The Pursuit of Puppyness
By Samantha Mackson, 10th grade
March 20, 2008
I am obsessed with my dog. Two and a half years ago, my family got our first pet from an Orlando breeder. A golden labradoodle, Molly was an overactive but lovable addition to our family during her first year of life. Today, I could not imagine my world without her. She wakes me up each morning by licking my face, and she always greets me at the door with her wagging tail and enthusiastic personality. Molly provides constant companionship and comfort.
I am not alone in my pet obsession. Recent surveys show that a growing number of people are making pets a part of their families. Two-thirds of American households, or approximately 71 million homes, own at least one pet, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. That’s a significant increase from two decades ago, when only 56 percent of American households included pets. In addition, Americans spend $41 billion a year on their pets, which doubles the amount spent on them a decade ago.
“I noticed a big increase in dog ownership about six or seven years ago,” said Anibal Casanova, assistant manager of Pet Smart in Aventura, “when a lot of celebrities, like Jennifer Lopez, were being seen and photographed with their dogs.”
Many people have a bond with animals similar to the bond they share with other members of their family, experts say. Alan Beck, a veterinary professor at Purdue University’s Center for the Human-Animal Bond, said that 40 percent of individuals who keep pictures of their spouses or children in their wallets also have photographs of their pets.
Studies show that owning cats and dogs can have health benefits, too. Pets can improve a person’s mood because it is difficult to be upset while staring into an animal’s adoring eyes. Dogs encourage their owners to venture outside and exercise, not only because the dogs must be walked, but because their owners are more likely to take a stroll with a companion. Animals help with social support, prevent loneliness, and provide unconditional love.
As pets become a larger part of people’s lives, businesses and communities are making changes to be more pet friendly. For example, some businesses allow owners to bring their pets to work. Pet stores often permit animals to accompany their owners on shopping trips. Several restaurants in Miami allow pets to sit outside with their owners, and new dog parks are constantly being added to South Florida neighborhoods.
According to Business Week magazine, the annual cost of buying, feeding and caring for pets exceeds the amount Americans spend on movies, video games, and recorded music combined. People have started to reward their pets in human terms, with stays in “hotels” instead of kennels, and with canine outfits, accessories, and gourmet dog food. Pet owners will no longer settle for substandard products or poor services for their animals. The pet care industry will likely continue to thrive as a growing number of Americans enjoy the benefits of pet ownership.
“I have a four-year-old Yorkie and my family is totally in love with her,” said Sara Strumwasser, a sophomore at Michael Krop Senior High School. “We are even getting a two-month-old Maltese for her to play with. I can’t wait to have another addition to my family!”