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Boomer Bytes #49: Pets Becoming Peeves

Editor’s Note: Below is another column in Steve Canipe’s series called Boomer Bytes. The column, as the title suggests, will focus on a variety of topics that may be of interest to baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. But Canipe also hopes to start a conversation with younger generations, too. Check out an introduction and Canipe’s (first self-titled) column here.

Pets Becoming Peeves

By Steve Canipe

Dec. 19, 2014.  You might think that boomers and other older people own pets at a higher rate than other age groups but this is not true.   According to a report last year by the research company Mintel and reported on the website KC Dog Blog, the percentages of dogs broken down by age are shown below. It is interesting that 46 percent of homes have a dog. The age group breakdowns: 18-24 year olds-58 percent; 25-34 year olds-49 percent; 35-44 year olds–51 percent; 45-54 year olds-46 percent; 55-64 years old-41 percent; and only 32 percent for 65+. Since Boomer-ness starts at with those born 1964 and before, it is apparent that we are rocking along in the high 30 to low 40 percent range, depending on our age.

pet#49The report also looked at cat ownership which pretty much mirrors the dog ownership numbers. I have chosen to focus on dogs because it is what I have. Two of the greatest canines around are Lucky and Snoopy. They are now a little over 8 years old. We got them from the Avery County Humane Society way back in 2006. They are our loveable “chowbradores” – mutts really and mostly a combination of lab and chow genes. They were sent to prison and stayed there for about 8 weeks being worked with by prisoners for 10-12 hours a day. They learned basic commands and were housebroken. It was a great program and the result is two wonderful dogs that have matured with us.

They travel with us as we do seasonal moves from Boone to Tucson. They are great travelers; sleeping a lot and only waking up when we slow down or stop for gasoline or food.

Even though they are brothers from the same litter, they are just like human children and have their individual personalities. Lucky is the more dominant one and is more likely to want to explore and be first on the scene of any happening. Snoopy is much more likely to want to snuggle up with you on the sofa; recently Lucky has become a great lap dog and keeps me company in my La-Z-Boy chair while we watch television. And yes, he watches TV too. Animal shows are especial favorites. He will often get close to the screen and sometimes he even interacts with the program by whining or barking. The introductory credits on The Big Bang Theory excite Lucky. I’m not sure if it is the music or the video of the atom. Snoopy does not pay much attention at all.


When they were very young dogs neither paid much attention to what was on the screen We rented the Disney movie Snow Buddies, about a group of puppies having adventures in Alaska!! Both Snoopy and Lucky watched that movie and seemed to enjoy it. For Snoopy it was a one-time thing but for Lucky it became a regular thing to watch.

When I am working in the office one or the other will come in and lie down near my feet wanting to be near me. Occasionally Snoopy will come in and stick his head under the chair arm to rest his head on my leg.

Not everyone loves animals and on one level, I understand that; but on another, I don’t really. I guess it is sort of like the folks who elect not to have children. I really don’t understand that choice either. But for those of who love our pets, they are the most wonderful of God’s creatures. There has been a lot of recent pet research about how they see us and about how they interact with us.

The pet industry as reported in Today.com estimates that in 2014 Americans, who are pet owners, will spend $52 billion on food, surgeries, toys, medicines, etc. The Today site reports on a man who spent $60 thousand to get custody of a dog share with his girlfriend. Dogs are not just another possession to many folks; they are live companions that mean a lot to the people who love them. Boomers who are empty nesters do spend a lot of money on their pets. Part of this is due to having more disposable income. We average spending more than $210 per year on food alone.

My mom and dad had dogs when I was young but they were not allowed in the house. They were outside dogs and usually kept in a pen or tied to prevent them from getting in the roadway and getting struck by a car. My dad was an animal lover of the first order. He loved every kind of animal, dog, cat, duck, chicken, pony, calf, etc. He seemed to like cats a lot and one Siamese who came and took up residence with him was a favorite. We called her “mommy kitty” because she was pregnant a lot. She was a pretty cat and had a pleasing personality even to people other than my dad.

When we were first married and had our first child, she was afraid of dogs. We moved into a house near where a beautiful Irish Setter lived. His name was Ritter. The owners were a young couple like us but without children. They were concerned that Ritter was frightening her but we decided that it would be good for her to learn that dogs were friendly – and Ritter certainly was. She got so comfortable that at age 5 she wanted a dog of her own and sure enough we found another Irish Setter puppy we named Duke for her.

In truth the dog picked us not the other way around. We were living in Charlotte at the time and answered an ad in the Charlotte Observer of a man who had setter puppies. We went out to see the puppies. There were about 5 pups in the litter. We went into the kennel where they were and all but one went away from us. One came up and started playing with our daughter. Yep that is the one that became our Duke!!

Our daughter was in high school when Duke passed away after getting where he could no longer get up and the vet told us that there was nothing that could be done about his broken hips. Deciding to have Duke put to sleep was the hardest thing I had ever done. We were all at the vets and hugged and cried as Duke was no more. As I write this column, I find myself once again reliving that sadness. He was a joy for us for so many years and a terrible loss when he was gone.

I don’t know while thinking about a former pet if I was giving off sad vibes or not but Snoopy came in and is currently lying down at my feet, as if to comfort me. Maybe I am anthropomorphizing his behavior but I was comforted. Losing a pet is a sad, terrible thing, but having the love and devotion of a friend and companion for so many years really is so worthwhile and that is the important thing to remember. This shared love is for you and also for the animal—it flows both ways.

There is recent research on dogs describing how they were domesticated and how they pick up on human nonverbal cues. A recent study out of Emory University and reported by National Geographic shows that a dog’s brain has its pleasure centers activated by odor from the owner. Specially trained dogs were trained to lie still in an MRI device and the brain pleasure centers were watched. When odors from the owner were presented the centers lit up; demonstrating pleasure from the odor.

Do you have any good pet (dog/cat/bird/ whatever) stories that you can share? If you do have some, please share them below or send me an email at BoomerBytes@yahoo.com.