One thing that has always surprised me walking through the streets of Singapore is the conspicuous absence of people with dogs. Go to Paris or London, and you would have a hard time not treading in something nasty. Yet here, you never see any dogs. That is, unless you go to the Botanical Gardens. Then, I can play spot the beautiful dog with my children and keep them occupied for hours. Of course, we are not talking about any old dogs here. For brand-conscious Singaporeans, owing a husky or a shih-tzu is just another notch on the status belt, and they are willing to pay top dollar for them - up to S$1,400 ($6,750) for a shih-tzu. They are also willing to spoil them rotten. Singaporeans might be wary of having children because of the cost, but when it comes to their dogs, nothing is too good for them. Indeed, our pooches are snazzy dressers. Come the Lunar New Year, shops like PetzStuff help Singaporean dogs celebrate in style with the appropriate cheongsam to match their coat; a snip at S$50. And they also love their food. It was recently reported that there are at least three bakeries specialising in treats for our four-legged friends, including one which only serves pets - owners have to be content with a drink. Menus change often to provide variety for regulars, and include lamb stew, shepherd's pie (a hot favourite, so I am told) and pumpkin or chicken muffins. One place, Munchies Cafe, even organises birthday parties, for which some owners are said to have spent a few thousand dollars to entertain man's best friend (and his or her best friends). Amid all this glitz, animal lovers do face real hardship, too. The Housing Development Board is still turning a deaf ear to public appeals that certain breeds of dog be included in its list of those allowed to be kept in HDB flats. One so-called animal 'lover' was recently bemoaning the fact that huskies were not allowed in these apartments. Now, I like dogs, but anybody planning to keep a Siberian hound in this hot climate should be interned for cruelty. That they also want to keep an animal whose ancestors were sled dogs in a confined space is even worse. Action for Singapore Dogs has been pushing for strays, most of which exceed the current weight limit of 10kg, to be allowed to be kept in HDB flats rather than having to be destroyed. But the government is sticking to its guns, pointing out that the list of approved breeds leans towards smaller dogs, which 'generally require less living space, can be carried easily in lifts and are less intimidating to residents who may not like dogs'. Now that is one rule that makes a lot of sense to me.