A few weeks ago, I told you about my new grand puppy O — how I welcomed O into the family and helped my daughter A take care of O for two months. Having a puppy was new for me and for A. It was overwhelming at times, but I fell in love with O. He brought me great joy this summer and still does when I visit him in A’s new city digs.
Now that my grand puppy O isn’t constantly by my side, I’ve been spending more time on Petfinder. While I know it’s not time for me to purchase or adopt a dog or a puppy, it’s sure fun looking. In fact, it’s more fun looking at dogs than scrolling the online dating sites for a new man. BTW, the dogs and puppies are so much cuter than any guys I’ve seen and long-term will likely always be loving and require less maintenance.
Pet Nation reveals how pets are transforming American society
“The pet population in the U.S. has nearly doubled since 1998: nearly 70% of the country now owns a pet, and many of them get their own organic food, masseuses, mobile salons and even fly first class” said the promo for Pet Nation. “Would you like a review copy?” asked the publicist.
Normally I would have declined such a publication. Being a happy and generous grandma to grand puppy O (and to my son’s girlfriend’s dog M) I felt a stronger bond to this subject matter. “Yes,” I replied. In fact, when my download arrived I read it cover to cover. I was curious to learn what author Mark L. Cushing had to share about “the inside story of how companion animals are transforming our homes, culture and economy.”
Mark is the founding partner and CEO of the Animal Policy Group and a Stanford honors graduate. He is the leading advocate in the pet health care space.
A paradigm shift with pets
Gone are the days when pet owners left their pooches at home or in the backyard to fend for themselves.
“Pet Nation is a country where 75 percent of our pets sleep on their owner’s bed, and where millions of dogs and cats have their own social media accounts, receive birthday cards they cannot read, and wear expensive Halloween costumes only once,” says Mark. I was fascinated by Mark’s research and bet you will be as well. Listen to these stats:
“In 2015, America had a whopping 185 million cats and dogs. That’s more than one for every two people, or 1.4 per household. By 2021 the total number approached 200 million.”
“Historically, the number of dogs in America was relatively stable until 2000, when the dog population exploded, increasing from 68 million to 90 million by 2017. If the rate of growth continues at this pace, America will have 135 million dogs by 2039.” And surprisingly that may not be enough.
“Americans spent approximately $38.4 billion on pet food in 2020, triple the 2000 level, by far the largest category of pet expenditures. Like everything in Pet Nation, food is changing – in how it is researched, designed, manufactured, bought and sold, marketed, and most of all eaten. Surprisingly, what people eat, how they eat, and the human birth rate are reshaping the American pet-food industry.”
OMG, I got a taste of this when I went to get meal enhancers for my grand puppy O when he wasn’t eating his kibble. I felt inundated with all the varieties. I bought the lamb patties because the salesperson recommended them. Grandma splurged. I also bought the mini heart-shaped treats because I couldn’t resist.
Despite this growth, Mark writes, “The common knowledge that has structured dog and cat diets for two hundred years holds true: Domesticated dogs and cats are carnivores. Dogs can thrive on a pure kibble diet, or a mix of kibble and rice or cooked/raw meat or vegetables.
People who work with and for pets.
The book also highlights the diversity of jobs in Pet Nation. “Some 1.3 million Americans make a living in the pet economy (to compare: Walmart has 1.5 million American employees), servicing animals in professions that mimic this of humans, such as neurologist, trainer, surgeon, dermatologist, psychiatrist, pet hotel concierge, or costume designer,” says Mark. “Historically, the animal-based employment opportunities were limited: veterinarian, farrier (for horses), blacksmith, jockey, dogcatcher, cowboy, shepherd, rancher, lion tamer, and breeder.
Now there are such professions as pet-food tester (not “taster”); animal colorer (such as the person who paints the ring around the Target dog’s eye; relocation expert: someone who gets dogs safely and efficiently from one place to another; animal rights lawyer; guide dog trainer; pet adoption counselor; talent agency; veterinary acupuncturist; or pet psychic.”
Ooh, ooh, ooh, do I sense a new profession for me to pursue during my second act?
A culture of equality
According to Pet Nation: “No one measures a pet by the wealth, appearance, or social status of its owner – it’s all about the animals. Whether at a dog run, on the sidewalk, or on Facebook, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a mutt is a mutt, an Abyssinian cat is an Abyssininan cat, nothing else matters. It is not a question of privilege, family name, accent, education, job, or lack of job. Pets are loved, no matter how much they cost: Americans earning $30,000 per year onward love their dogs, just like those earning $100,000 or more.”
I met so many people when I would walk O during the summer. I don’t remember the owners’ names, nor do I think I ever asked them. Yet they always offered the dogs’ names and breeds. Let’s see there was Penelope, Marley, Zoe, Teddy — lots of cute names.
How a dog’s life has changed over the years
I laughed when I read Mark’s description of the way things have changed for dogs in the past 50+ years. Listen to this and I bet you’ll be amused:
“Imagine for a moment that you are a dog in 1956. Daily life was simple. You’d wake up, cold and hungry, indoors, if you were lucky, but, generally outdoors, in the garage, on the patio, or in the doghouse tethered to a tree. Then wonder where food would come from. Your daily routine traced and retraced the confines of your backyard, the run of 10-15 feet from your tree or doghouse, or the neighborhoods where you were safe from the pound and possible euthanasia,” writes Mark.
“Today the master bedroom has replaced the doghouse as the place to sleep, on top of the bed, sometimes with a miniature three-step staircase for easy access.”
OMG, O has one of these staircases and he is afraid to climb up. It’s so he can see out the window during the day. Plus both O and M go to doggie daycare and some of the daycares provide pickup service by bus!!!
Millennials and their dogs
There is so much more great content to ponder in Pet Nation. I really encourage you to read this book if you’re a pet lover. Ooh, ooh, ooh and enter the giveaway below to win a copy!
I thought I would end by talking about the millennial generation, those adults who are the boomers’ kids. I have two and if you have kids you likely have some millennials in your family as well. It’s especially endearing to me to see how they take care of their pets just like they are children, perhaps because I don’t have any grandchildren to compare yet.
Mark says: “Today, 30 percent of millennial couples acquire their first dog before their first child. Millennial couples view their first pet as: 1. a serious, long-term commitment, not a temporary or frivolous purchase; and 2. a surrogate child or training vehicle for their first child (which they perhaps can’t yet afford), therefore, a way to assume responsibility for another living being before having an actual baby.
Three of four millennials own a dog and one of two own a cat. Many manage their dog or cat as they would their first child, celebrating milestones and giving them the focus, attention, and medical care typically reserved for children. There is little difference between outfitting a nursery for a baby and a home for a puppy. Like an infant, a pet needs many things, and every need must be addressed.”
I can definitely relate to this. My new cabinets at my condo on the corner at the Jersey shore were filled to the brim with all of O’s toys, food, snacks, poop bags, and more puppy paraphernalia this summer. And O absolutely has pet health insurance.
Roughly one-third of American households do not have a pet.
Uh oh, I’m one of those Americans. Ooh, ooh, ooh, now that I’ve been smitten and had a taste of Pet Nation, will I make the leap sometime and get my own doggie companion. Time will tell. For now, I guess I’ll keep up the scroll since I’m not ready for a daily dog stroll. BTW I don’t know if I’m ready for a new man either based on the pics I’ve been viewing.
Enter the giveaway for a copy of Pet Nation.
It’s so nice that the publisher provided a paperback edition of Pet Nation for my giveaway. To enter, leave a comment below and LMK what you love about your pet or pets if you’re in the 70 percent group (if you’re in the 30 percent group let me know what kind of pet you would get if you could have one), or participate in the Rafflecopter.