It has been more than a year since I have been writing this column. The first appeared Nov. 5, 2002. That's a lot of columns.
There has been some response from readers right from the beginning, but it has increased considerably recently. This is, naturally, very rewarding for me as it is telling me that people do care about their pets and want to do the best for them. I do not have all the answers about dogs and cats and people will disagree with me from time to time. I do not make up facts. I have a sizable supply of reference materials and I am always reading to learn more.
After the choke collar column last week, a woman told he she removed the choke collars from her two dogs. She had never heard those warnings before. Many people have been contacting me recently about obedience classes. There obviously is a great need. Our dogs are so much happier and much better companions when they have been trained. There are some obedience classes offered from time to time in Payson. I am going to do some more investigation into this and then make some recommendations. I do not want to recommend obedience classes unless I have observed the class myself.
Obedience training is probably the most important part of living with a dog. And those who will spend time training will develop a closer relationship with their dog. They will discover that the dog has feelings, intelligence, a willingness to please and the need to be with people. It is possible to train a dog by yourself and there are some great books available.
But just as children benefit from the socialization of preschool, dogs benefit from being with other dogs. They learn socialization, but they also learn about distractions and how to behave around other dogs and people. It is very good for them. That is why the dog park is wonderful -- but a dog must have some social skills and be under some control before going to the dog park. So, watch for more information about training classes.
There are also many questions about pet food. I am working on a column covering that issue. If there is a subject you would like to see addressed in this column, please let me know.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal talks about the $30 billion (and growing) pet-products industry. Some exclusive companies have diversified into dog wear and paraphernalia. Ralph Lauren now has a line of sweaters and polo shirts for dogs. Gucci sells dog beds and Tiffany & Company inscribes sterling-silver pet tags. L.L. Bean markets pet booties and Harley-Davidson is selling black vinyl jackets for dogs.
Although dogs and cats are non-denominational, this year there were Hanukkah collars, stuffed dreidels and Menorahs and kosher dog biscuits made by KosherPets of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Stacy Huzi, director of marketing communications for the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association of Greenwich, Conn., says, "Just about everything that's available for humans is available for pets."
The American Animal Hospital Association statistics say that Americans own an estimated 69 million cats and 62 million dogs and that these pets are increasingly considered to be members of the family with accompanying rights and privileges. This group is constantly doing surveys to find out if people give their pets birthday and Christmas presents, if the pet sleeps on the bed and other such questions. The number of pampered pets is increasing, and as more people are living alone, the pet is an increasingly important companion, confidant and friend
However, the AAHA has no way to include statistics of dogs and cats that are not ever taken to the veterinarian. Dogs who spend their lives in the back yard are not receiving Harley-Davidson black-vinyl jackets for Christmas. Hopefully, they are being fed and have a fresh supply of water.
It is fun to read about the lavish treatment received by some super-pampered pets. We would like to forget about the dogs and cats waiting at the Humane Society or out on the street for a kind word. I wish I could wave a magic wand and magically every dog and cat would be a member of a caring family. He would be taken for walks and fed every day and have fresh water.
I do not buy lavish gifts for my pets -- or for my children and grandchildren either. I do not think it is a necessary part of being a caring pet owner. We do take daily walks and we all gather around the fire in the evening, the dogs on their cushions napping or chewing on a bone and I in my favorite chair reading or watching a movie.
Those dogs and cats who are so pampered may be the fortunate ones, but then, many of them probably find it rather ridiculous. Whether receiving lavish gifts or not, the fortunate ones are those that are loved members of the family.
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.