The Economy Going to the Dogs

What are we turning our pets into anyway?
What are we turning our pets into anyway?

I just finished a Floyd Press column–way closer to deadline than is my usual–about the money and attention we lavish on our pets. Here’s an excerpt below, and if this subject interests or amazes you, read lots more factoids in this Business Week piece on “The Pet Economy” from 2007.


…PetSmart opened more than 100 stores–last year! Their PetHotels feature kennel TVs that play Animal Planet, “bone booths” where pets can take calls from their owners, and porous floors where dogs can pee. (The latter not a bad idea, actually.)

And with more than 65 million doggy digestive systems coursing through parks and down sidewalks on leashes in high-density urban and suburban places, the 34 million pounds of extruded post-kibble a day is also “doing its bizzness” and making some folks wealthy. My favorite from the “Dooty Calls” arena is “Poop Freeze” –a spray can that you clip on your belt like a six-shooter. Quick draw! Frost. And toss!

Or why not buy Mimsy a bottle of Iams Savory Sauce to dash on her organically-correct locally-grown age-specific food, or put it on her Pupperoni Rib snacks or Snausage Breakfast Treats shaped like bacon and Eggs. (I am glad we don’t have television reception here or the expectations at treat time would break the bank. But how could we refuse him when all his canine friends and colleagues claim entitlement to such luxuries?)

Finally, consider this guy-thing: Neuticles for $919 a pair, to re-enhance neutered male parts to their prior “anatomical preciseness.” (240,000 pair have been purchased to date.) Huh?

While this really is a serious subject here, laugh with me at our species–even while we know in our heart of hearts the pendulum must swing back toward a balance between human needs and those of the animals upon which we transfer so much of our longing to love and be loved.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Neuticles?? Are you serious???

    That reminds me of a web-site I saw recently that had very high-dollar items for people who have more money than sense.

  2. I checked the web site of every dog boarding business in the Fredericksburg area last week, looking for a more economical place to leave the dogs when we go on vacation. I ended up sticking with our usual place because every other place was at least $50 a night or more for 2 dogs. One place advertised 24 x 7 classical music piped in for the dogs, and another provided cable TV. I immediately start thinking that there is a business opportunity around here for somebody to provide clean safe board for dogs at a reasonable price.

  3. Yes, neuticles. Sigh. Because dogs worry about their image…
    Don’t forget the fresh doggie bakeries where you can custom-order dog and cat friendly baked goods for their birthday parties.

  4. We had a serious discussion recently about our 13-year-old pooch, Butchie. We spent over $1000 on vet bills to cure him from a recent bout of old age, and our vet said he needed a prescription dog food at almost $2.00 a can.

    On the one hand, we have chosen to acquire Butchie, and that implies that we will take care of him. On the other hand, at what point do we draw the line and say, “Enough is enough?” We have no answers to this right now, even though we are chafing at the $2 dog food he is reluctantly glomming (he hates it).

    When we think of starving children that $2 a day would feed, we feel really bad, realizing that we have misplaced our values. But Butchie is a part of the family, and has brought 13 years of joy and companionship to us. At what point will we exercise our sense of balanced values and send that $2 to feed a starving child?

    These are more basic questions than Neuticles and boutique foods, which in my opinion are almost criminal in their neglect of hunger, not only across the world, but right down the block.

  5. Dogs? Where? What dogs? My wife and I have three children, but no dogs. The oldest is a mix, the second is a Scottie and the youngest is a Shepard.