Tomorrow morning my husband and I will be welcoming a new addition to the family. As soon as we saw him, with his sandy brown hair, deep brown eyes and happy grin, we thought he might be the one for us. But when he came to greet us, barely able to sit still for excitement, his tail wagging uncontrollably, we knew he was the one.
Lou, an eight-month-old Labrador retriever currently housed at the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter, will come home with us tomorrow, ready to start his life all over again.
For so-called "dog people" living with and caring for a dog is as natural as caring for their own children. That love and attention has certainly been noticed by the business community. When my husband and I were picking out a crate for the newest addition to our family, I actually felt a little guilty that we weren't also buying a $60 crate bed. Then I realized we have some old pillows and a few towels that will work just as well and won't cost a dime.
It would appear however, that the majority of pet owners did buy that $60 crate bed. According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent more than $50 billion on their pets in 2011. That's a heck of a lot of crate beds.
It's easy to see how that can happen, though. In preparing for bringing Lou home with us, we bought a crate, collar, leash, rawhide bones a toy that holds treats and then treats for the toy that holds treats. A couple hundred dollars later and we still don't have near the amount of stuff that my fellow dog owners have for their dogs - and that's probably just because we haven't had the time to collect the toys and treats necessary to make us good consumers in the pet industry.
I've always been a more is less kind of person - except when it comes to books, but that's a whole 'nother story - and I believe that principle can be applied to pet ownership as well. Lou has already captured a little piece of my heart and we haven't even brought him home yet. But he is still a dog. He will most likely get more enjoyment out of playing with a snowball made for free than a specially engineered ball that tastes like bacon and fits comfortably in his mouth.
People tend to get a little overexcited about their pets. It's because we name them and they live in the house with us. The two dogs I grew up with feel like more than just animals we fed and watered and took outside for a walk. They're older now, but they're personalities shine just as strongly as they did 10 years ago. And whatever you want to call it, love or loyalty, when I walk through my parents' door for a weekend visit, they are just as excited to see me as I am to see them.
So tomorrow morning, Lou will take his first car ride home and get a chance to see what his home is like. I'm looking forward to forming that special bond that is so oft-talked about when discussing man's best friend. It's a bond that is based on one, simple premise - love. Lou has no idea how much (or how little) money we have. He has no idea where our political affiliations lie and he can't tell if we're up-to-date on the latest technology. And what's even better is he doesn't care. All he wants is a good walk every day, a treat now and then and someone to scratch him behind his ears. And what he gives in return is worth so much more than that.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jackie Stark is a Chocolay Township resident and a staff reporter at The Mining Journal. Her column appears bi-weekly. She can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.