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Here's One Dog Who Is at Home Around a Catwalk

The fashion world is in puppy love with Sweetie, who doles out advice in Elle magazine and has written her memoir.


NEW YORK — In the sometimes catty world of fashion, Sweetie's tale of rags to riches is downright inspiring. Er, make that a tail of wags to riches.

Sweetie is a dog. She's a mutt. She's a furry fashionista doling out style advice from her regular feature in Elle magazine.

She took the job only after the editor in chief agreed to two conditions: Sweetie would have a poodle and a Pomeranian as assistants, and she wanted an office with a view of the butcher.

"There are no words to really describe Sweetie," owner Mark Welsh says.

But Sweetie describes herself anyway. "I'm that rare woman of color who is black, white and brown," she writes in her new book "Sweetie: From the Gutter to the Runway" (WarnerBooks).

A single photo at the beginning of the book hints at her homeless, humble beginnings at an upstate New York junkyard. But Sweetie soon delves into her journey to all the fabulous places favored by the fashion set. Scrapbook-style photos of Sweetie flanked by top models Carolyn Murphy, Alek Wek and Gisele Bundchen also dot the pages.

Sweetie is the official spokesmutt for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and she recently signed a licensing deal with IMG, an entertainment management and marketing agency.

But while she now lives the life of a glamour girl, Sweetie maintains a skeptical view of the fashion world, which is what women across the country can relate to, Welsh explains.

"She's not a size-4 blond. ... She's the 'real person' watching the fashion world. The fact that she touts her burgeoning midriff as a good thing struck a chord with women," he says.

Sweetie's pragmatic roots are reflected in her style advice: "Wear a fragrance made of turkey and gravy. (What you don't use you can eat.)" The devoted carnivore calls vegetables "the enemy."

And Sweetie's take on fur is simple: If it's not yours, don't wear it. She doesn't even wear all the luxury-label outfits that are showered on her.

(However, Sweetie does enjoy her cashmere pillow and traveling in her leather carrying case.)

She pokes fun at fashion designers, beauty gurus and their supermodel muses, but, somehow, Sweetie has also become the industry's mascot.

"Sweetie has been adopted by the fashion world. She thawed them," Welsh observes.

Actually, Sweetie was adopted by Welsh, and he introduced the ready-to-be-primped pooch to the fashion world through his friend, fashion designer John Bartlett.

Welsh had recently quit his job at a high-profile advertising agency and was doing some soul-searching in rural New York state when he spotted a shaggy, skinny Sweetie.

"It was love at first sight," Welsh says. "I was not a believer in destiny until this happened."

On her first trip to New York City, Welsh says she was scared, taking off in a panic from a park's dog run. But it took her less than three months to adapt to urban life and its grooming habits--and then jet-set off to Italy to one of Bartlett's runway shows.

The models and handlers went wild for Sweetie. Everyone wanted to have a photo taken with her, it was one boldface name after another competing for her attention, says Welsh, who has since made managing Sweetie's career his top career priority.

"She is genetically a dog, but her traits are human."

Welsh calls her "my hairy daughter."

During an interview at their apartment, Sweetie is relaxed, almost napping on Welsh's lap as he does most of the talking. He says their life together, which revolves around the next meal, is actually pretty boring. But when the camera comes out of the bag, she becomes a perky professional model.

A photographer asks her to pose--and she does it. She knows to hold her position until she hears the click of the camera.

"She knows when she's working. ... She turns on when the flashbulb goes on," Welsh says.

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