Model-turned-actress Marnie Riverton had spent most of her career trying to escape the intrusive lenses of the paparazzi. At the height of her modelling days they were a constant and unwelcome presence in her life. They were there morning (en route to her Bikram yoga class) and night (waiting in the shadows as she nibbled samphire salad in the latest fashionable restaurant). Frankly, it wasn’t as if she needed the attention.
But when she turned her energies to acting, her attitude changed somewhat. For at the exact moment that she did need publicity – with a low-budget film to promote – the media interest started to wane. She even became rather wistful for the battery of cameras that had once camped outside her north London home.
And so she called an emergency meeting with her agent, Rita Blade, who had tried – and failed – to get her client significant space in the weekend supplements. Over monkfish tails at Scott’s, Rita came up with an alternative plan. “Darling, what you need is a dog,” she declared. “It takes two gorgeous creatures for a pap shot to make the papers now – and one of them is the four-pawed kind.”
When Marnie pointed out that she did, in fact, already have a dog – Boris, her beloved black schnauzer – her agent replied: “Of course you do darling, but you need to be seen taking him out. And you need to be dressed in the right kind of clothes, which doesn’t mean Ugg boots and tracksuit bottoms.”
Pulling out her iPad, Rita began scrolling through pictures of Hollywood stars and their pets: Blake Lively with her Maltipoo (a Maltese terrier-poodle hybrid); Miranda Kerr and Natalie Portman carrying their small, fluffy pooches; January Jones in a long, semi-transparent skirt alongside her own little furry friend; and Jennifer Aniston plus hound, glowing in the sunset light of a Malibu beach. And, of course, there was the queen of pet-parade chic: Olivia Palermo. As Marnie flicked through a stunning series of shots of the actress stepping out with her little white dog, Mr Butler, she wondered if Palermo had a dedicated stylist for her morning stroll.
Thus convinced that the dog walk was the new catwalk, Marnie set about raising her game, ditching the Moncler ski jacket, beanie hat and tracksuit bottoms that she normally wore to walk Boris. Heeding the advice of Kate Moss, who had recently complained that since acquiring her dog, Archie, she’d had to “rethink everything” when getting dressed in the morning – “You can’t do a dog in a heel,” she had declared – the actress considered her options.
In the local park, the fashionable dog-walker’s winter uniform was based on the look pioneered by a certain high-profile royal, shortly after acquiring her black cocker spaniel, Lupo. Narrow-cut jeans tucked into knee-length boots or Hunter wellingtons were teamed with a cropped sheepskin jacket or belted Barbour – and many even had Lupo-like dogs to match. As for this summer’s style for pet owners, the mood was shaping up to be very California – inspired by Eva Mendes in a long skirt and sandals.
Keen not to be seen following the pack, Marnie decided on a pair of tiny hot pants and a peasant top and, at the first hint of spring sunshine, booked herself in for a spray tan. She also bought Boris a new Bottega Veneta braided lead and a jaunty neckerchief patterned with paw prints picked out in Swarovski crystals. Rita, meanwhile, tipped off a few “friendly” picture desks that her client would be near the café in a certain London park the following morning.
The ploy worked and Marnie and Boris were snapped by a freelancer with a long lens, lurking behind a tree. The next day Rita phoned – “Darling, it’s a result, though not quite what we expected” – before emailing over a tabloid spread. Entitled The New Jimmy Chews, it featured, among a line-up of the best-dressed celebrity pets, a close-up of Boris in his dazzling accessory. His mistress, unfortunately, had been cropped out of the shot.
Rita subsequently found herself fielding a barrage of calls from the press, though, unfortunately, it was not Marnie Riverton they were interested in. What their dog-loving readers really wanted to know was: where did Boris get his neckerchief?