, Port Arthur, Texas


March 14, 2013

Life seems to be going to the dogs

— The human population may be dwindling in this country, but the number of dogs is growing every day. The industry to support that growth is also exploding.  Dog groomers, doggy daycare and hotels that say “Come!” are popping up on every corner. There are bakeries that produce nothing but canine treats and stores that specialize in pet clothing.  Petsmart alone has 438 items to help Fido feel fashionable. On my visit to the website, I found hoodies in the hottest colors, leg warmers, 4 to a set and a halter style terry cloth outfit that left me shaking my head.

Last month, our newspaper ran a feature story about the latest trends in this pet frenzy. A picture of a bride embracing her maid of honor graced the front page of the lifestyle section. The young woman was dressed in a strapless gown with exquisite beading while her German Shepherd sidekick wore a similar style in a lovely shade of blue.  While it didn’t do much for her rugged complexion (the dog’s not the bride’s) she appeared to be reveling in the attention.

All I could think was: I hope the groom knows what he is getting into.  The bride and her four legged friend seemed to be enjoying a fairly exclusive relationship.  I wondered how the new husband would fit in or even if he would.

When our son tied the knot a few years ago, I wondered the same thing. His fiancée’s 5 year old terrier Caiden had already experienced 5 years of “thick and thin” before Daniel ever entered the picture. I knew he was in trouble, our son, not the dog, when I learned that Caiden’s food was made from scratch with organic ingredients. After 35 years of marriage, my husband wishes he had it so good.

 Apparently, a significant number of the younger generation is choosing to nurture canines instead of children.  Vets are reporting this scenario more and more. I get it.  Dogs are cheaper, loyal to the core, and they don’t talk back.  Compare that to life with a surly teenager. No contest.

At this point, our son and his wife have adopted a second dog. Caiden, more of a feline than a canine considering his condescending attitude, has a little brother named Woody.  The new guy is a 2 year old cocker spaniel they rescued last spring. Woody is adorable. He has eyelashes like a giraffe and velvety, oversized ears. There is not a discriminating bone in his body. He loves anyone with a pulse. I try to keep my distance since animal dander makes me sneeze, but he won’t have any of that. He sits at my feet and rests his chin on my knee as if to say “You know you love me.” When he looks at me with those big brown eyes, I am toast.

If I believed in reincarnation, I would definitely come back as a dog. A standard poodle, I think. A weekly appointment at the groomers with the occasional visit to doggy yoga would make for a life of luxury, don’t you think? Did you know there is a hotel in Paris that offers VIP services for $400 a night? The Very Important Pet service includes a gourmet meal delivered by room service, unlimited games, a personal trainer, massage therapy and, of course, a designer doggy bed.  If you want to indulge your pooch further, diamond tiaras and jeweled necklaces are available for an additional fee.  Nothing’s too good for man’s best friend.

When I think back on the life our dogs led, it makes me laugh. The way we treated them would probably get us in trouble with animal advocacy groups, these days. Our Golden Retrievers lived outside. When the weather was cold or rainy, we opened the door to the garage where two folded blankets waited for them on the concrete floor.  On the rare days when they were invited inside, they knew their place. Climbing or sitting on the furniture was strictly verboten.

We discussed getting a puppy, but treating dogs like dogs is so “nineties”.  I think we’ll just wait for the grandkids.

Donia Caspersen Crouch was raised in Southeast Texas and lives in Austin. Contact her at

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