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Banks tank; Fido has filet

The Baltimore Sun

If you want to know how crazy people can be about their pets, read Jeffrey Toobin's great piece about Leona Helmsley in last week's New Yorker.

You may remember that Helmsley left $12 million in a trust for her little Maltese dog when she croaked last year.

The dog's name is Trouble. And apparently Trouble is still alive. Look, I would hang on, too, if someone left me $12 mil.

Are you kidding? Top-shelf dog food, fluffy pillows all over the place, chauffeurs walking you in nice leafy parks - you'd never get rid of me. I'd live to be 110 in dog years.

Toobin's piece, which was about the growing number of people who leave trust funds for pets, also pointed out that much of this crazy Helmsley woman's estate, worth about $8 billion, would go for "purposes related to the provision of care for dogs."

Terrific. Today you could buy a few banks for $8 billion. But now a lot of that dough is going for dogs so they have a good time.

Is this some country or what?

In any event, this New Yorker piece is still fresh in my mind the other night when I leave a downtown steak house after a superb meal and a woman carrying a small bag barrels out the door behind me.

The woman nearly runs me over. She does not say "Excuse me" or "Sorry" or anything like that, because that would be too polite.

Instead, once outside, she walks over to where a man is holding a tiny dog like it's a baby.

The dog looks like a Maltese, too, yappy and annoying, with a poofy haircut that probably costs more than Angelina Jolie pays for hers.

And now I am treated to an absolutely astonishing sight.

Because now the woman reaches into the bag and begins pulling out little pieces of meat, which she puts on a plastic spoon and feeds to the dog.

This is no cheapo steak house, either. It's actually way out of my league - I'm there only because it's a special occasion.

Oh, yes, with my usual impeccable timing, I'm springing for a big meal at a pricey restaurant just as my 401(k) tanks and the country teeters on the brink of financial collapse.

But I can tell you this: If I walked out of the place with any leftover steak, it sure wouldn't go to a dog.

Not at those prices. He could stare at me and beg all he wants. I'd show him my credit card statement.

So now the woman is spoon-feeding the dog and the man is just standing there, cradling this mutt and looking as if this is the most normal thing in the world.

And the dog - I won't even tell you what he's doing.

Well, OK, the dog is calmly chewing these pieces of steak like he's a little king and this happens every night.

The woman actually has to stand there and wait for the dog to chew!

And this mutt is in no hurry. He's having a great time. At this rate, I figure this 9 p.m. feeding will end about 3 in the morning.

But whenever it ends, I am prepared to wait it out, because this is one of the most fascinating sights I have ever seen.

If I had Toobin's number, I would call him right now to tell him that apparently one of Leona Helmsley's crazy relatives is right here in Baltimore, spoon-feeding steak to a Maltese outside a swanky restaurant.

Anyway, a few minutes go by, and now the dog has finally finished all of his filet mignon or whatever that was.

At this point, I hear the woman say to the man: "Think he's still hungry?" And she glances behind her at the restaurant, as if she might go back in there to get more steak for the dog.

Watching all this, I'm afraid I'm going to lose it.

I'm afraid I'm going to tackle the woman and shout: "Are you out of your mind? Feeding all that pricey steak to that little mutt? Did you see what the stock market did today? We're all going to be eating dog food if this keeps up!"

But, luckily, none of this happens.

The man mutters something about, no, the dog's not hungry anymore, he's had plenty.

And with that, the woman closes the bag. The dog licks his lips. The man tucks the dog on his shoulder and he sits there like a little pharaoh, sated and happy.

Then the three of them go off into the darkness, back to wherever you go after you've made a public spectacle of yourself.

Or maybe they went to get the dog some dessert.

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