Raise The Woof (And The Budget) For Family Pets!

English: Maltese/Yorkie

English: Maltese/Yorkie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The phenomenon of the family pet throughout history has always been something you see in the upper echelon’s of society.

Before pets were a privilege of the rich, the “family dog”, for example, served more of a functional purpose:  herding sheep and cows, pulling sleds, carrying medical supplies, warding off predators and undesirables and even keeping us warm on cold nights.  The theme being, they worked hard for their keep.  And in many cases, when the work day was done – if the humans werent sleeping in tents or igloos then the dogs typically stayed outside.

As people got richer, however, we started keeping animals in our homes for the less arduous task of companionship. We trim and groom them, we treat them like grandchildren, click here to pamper your little one. Lap dogs still had the duty of keeping their ladies in waiting warm but otherwise were objects who were there to give and receive affection. Soon if the trend continues, these pets will be reduced to the functionality of a Fisherprice Code a Pillar.

In typical middle class societies these days the concept of the house pet is pretty mainstream.  According to the 2011-2012 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 62% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 72.9 millions homes.

But the family cat or dog is more than just an ornament or object of affection.  They have indeed become part of our families.  People love their dogs like they love their children.  And in many cases, if someone doesn’t have children the dog steps right into that role. Lets just say that the marketing community has definitely honed in on this trend.

Lets just say I have solid ethnographic experience to validated this cultural reality.  My wife, for example, might as well have given birth to our beloved Morkie, Ava (Maltese and Yorkie “hybrid” – she’s hypoallergenic and has a great personality).  Ava has her own wardrobe, eats only the best organic dog food and sees both her Hairdresser (a.k.a groomer) and doctor more often than I do.  She also gets a bath whenever she has gone to play out side and has her own car seat.

I make regular trips to Petsmart (a supermarket among at least two other national chains) to purchases “wee wee pads” so our dog can piddle and poo in designated areas around the house in lieu of going outside.  On weekend errand trips it’s not uncommon for us to visit a 2500 square foot boutique for pets called Petunia – where we pick up things like hypoallergenic lavender shampoo and winter sweaters – for the dog.

We also receive, among our regular stack of catalogues, one from Dr.s Foster and Smith: from which we order Ava’s flea, tick and heart worm medication as well as a pheromone plug-in (it gets plugged in to an outlet and emits calming pheromone smells for when Ava has to stay at a guest’s house) and things like the stairs that help her climb up onto our bed, but still match our recently updated decor.

This Christmas, we will be looking for a new stocking to hang on the mantle as Ava has had a temporary for so many years and the new Orvis Dog catalogue allows you to order one that is custom monogrammed.

The aforementioned APPA (American Pet Products Association) study  estimates that in 2012 Americans will spend $52.87 BILLION dollars on their pets.

In 2011 we spent $31 Billion on Organic Foods.  I’m just saying.

I suppose I wonder what our four-legged priorities say about us as a culture.  It it that we are becoming more empathetic to the broader spectrum of living things?  Are we becoming a kinder and gentler society that accepts all kinds?  Or are we become delusional and exceedingly narcissistic in our search for unconditional love?  I pose these questions to myself as much as I do to you.

Now answer this:  should we get our dog Ava a puppy for Christmas?

Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Ethnography, Participant Observation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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