For any kids reading who have no idea what I’m woofing on about… oh, you lucky, lucky sods. You see, a long time ago, before your modern rap gubbins and dubstep doodahs, we had we liked to call… novelty songs. Often suggestive, often stupid… and often, incredibly irritating. ‘How Much is that Doggy in the Window’ was one such nuisance, sitting in a pantheon of greats including ‘If I Knew You Were Coming, I’d’ve Baked a Cake’ and my personal favourite, ‘I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts’. Indeed. But, ladies and gentle beans, this got me thinking. How much is that doggy in the window? We were never given a price so how much would it have cost? Have I gone mad even attempting this? Oh, I’ve listened to this song on a loop for a few hours now so yes, I have gone completely bananas…
This novelty song, for some reason spelt incorrectly, (‘That Doggy in the Window’), was recorded by one Patti Page and released in January 1953. If you’re as old as I am, you’ve probably heard it. Or, if you feel like going mad, you could go and watch it on the YouTube. It sold two million copies. TWO MILLION! Here’s a fun fact: it was the first song with a question for a title to reach number one in the UK. Ooh.
Sales of puppies spiked – but how much did those puppies cost? I bloody hate ambiguous songs. Phil Collins. I mean… what are you feeling in the air? Ooh! New post idea! I’ll just write that down… okey-dokey. Rightio. We don’t have much to go on. But there is a music video – of sorts – which gives us our first clues. The dog Patti Page is holding is clearly… a Cocker Spaniel puppy! That narrows it down. I’ll just check the register of prices of Cocker Spaniel puppies in 1953…
We’re not actually sure if she chose that puppy. It would be a very bad choice. Sure, it does indeed have a waggly tail, but Patti wants to go to California and she doesn’t want her ‘sweetheart’ to be all alone. Fair enough. By him an Xbox. Oh, wait. 1953. Well, just get him a… regular box. Boxes are fun. Probably.
Yes, Cocker Spaniels are fantastic company. Gentle, loving… kind. But the next verse really irks me. ‘I read in the papers there are robbers, with flashlights that shine in the dark.’ Oh, gosh – really? What… what else are they supposed to do? Hmm. ‘My love needs a doggie to protect him and scare them away with one bark.’ But, Cocker Spaniels are very gentle. They’re not aggressive at all. They bark like bastards but they’re not violent. If she wanted a doggie to protect her sweetheart and she got a Cocker Spaniel and her sweetheart was robbed whilst she was away in California, I’m assuming that, when she comes home, she’ll be greeted by the missing scene from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. “YOU WERE MEANT TO PROTECT HIM, WOOFY! STOP LICKING YOURSELF!” Blood and bits everywhere.
You’d be better off with a burglar alarm and a nifty baseball bat. I also object to Patti stating that you can’t take a goldfish for a walk. Put its bowl on a trolley and anything’s possible. Also, it appears as if Patti just walks out of the shop with the Cocker Spaniel. I didn’t see her pay for it! She’s a dog thief! And mad! Who walks into a pet store and starts singing! The little boy in the video looks so confused! And what the hell is the name of that shop! I know it’s backwards on the window, but it looks like Solm & Dopps! IS THAT THE BEST YOU COULD COME UP WITH! REALLY! What about… The Dog’s Bollocks? If I owned a pet store specialising in puppies, that’s what I’d call it…
The biggest issue we have here is that America’s first national pet store chain opened… in 1956! This song came out in 1953! There just weren’t any pet stores in America before 1950. You could buy pets in many stores, but they sold lots of things. There’s your milkshake dispenser. There’s your vibrator. Ooh, and there’s your puppy! What a night in.
It’s safe to assume that Patti isn’t in a pet store. Yes, there’s a parrot in there, but the shopkeep is dressed in a tux. It looks like a tailors! Heck, the little boy is admiring a lovely cabinet for sale! God only knows what kind of fresh hell is going on in there. In fact, until 1950, most people in America bought dogs from farms, people they knew, strays they picked up… and occasionally they bought a dog that took their fancy with an owner willing to sell. I can only assume this fancy-pants tailors Patti has found herself in is a reputable business that just so happens to have a store dog. And parrot. And… strange little boy. If that’s not the case, then we’re dealing with a shady back street dog dealer, here. But if that was true, then why is Patti dressed up like she’s off to the ball? I think that’s just what was happening, she noticed the dog in the window and was curious if the mysterious shop owner would sell. I’d tell her to get stuffed…
Now I think on, the dog was sitting on the cabinet so it’s possible the little boy was admiring the dog and not the cabinet. In any case, the dog in the window is not in a pet store but clearly somewhere else. People sold puppies out of whatever business they owned. That’s just the way it was before pet stores and kennels. It was a good business plan! Get two dogs, let them have like… a bazillion puppies and just sell the puppies to good homes. Or in Patti’s case… let her just walk out with it because the rules clearly don’t apply to her.
These dogs rarely cost more than $50. They were household pets and there were lots of them. $50 was a lot of money back then. If it sounds too little, in today’s money, that’s around $505 – your average Cocker Spaniel puppy nowadays costs around $600, so it’s not too different really. However, over the lifetime of the dog you’re looking at around $30,503, which back in 1953, was exactly $3,021. Now, at the time, Patti was just 26 and the cost of living was around $2,992 – she lived for another 60 years, dying in 2013, so, really, it was a rather good investment. She would’ve made enough money within three years to pay for the care of the dog for its entire life and all that money went to the original storeowners, who offered dog food, dog care – dog everything! Meaning, in truth our fancy tailor was making something like $4,000 per client and multiply that by hundreds of clients a year – he was a millionaire! What? Yes. I have too much time on my hands…
So, how much is that doggy in the window? Nowadays, around $505, so at the low end of what you’d pay right now.
If you’re in 1953, however… around $50. Although if you are reading this in 1953, I have so many more questions than how much the doggy in the window costs…
I can’t wait to do the Phil Collins one, I really can’t.
Image (Click on It to Enlarge)
1) Patti Page and her Cocker Spaniel. Can anyone read what that shop is called? Hmm…
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