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THE IMAGINATION IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING

No dog is more intelligent or more sociable than the French poodle, nor has any lent itself more freely to the ornamental whims of mortals. A poodle at a dog show seems not so much to compete with other breeds as to measure itself against standards of comportment and topiary design established at Versailles. So much culture, so much style, yet only the chihuahua is more often ridiculed. When it comes to undisguised artifice—wagging pompoms, say, or too much millinery—unaware of stigma or unimpressed by it, we are on the defensive, guarding our individual conceits and credentials, our private parts, and whatever vision of strength we have concocted for ourselves to pass muster. These lonesome trials have many of us paying lip service to vague pieties about cultivation, while under our breath we nervously deride its most meticulously distilled products, its virtuoso turns.

The era spanning

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