In honor of Mother's Day, an ode to my little one:
I feel terrible pangs of guilt every time I leave him.
When I went away for a week, I brought his picture with me and used it as a bookmark, cooing over it multiple times per day.
He won't wear a raincoat, yet I hate to have him cooped up inside on gloomy days. So I follow him around the park carrying an umbrella as he splashes through puddles and tries to eat the dirt.
His name is Richie. I call him Richie Boo, Richie Bear, Baby Bear, The Baby, Boobala, and Boo Boo. In a baby voice. In the elevator. In front of the neighbors.
I wasn't going to let him sleep with me, but he's so cute and cuddly that I often put him in the bed when he cries.
When Richie had to get stitches and had part of his head shaved, some little girls we passed on the street started laughing and pointing at him. He didn't notice, but I almost killed them.
His daycare has a webcam. It's more addictive than Facebook.
Richie can be a bit hyperactive at times, so I bought him all-natural calming treats infused with chamomile and lavender. The brand is called Mellow Mut.
Richie is six month old puppy.
And that makes me...Richie's Mommy? I struggled with the term. But in the same way that I correct people when they call his "crate" a "cage," "mommy" seems more humane (human?) than "owner," especially when -- let's face it -- he is the boss of me.
(I loved the pictures of Obama being dragged along by Bo at the first puppy's official White House unveiling. Clearly, the leader of the free world answers to a canine just like I do.)
I am also everything I swore to my friends and myself that I wouldn't be. I am one of those people.
Oh! I have my limits. No kisses on the lips. (Just the nose.) No unnecessary clothing. (Unless someone else gives it to him.) Let me stop myself now.
Consumer spending on pets is thought to be recession-proof. In fact, the American Pet Products Association (APPA) estimates that $45.4 billion will be spent on pets in the U.S. in 2009 (compared to $43.2 billion in 2008 and $41.2 billion in 2009). It seems that as we sacrifice cars, vacations, and new spring wardrobes, we still find space in the budget for Spot.
My personal experience echoes the trend: I got Richie right around the time when I took a recession-induced step back from my own business. Suddenly, I had time to on my hands. Fortunately, my fear of boredom (a paralyzing fear for the tens of thousands of type A's like me who are suddenly out of work) was quickly replaced with The Puppy Project. Training. Socializing. Feeding. Belly rubbing. Walking. Potty. Potty. Potty. Really, it's a full time job!
Yes, dogs are a lot of work, as anyone will remind you whenever the subject comes up. But they give back in spades with cuddliness, loyalty, companionship and never ending cheer. 63 percent of U.S. households own pets, and it's no surprise that Marley & Me was a bestseller.
Despite the hopeless job market, I don't feel down. The APPA says that pets have been proven to help reduce stress and depression. They can even lower blood pressure. As for me, I've been so busy with Richie that I haven't had time for the blues. In between informational interviews and emailing resumes, I've got a puppy to walk!
When I walk Richie through the neighborhood, take him to the park or hang out with him at daycare (it's so much fun to watch him play with the other puppies -- why would I want to leave?), there are countless other people just like me -- working age, no kids in sight -- hanging with their dogs like they've got all the time in the world. "Who are they?" I wondered. "Oh, they're all unemployed," the doggy daycare owner told me.
Back in my mother's day, dogs were named Buddy, Skippy and Sparky. Richie's friends are Madelyn, Sydney, Ollie, Greta, Lucy, Chloe, Bella, Hailey and Brooklyn. We feed them vitamin-enriched diets, bring them on trips, and get professional portraits taken.
In a time when we're supposed to be cutting back, spending on our pets gives us the same satisfaction as shopping for ourselves, yet it can somehow be justified. True, the designer clothing, monogrammed dinnerware, and even doggie yoga classes can get a little excessive. But I don't care to judge -- I don't have time! I've gotta take Richie to the groomer.