Opinion

Patches wasn't pampered, but she was loved

I noticed a woman walking her little dog the other day. They were wearing matching yellow raincoats. You see that often these days and it was no surprise to me to read a study that reported that North American pet owners spent over $58 billion on their pets in 2013. Yes, I said $58 billion.

I’m going to relate some stories about our old farm dog Patches. She was part Border Collie and who knows what else. Her job was to protect the house, the yard and the barn. Her hobby was to chase wild rabbits through bramble bushes and any type of clothing would have severely impeded her activities.

Pet Parents is the newly-coined term the industry uses to describe a growing market of owners who consider pets to be a member of their family and purchase premium products to ensure their pet lives a comfortable life. For instance, a Gucci pet carrier goes for about $600.

Pet food is at the top of the expense breakdown at $22.6 billion in North America, and over $65 billion worldwide. Patches’ drinking water was dipped from the rain barrel and she ate table scraps and leftovers because Dad figured if they were healthy for the kids they were good enough for the dog.

Secretly, he probably figured if leftovers were good enough for the dog they were good enough for the kids, but he never said that out loud. Many pet owners are very particular about the content of pet food, and the competition and marketing for eco-friendly products drives the prices up.

Vet care comes in at about $15.25 billion, and that doesn’t include the rise in cosmetic surgery. For instance, if you have had your male dog neutered and want to enhance his appearance and self-esteem, you can have plastic testicular imitations implanted. OK, as a guy, I understand that.

Patches went to the vet only once to be spayed, and she lived a healthy 14 years without ever having her anal glands expressed, her teeth cleaned or any part of her body tattooed.

Over $13 billion was spent on over the counter medicines, supplies and other products. If Patches was sick, she ate grass. Her toys were something called sticks. She chased them, retrieved them, and chewed them.

Other major costs include over $4 billion for pet grooming and boarding. Patches was  never professionally groomed or trimmed, no one ever cut her nails or cleaned out her ears. If she rolled in something dead, we put her in a galvanized tub of warm, soapy water and took turns scrubbing her until we were all wet. Today, mouthwash and electric toothbrushes are routinely used in the pet grooming business. That is something Patches could have used.

The survey tells us that over 42 per cent of dog owners allow their dogs to sleep in or on their beds at night. Patches was only allowed on a blanket inside on the coldest of nights. She was never comfortable indoors. She couldn’t keep an eye on the farm from inside.

Too often we hear about abused animals, so I suppose it’s better to have some pet owners go the other way and spoil them. The study also says pet owners are healthier in the long run.

In this day and age, it seems it’s no longer punishment to be sent to the dog house. At least that’s what McGregor says.

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