Pet Peeve

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But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. (2 Samuel 12:3)

So there’s this lady driving the car in front of me at the stoplight, and standing in her lap is this froofy-looking dog that’s alternately licking her face and sticking its muzzle out the window. And I’m thinking this lady is not only a driving hazard but that this show of vehicular canine lap dancing is an utterly pathetic example of the maudlin and inane. (Okay, so maybe I had to go home first to look up those words, but that’s not the point.)

There are approximately 68,000,000 owned dogs in the United States. At least half of them live in my neighborhood, one of which likes to announce his toilet at 5:30am with deep baritone bellows. (There are two dogs barking even as I write this.) There are four wandering cats within 100 feet of my place too. Almost everybody I know has some kind of animal to which they have awarded not only sanctuary, but the status of family member.

Seriously man. EVERYBODY’s got a pet now. It’s insane.

According to the pet industry, pets now outnumber people in the United States by about 60 million. Including birds, reptiles, and assorted vermin, they number about 360 million. That obviously means that Americans aren’t satisfied with just one of them. On average, dog owners have almost two dogs (1.7 to be exact—I’ve met a number of the partial ones myself). And cat lovers seem to collect felines like lint. It’s a creature comfort frenzy.

But the insanity isn’t just that we own too freaking many pets. Americans spend tons of money on them. The average owner dropped almost 200 bucks on a pet last year. (To put that in perspective, the Barna Research Group estimates that the mean per capita giving to churches in 2000 was only $649.) In 2004, the total amount spent on food, care, and supplies came to over 34 billion dollars. Yes, that’s BILLION, almost 15 percent of ALL charitable giving in 2002!

Pet owner spending is not limited to the basics, however. A National Pet Owners Survey found that 27 percent of dog owners and 13 percent of cat owners buy their pets birthday presents, and 55 percent of dog owners and 37 percent of cat owners buy their pet holiday presents.

Excuse me? Can you say beee-zarre? I know you love your pooch, but this thing has gone waaaay over the top. Americans are so obscenely rich, we’re sinking with increasing speed into a mire of sentimental profligacy (look this word up yourself). It’s getting icky.

This seeps into religious reflection too. Is Fifi fallen? Does Rover go to heaven when he dies? A recent ABC News poll showed that 47% of pet owners believe the answer is yes. Now I’m not saying all dogs don’t go to heaven, but if they do and I catch some redeemed rottweiler lifting his leg on my piece of glory land, there’ll be hell to pay. Talk about paradise lost. For me, better petless in perdition than cat poop in paradise.

Beyond the fact that I find it difficult to delight in the probing wet nose of even the nicest doggy or the disturbing ecstasy of the cat rubbing my leg uninvited, I wonder if we’re seeing signs of the last decadence before the fall of empire. Lassie, go home.

Next up: Cell phones for parakeets.

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