Recently I bought my dog a feather boa, braided her coat, and wrote a country western song celebrating her trash-trolling skills. In short, I have become a crazy dog person who spoils her pet rotten.
In my defense, I’m not alone.
“People are no longer satisfied to reward their pet in pet terms,” says Bob Vetere, President and CEO of the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. “They want to reward their pet in human terms.”
So, rather than stay at a kennel, millennial dogs summer at canine ‘resorts.’
Wash that puppy with the garden hose? I don’t think so. Book an appointment with the local ‘sylist’ or ‘pet spa,’ and wait five weeks to bring poocharella for her day of beauty.
“She is a beautiful dog,” Carlos, the groomer purrs to me in Spanish spiced tones. “I did not cut,’ He makes a circular motion near Jessie’s torso – “because the hair is so soft -- just around the eyes.”
Our 10-year-old Goldendoodle looks like a cross between a polar bear and Chewbaca. My husband calls her Lady Gaga, and the name suits her: she’s a long-legged blonde with attitude, and a huge female following.
On an afternoon walk, she sidled up to two eight-year-old girls who were skipping down the street.
“Oooh, what a cute puppy,” they squealed, as Jessie nuzzled their ankles. “What kind of dog is she?”
“Well, she’s half Golden Retriever, and half Poodle,” I explained.
“Oh, we have a mutt, too!” said one munchkin, bouncing.
My husband and I gush about Jessie’s daily activities with the same enthusiasm we used to reserve for our children’s accomplishments.
“She was sooo goooood today; she only ate three cabinets, and half a table leg.”
“Yeah, but did you see that huge dump she left on the counter? Now that’s talent!”
Your typitcal pup needs to socialize with other dogs, and learn life skills, which is why we enrolled her in doggie daycare.
Finding good doggie day care isn’t as easy as you’d think. “Will my dog be stimulated?” “What kind of chew toys do you offer?” “Do you have a doggie track -- and is there an accelerated track?”
For healthy dog development, it’s essential to balance structured play with leisure time: Jessie takes us for long rambles through the woods; and we take her on our vacations, including one of the most dog-friendly places ever, Martha’s Vineyard.
People couldn’t pick my husband and me out of a line up if we mugged them in broad daylight; but in two days everyone on the island knew ‘Jessie, the Goldendoodle.’ See, dog people don’t remember human names, or faces; but we remember their dog’s names, breeds, and favorite treats.
Kate Upton or Heidi Klum could walk by with a schnauzer, and someone would sigh, ‘that’s a beautiful dog!’
Even the finest of canines benefits from limit-setting. In our early travels with Jessie, we tried to contain her and her dirt to the back of our station wagon, erecting a massive mesh and plastic partition between the back seat, and the trunk. Now, I walk out of the supermarket to find her sitting behind the steering wheel, adjusting the rear view mirror, and pushing her sunglasses up her nose. If she passes her permit test, she’ll be driving any day now.
We vowed no dog would ever sit on the furniture; but Jessie has appropriated the overstuffed club chair next to the fireplace. Initially we played this game: She would jump off the chair onto the floor as she heard our footfalls approaching the back door coming in from work, and non-chalantly slide into a lounging position on the floor, and we would pretend not to notice.
Now we walk down the stairs in the morning, and she barely looks up from her paper and coffee as she sprawls on her now even more-shabby-than-chic celedon throne.
“So you’ve given up,” my husband says, noting the large white cotton blanket draped over the chair like a flag of surrender.
“Well, I guess as long as she keeps it to just the one…” I drift off, hopefully.
Mostly, Jessie’s just good company. When you’ve parented kids for over 25 years, you’re used to a certain level of vitality. It’s a huge void to fill as our nest empties. Still it’s nice to know that not only do my husband and I have each other, we have Lady Gaga to keep us entertained, as long as she can keep us on a short leash.