Friday, June 13, 2014

Spell it Backwards

Joe College has landed gainful employment, although his position requires him to work weekends. I fear that despite our “welcome to the real world” reaction, this might be a deal breaker.  He is an apprentice attendant at a doggy daycare center.  The facility also provides transportation, grooming behavioral therapy, field trips and massage for the butt sniffer set.  There is a celebrity client, a corgi who sports in a lobster costume.  Photos have gone viral. The facility operates from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.   There are typically between 40 and 50 guests. The daily rate would nourish a third world family for about a week. 

Joe College studies a fifty -page handbook of rules and regulations issued by what, at least as I write this and as far as I know, is his employer.  This addresses topics like humping and eye boogers.  Joe College is required to memorize each of the canine’s names, medical needs and behavioral quirks.  As a novice, he is forbidden to engage in play with dog toys but this will be permitted after his two- week training period is successfully completed.  Only the most senior employees however, drive the van or chaperone doggie beach days.

Paying someone to walk a dog used to be in my catalog of the hoity toity  and inaccessible, along with  car phones and caviar,  maybe for the dogs of Jackie O or Conrad Hilton. Now we often see professional dog walkers circling the Silver Lake Reservoir at 5:30 a.m. shepherding the first shift.  Manhattan pros often wend through the crowded sidewalks with half a dozen or more charges. 

I fill a prescription for myself and my co-payment is $5.  After, I stop by the vet and refill one of three medications that Taffy, our own and not famous, corgi requires to ameliorate the symptoms of hip dysplasia.  The tab is $58.  This is not the most expensive of the medications he requires. 

We are going to a new veterinary practice in Echo Park.  It is sleek and modern and doesn’t have, like our previous vet’s, that disinfectant odor that makes me dry heave. There is a tasteful and commodious waiting area with a huge TV, coffee, a big bowl of candy and jars of organic dog treats. In fairness, after a lifetime of pet ownership and having patronized a variety of veterinary practices, we have never had a vet as sensitive to our financial considerations as the current one. And for all the comfort the practice affords, the prices are comparable to those at the former stinky place.  The practice is also committed to pet rescue and there is a room full of adoptable kittens you can play with.  The doctors are attractive, tattooed, and savvy about social media.  They have picked up on how our relationship to our pets has subtly evolved over the last decades and the expectations of our service providers have changed.  I believe these young vets truly love animals but also that they have their paws on the pulse of what will make the practice commercially viable. Many pet owners now have the same standards for their pets as they would for their children.

In 1994 pet products generated about 14 billion in revenue in the U.S.  Even in the years of financial crisis spending on pets increased astronomically.  55 billion in sales is projected for 2014.  Commerce indeed is a driving force on culture.  When I was a kid Halloween meant carving a pumpkin, buying a mask at the dime store and trick or treating for an hour. Now it seems that the product pimping starts right after the 4th of July.  And what is all this crap about “The Big Game”? In my lifetime it seems like every holiday has gotten bigger and more expensive and much of this is indeed spurred by advertising and promotion. 

Advertising for pet related products is an enormous business and the “if you REALLY love your pet, you’ll buy this….” message is wildly effective but I wonder if this is soul cause of the elevation of pets to regal status.  Himself was raised at a kennel.  I have always had dogs and my sister bred them.  Nevertheless, we have been rejected in attempts to adopt a dog for amazingly specious reasons by several rescue organizations.  Friends were declined by the Pasadena Humane Society, solely because they both work full time.  Unless you are willing to adopt a hard-to-place big black dog or one that obviously has a tad of pit bull, it is easier to adopt a child.

Indeed we are being shamed into overspending on gluten free, organic, non-gmo food, cashmere sweaters and Posturpedic dog beds but I think too, the lives we live are generally less peopled then back in the day when dogs were simply dogs.  The digital age affords many comforts and conveniences but often leaves us bereft of contact with living creatures.  We are less vulnerable when we relate to pets, particularly in an era when we have less practice forming relationships, beyond a keyboard with other human beings.

If I added up all of the expenses we’ve incurred after decades of animal companionship I’m sure the figure would be staggering so I’m not doing that math.  However, except for an occasional Halloween costumes our animals subsist on cheap Costco beds and plain wrap food.  We do what we have to medically to keep them comfortable but would never consider spending for any extraordinary measures or costly surgeries.  I wonder though, if my life weren’t well peopled with husband, kids and friends if my affection might disproportionately transfer to a dog or cat.  

Still, even as a hardcore pet person, I find the idea of doggie daycare more than a little venal.  I do hope that Joe College hangs in.  I’m sure that if he does he’ll look back on this as a really great first job.  Even these soignee massaged and field tripped dogs are probably easier to get along with than most people.


John L. Murphy / "Fionnchú" said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John L. Murphy / "Fionnchú" said...

When I had to wake up and shovel "poop" before going to school, and come home to hose down the runs, my parents and I called it a "kennel." Intrigued this runs in the family. Mine wondered why I was not eager to inherit the business. Given rates quoted from son of $6/hour and up and daily "clients", I wonder now. xxx me, former (unpaid) kennel boy.