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Archive for June, 2008


Here is an article from a writer in Minneapolis on the consumer excess of the dog industry (40plus billion spent last year).

Commentary: Pet excess

June 30, 2008

For about a year now, I’ve been O.D.’ing on dog culture. Not the real kind, the bond between people and pets, but the mushrooming industry that capitalizes on that bond. The one that urges dog owners to dress their pets in tutus and hire canine event planners to advise on beagle birthday parties and Weimaraner “weddings.”

I’ve resisted writing about it because the dog crazies, en masse, can inflict a heck of a biteback. But yet another new pet product has come to my attention and I can no longer be silent.

Bottled water for dogs.

Collars by Coach and coats by Chanel are apparently not enough. Now — just as we humans are being implored to give up water bottled in plastic for the sake of the environment — we are offered Hero Dog Water, which “uses a unique triple-filtered, reverse-osmosis purification process” and is “fortified with a variety of nutrients.” And to go along with that beverage, how about some freshly baked goodies from “The Organic Dog Biscuit Cookbook,” featuring more than 100 recipes (including one for “walnut-crusted salmon”) for dog owners with a whole lot of time on their hands?

According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, Americans spent $41.2 billion on pets in 2007, and that number is expected to reach $43.4 billion in 2008. No wonder entrepreneurs and copycats nationwide are flocking to the one marketing arena that seems immune to recession.

Let me be clear, I love dogs. I’ve had one for most of my life so far and can’t imagine my home complete without one. I feed my dog, Ice, an 11-year-old Aussie mix, a premium dog food, and have spent thousands of dollars on vet visits over the years when his health was at stake. And one person’s silly, unnecessary pet product or service might be another’s lifesaver.

Take the portable “pup tent” I just bought for Ice. He’ll stand up to stomach-level in the water when we go to a beach, but won’t go swimming. He hates the sun on his back, but won’t leave the side of my chair. Instead, he digs in search of cooler sand under the surface, right under my chair, until it collapses. Over and over.

In generations past, and certainly even now in many corners of the world, this purchase would be seen as a frivolous indulgence. I see it as a problem solved: The SPF 50 shade-providing tent makes us both more relaxed and happy.

But I draw the line at hiring an “expert” to help me throw a fete for the four-legged set. If I can’t figure that out on my own, I should be living in a group home. Besides, I’d like to have a little money left for something way more important to his well-being, like that next trip to the vet.

An article published last month in the Journal of Business Research cited studies that found a “tendency to buy excessively for self relates to spending on one’s pet” and that excessive buyers consider their pets “extensions of themselves” (in some cases, literally — Nicole Richie had hair extensions put into her dog’s coat that matched her own).

Dogs are loyal, beloved companions, not status symbols. They should be thought of and treated as a member of the family, but they are not children — or child substitutes. They do not relish donning costumes (but will tolerate it, if you insist, because they love you). They could not care less whether you throw a party for them; they just want the treats, the attention and the socializing with other dogs. Dogs are a different species, with much simpler motivations than those of humans. Their idea of heaven is a never-ending cycle of eating, belly rubs, going for walks (on which they can drop at least one large pile, then benignly distance themselves as you pick it up) and sleeping.

Every dog should have his day, often. But instead of buying your pooch a designer collar or making all his little friends put on party hats, just take him for a walk in the woods or a park where he can check every tree for nose mail, followed by a bowl of good ol’ tap water, a rawhide bone, a scratch between the ears and a nap.

That’s all he really wants. Really. Money still burning a hole in your pocket? Write a check to the nearest Humane Society.

Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046

June 30th, 2008
11:50 pm

This one is just off the police blotter:

Nice Alibi, But No Dog

June 28, 2008