian elkhound down. And, I completely understand that there are some dogs – not a Norwegian elkhound – that need vests, coats or little doggie boots to endure harsh winters. But doggie couture? Really?

I

was curious to see what items in Polo's canine line were selling for so I visited ralphlauren.com where I discovered good news for bargain-hungry shoppers. The "Dog Alto Vest", prominently featured in the ad, has been reduced from $125 to a mere $79. Other items are even less expensive. The hoodie for your pooch is only $44 – a significant savings from the usual retail price of $75. Of course, if your pet has been especially nice this holiday season you might want to consider something a bit more extravagant. The "Holiday Plaid Cashmere Sweater", usually priced at $195, can be yours for $119. Perhaps the best bargain, however, is the "Holiday Riding Dog Coat" that has been slashed from a retail of $225 to a sale price of only $114. At prices like these, why not update your dog's entire wardrobe?

Earlier this year I was in Ethiopia meeting with health officials to try to determine ways to get nutritious food to people living with HIV/AIDS in a country plagued with malnutrition and famine. I didn't think of it on my visit, but I don't recall meeting a single person who had a pet. I did, however, spend considerable time with a community worker who told me that in her previous job in Addis Ababa, she worked ten hour days, six days a week, for an annual salary that totaled about $325. You read that correctly, $325 for approximately 3,100 hours of work a year. That's the equivalent of a Ralph Lauren dog vest, a cashmere dog sweater, and a holiday riding dog coat – on sale. I find this offensive. I suspect my Ethiopian friend would find it unfathomable.

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