Is it possible to love your dog or cat too much?
A colleague called to my attention a provocative article in World Magazine regarding Americans’ devotion to their pets. The author of the piece told of a veterinarian who likes to ask people if, given the choice between saving the life of a stranger in a burning building or their beloved pet, which one would they save?
“You’d be surprised,” he said, “how many would save their pet.”
Dogs and cats are increasingly becoming more and more part of the family. Take note of how many photos in the Christmas cards you receive this year contain the mug of the family dog, sometimes even wearing a Santa hat or a red bow tie. Here in Colorado, people seem to take their dog with them wherever they go. I’m always encountering dogs on my Saturday morning trips inside the home improvement store.
Naturally, there’s an economic impact to it all. According to the American Pet Products Association consumers will spend nearly $53 billion on their pets this year – up from $17 billion in 1994.
Do those statistics shock or surprise you?
I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for dogs. We didn’t have any money when I was a kid, but we liked to pretend and so we bestowed upon our mutts a touch of royalty. There was Sir George and Duke, both fine dogs, but, well, they were seen as dogs and treated accordingly.
We’ve all seen cases where people have clearly gone overboard. Maybe you’ve read about the New York woman who spent $50,000 to clone her dog. Or perhaps you’ve followed the efforts to have pet owners reclassified as “guardians.” Last year the San Francisco Animal Control and Welfare Commission was reportedly considering even banning the sale of goldfish claiming it leads to “inhumane suffering.”
Those may all be over the top, but let me ask you, where do you draw the line when it comes to your pets? Would you go into debt to prolong the life of your dog? Do you spend more on Fifi or Fido each year than on, say, charitable giving? Do you invest more attention in your pets than your neighbor?
Someone once said that a pet’s eyes have the power to speak a great language, and having enjoyed the company of a faithful dog, I appreciate such sentiment. Dogs, cats and other critters can bring an enormous amount of happiness. There is no place for the mistreatment of animals. But in our affinity for pets, have some of us gone too far?