A Loving Link: Between Baby Boomers And Their Pets

A  Loving Link: Between Baby Boomers And Their Pets

Senior love dogs goldendoodleNine years ago, I was 53 years old with adult children living on their own, pursuing their chosen careers and making positive contributions to society. After more than two decades as a military spouse, I was ready to give up my human resources career and sow my seasoned oats. So what was the first thing I did?

I bought a puppy!

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted a pet. My childhood is void of memories with one because my parents weren’t “pet-friendly.” And during those Army years, my hands were full: deployments, permanent change-of-duty-station moves, new jobs and new communities. Maintaining normalcy in that environment, with our two-legged children, was about all I could handle, so a family pet would have to wait – after my 50s; after the children moved out; after my husband retired from the military. When “after” finally arrived, not once did I question taking on the role of a middle-aged puppy mom.

As a member of this iconic generation – adults born between 1946 and 1964 – I proudly accept how we have redesigned the culture of pet parenting. Known as the “generation of firsts” in many categories, we are once again the pioneers of the pet ownership explosion in this country. Did you know that baby boomers revolutionized an industry that now grosses more than $60 million a year in pet products?

We are the generation who, over time, elevated the status of the family pet. When we were growing up, dogs and cats lived in backyards and slept in outdoor doghouses. They ate table scraps and whatever crawled their way. Veterinarians and immunizations were reserved for the rich and famous. Our dogs ate grass and it seemed to cure just about everything.

Boomers have exchanged those old wooden shelters for corduroy-lined therapeutic pet mattresses and brought their furry friends inside.

We’ve renamed ourselves as well. Rarely do we openly refer to ourselves as “pet owners.” The deep emotional connection between us and our domestic animals has helped steer the idea that pet owners are more like parents. Names of endearment such as Pet Parent, Dog Mom and Fur Mom best describe how we see ourselves and others who have a pet in the home. I’m even eccentric enough to use a breed specific name – Doodle Mom. Our domestic animals are no longer “pets.” They are our fur babies, fur kids or simply our boys or girls. We relate to them as family members. They’re our children who happen to be hairier, fluffier and cuddlier and come with a tail.

To be honest, our evolution to how we are today has been a bit of a journey. At the tail end of World War 11, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the G.I Bill. Who knew the two key elements in this law (education and home loans) would radically impact our society even today.

After the war, because the legislation made it easier to pursue a higher level of education, household incomes increased and the zero down payment that went along with a VA loan encouraged many servicemen and servicewomen to buy homes in suburban communities where yards – perfect for pets – were common.

My husband’s military career took us through 13 moves in 27 years. After purchasing and closing on a home loan, I could not wait to place steps on our deck, build a fence and find a dog.

For many boomers, the decision to bring a pet into the home can stem from an overwhelming desire to parent again. For those (like myself ) with grown children, there is fulfillment in caring for something else. Those who chose years ago not to raise children can feel that same emotion to nurture and love another living creature.

Take 68-year-old Linda Hanf of Mount Pleasant:“When I was younger, I was busy selfishly taking care of myself, working two great jobs. After I received my first puppy as a present (thank goodness it worked out), my focus shifted to making sure I provided everything that puppy needed. The more I learned about her breed, the more I learned about others that needed rescuing. Needless to say, I am on my 11th fur kid and would have it no other way. They love you unconditionally. As therapy dogs, they bring happiness and joy to others, which makes me one proud Pomeranian momma.”

For the baby boomer generation, dogs have become the empty-nest fillers. We hovered over our children, and, now that they are grown and gone, we’ve elected to hover over our pets.

If you’ve ever spent quality time with a pet, you already know the positive impact on your mental and physical health is enormous. Your impulse to reward them and splurge on creature comforts can easily spin out of control.

Our dogs frequent spas, are driven to daycare, wear couture clothes and drink distilled water from electric water fountains. They are cared for by holistic veterinarians, bark-it-out to dog psychics, relax to the scents of essential oils and sleep in our beds.

Palate choices are endless – kibble and canned dog food are no longer the only games in town. Depending on what he or she enjoys nibbling on, you can order fresh, frozen, raw, air-dried or dehydrated.

We, the baby boomers of society, initiated this trend, which financial experts believe will continue to grow in the pet industry.

I believe it’s safe to say those baby boomers who either grew up with the constant companionship of a pet or, in my case, the dire desire for one, decided to kick it up a notch as adults. Cherished childhood memories or pet fantasies either begin or re-ignite in our golden years with the joy of a pet in our lives.

Perhaps this is why as adults we’ve embraced our dogs (and cats) not as pets but as members of the family.

There are days when I come home in the evenings with nothing left to give. Exhausted, I plop down in my family room – and one of my goldendoodles will crawl up next to me, and, in a matter of minutes, I’m revived, laughing and smiling. Instantly, I feel better both mentally and physically. It’s that feeling of pure joy; it’s everything I thought it would be; it’s something I choose not to live without.

By Cathy C. Bennett

No Bones About It: Dogs and Owners Give the Beach Two Paws Up

No Bones About It: Dogs and Owners Give the Beach Two Paws Up

Pups on Sullivan's Island, South Carolina Laws RulesWhether you plan to take your pup on a stroll through the business district to accompany you for lunch or for a run in the sand, there are a few things to consider to ensure that your outing is more smooth than “ruff.”

The town of Sullivan’s Island requires that all dogs, even those owned by visitors, have a valid Sullivan’s Island permit. Permits are available at Town Hall, or you can download an application packet at www.sullivansisland-sc. com. The website gives you all the details on the costs and requirements to get your furry friend licensed.

Once your leashed pup is legit, it’s time to have some fun. Beachcombing with your canine buddy can be a blast for both of you. Before you splash in the surf and romp in the sand, some proper planning can help to ensure that your pooch’s day at the beach goes swimmingly.

The American Kennel Club provided the following recommendations:

  • Always bring plenty of fresh water and offer it to your pup often. Discourage your dog from drinking salt water, which can cause “digestive disturbances.”
  • Whenever possible, provide a shady spot for your dog to seek some relief from the heat of the sun.
  • When applying sunscreen on yourself, don’t forget your canine companion. Dogs’ noses and ears are sensitive to the sun and need protection, too. The American Kennel Club recommends applying sunscreen to dogs 30 minutes prior to exposure and that you pay special attention to dogs with short hair, white fur and pink skin.
  • If the sand is too hot for your feet, it is definitely too hot for your dog. Keep an eye on your pet’s paws, since shells and other objects can be hidden in the sand.
  • Does your doggy paddle? Swimming in the ocean can be great fun for you and your dog. Be aware of strong currents and be careful not to overdo it. Dogs use different muscles for swimming and can tire quickly.
  • As every responsible pet owner knows, always clean up after your dog and dispose of waste properly.
  • t the end of your beach day, be sure to rinse your dog with fresh water. The salt and other minerals can damage his or her coat.

One thing’s for certain: After enjoying a day of sun, sea and sand, both owner and pup will probably return home “dog tired.”

By Tanja DePasse

Capturing Life in Dog Years A Day in the Life of a Pet Photographer

Capturing Life in Dog Years A Day in the Life of a Pet Photographer

Professional Dog Photography Mt. Pleasant, SC PetsPet photographer? Yes, it really is a thing! My days start like those of most other people – early to rise, coffee and tending to the dogs’ breakfast when the barking chorus of obviously starving canines begins at 7 a.m.

Then I head to my office for a day that may include administrative and marketing tasks and likely some editing. If it’s a Tuesday, I’ll be photographing adoptable dogs through my work with HeARTs Speak. A foster dog might be coming for photos for a rescue website, so I’ll reset my studio work space. Perhaps there’s a client planning my time. It may be an event day, and I know that in just a matter of hours, I’ll be swooning over puppies. Or maybe it’s a senior pet session and my heart will be melting as I document the incredibly special bond between an older dog and his or her people, always in the back of my mind remembering fondly the years I was blessed with my own senior pets.

Like many of you, I can’t see a dog on the street and not want to approach it. Our dogs even travel with us – by choice. I have not had an actual vacation without one or more dogs in tow since 2003. Yes, 15 years – because they are my world and I don’t feel whole without them.

And I know that when people commission pet photos, it is because their pets are their world, too. I respect and deeply appreciate that connection. Pet photography is different than family or wedding photography, for example, where a photographer may include the pet in a few shots. They have a different priority, even though they may take lovely photos of dogs for clients occasionally. A true pet session focuses on the pet and then incorporates the family to capture that aspect of their life, too. It’s physically demanding – I am usually on the ground, contorted in some way – it requires patience, good humor and a total comfort level working with animals that range from gregarious to shy and skittish. It’s truly meaningful work. I enter every session fully aware there will come a day when the only reminders of a pet’s earthly time will be memories and photos, and I always strive to ensure that the photos will stand as a legacy and bring comfort long after goodbyes are said.

It’s true when you find something you love, it will never feel like work. I often wonder what I would do if I couldn’t do this anymore, and I always come up with a blank thought bubble. This is who I am now, who I have become over the last decade in business. I work with families who want to document their pets’ lives; those suffering through the impending loss of a beloved pet; others starting out with a new puppy; or through volunteering with pets in shelters. This work fills my soul, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather do with my days.

My workday will eventually end, and I will spend my evening in the company of my very supportive husband and our two maniacal, loyal, affectionate, ridiculous Catahoula leopard dogs. I will rest my head at night knowing I have spent my day doing something I love and giving back, and, when morning comes, I’ll wake up grateful.

By Jeanne Taylor

All Creatures Great and Small St. Francis of Assisi Blesses our Pets

All Creatures Great and Small St. Francis of Assisi Blesses our Pets

Blessing Pets CopyEven if you’re not a religious person, you’re probably familiar with the iconic image of St. Francis, often found gracing gardens or natural areas as a statue of a robed man with birds, deer or other animals flocking to him. St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and ecology, has won the hearts of many, both inside and outside of the Catholic faith, and is a symbol of caring and compassion for all animals.

Francis, born in the 1100s, did not always lead a saintly lifestyle. He was born into wealth, and, even as a teenager, was known as a vain, rebellious partier and drinker. An aspiring knight with no combat experience, he fought on the losing side of a bitter war between Assisi and Perugia and was one of a few spared death, instead spending nearly a year imprisoned underground awaiting ransom money from his family. While a prisoner, he began having visions from God, and, upon his release in his early 20s, he returned a changed man. He followed God’s instructions, devoted himself to Christianity and moved to a radical life of extreme poverty at a time when the church and many of its leaders were wealthy.

He developed quite a following and was skilled in delivering sermons that appealed to commoners and even preached to animals. He viewed them as brothers and sisters, equal to humans, and he considered both humans and animals to be God’s creatures. He was known to pray often with flocks of birds or other animals along the roadsides, and even preached to a wolf who had been terrorizing a village, killing people and other animals, and who afterward lived peacefully in the village with the promise that the villagers would feed him regularly.

Today, St. Francis is remembered for the miracles God performed through him for the poor, the sick and animals.

The Feast of St. Francis of Assisi is celebrated each Oct. 4 by Catholics and people of varying religious backgrounds with a Blessing of the Animals. In Mount Pleasant, creatures great and small are brought to churches for the ceremonies, which impart God’s power of health, healing and life for the benefit of each animal.

The Blessing of the Animals reaches beyond the doors of each church and inspires many nonmembers to join in the ritual – animal lovers, pet owners, rescues, business owners and families look forward to the opportunity to support our furred, feathered and scaly friends.

Carol Linville, president and founder of Pet Helpers, participates in several Blessings of the Animals each year, both at a church and through shelter events.

“Yes, I believe in St. Francis,” Linville smiled. “And St. Anthony – the patron saint of missing things – because I pray for so many animals to find their way home, and St. Jude, the patron saint of miracles, because these animals need miracles. I’m not even Catholic; I just love the saints. They are listening.”

In January, eighth graders Matthew Mutter and Simms Hoyt, students at Christ Our King, arranged a special Blessing of the Animals for a service project at Pet Helpers. Before the ceremony, the two worked for hours knotting flannel for blankets and making homemade toys for the adoption bags they gave to Pet Helpers. They also made and distributed little cards to all the homerooms at school, asking each student from kindergarten through fifth grade to write their name on the card and say the prayer for the animals’ adoptions. They gave the basket – holding more than 600 prayer cards – to Pet Helpers as well.

The boys were particularly drawn to Pet Helpers because it is a no-kill shelter, which aligns with the Church’s belief in the sanctity of life. In a small, short ceremony with a handful of students and families, Pet Helpers’ staff and a few members of the media, Christ Our King’s Deacon Bob Boackle read from the Order for the Blessing of Animals. He blessed the participants before walking through the shelter, sprinkling holy water with an aspergillum throughout the kennels and animal areas before stepping outside and making a final sign of the cross to conclude the ceremony.

“I wanted to do something with animals and for them that would show how much I appreciate all that they do for us,” said Hoyt. “They make us better people. I hope this blessing helps all the animals find a home with love.”

By Anne Toole