Boomers may be feeling a bit of ye olde
empty nest syndrome
and 20-somethings may be waiting longer to marry, but that
doesn’t mean that either group is skipping out on having children
by the litter. Forget Junior. Today’s spoiled rotten housemates are
the pets. Gizmo, Charlotte and Jason Amdur’s pet seven-pound
shitzu, is king of the house.
Boomers may be feeling a bit of ye olde “empty nest syndrome” and 20-somethings may be waiting longer to marry, but that doesn’t mean that either group is skipping out on having children by the litter. Forget Junior. Today’s spoiled rotten housemates are the pets. Gizmo, Charlotte and Jason Amdur’s pet seven-pound shitzu, is king of the house.
Charlotte knew she had to have the pet when her son brought him over, an eight-week-old bundle of attitude that didn’t even weigh two pounds and couldn’t get traction on the kitchen floor.
“He’s been the joy of our life,” said Charlotte, a resident of Hollister. “It’s amazing how much pleasure you can get from a little companion like a dog.”
Gizmo has his own motorcycle goggles for short rides on Jason’s Harley and a throne in the couple’s car, which allows him to lay down while enjoying the view out of the window. The little dog also sleeps between his owners, has a wardrobe of hats and scarves, and parties like a big kid.
“Our neighbors have little dogs, too,” said Charlotte. “Last year, we had a little Christmas dog party. All of these women in the neighborhood at Ridgemark got together with their little dogs. There were eight of us and what’s really funny is the two women that live next door to us have cats, so the cats are in there playing with all these dogs.”
Gizmo’s life is not so rare among his four-legged friends these days. He has a weekly date at the groomer’s so that he doesn’t smell. Other owners may not always come in as often, but most dogs come in for regular washings, ear cleanings, toenail clippings and gland drainage.
“A lot of the dogs like coming in because they get more love at home when they don’t stink,” said Coleen Coronado, new owner of Country Groomers in Hollister. “They prance around and show off when they’re done.”
Plenty of dogs are skittish of the groomer’s office. Often it’s noisy and filled with other animals, and some of them just don’t like getting wet, but Coronado calms them with hugs, pets and baby talk.
“It sounds strange, but it works the best,” she said. “A lot of times we probably sound crazy.”
Beyond baths, owners with plenty of disposable income, living in a world filled with luxurious amenities, ask why not throw a few Fido’s way? That could be why some dogs live life in style with their own teams of therapists, acupuncturists, nutritional counselors, swim instructors and masseuses. The fortunate few are even more spoiled. Jazzy, New York Post Columnist Cindy Adams’ dog, got a red mink coat for his last birthday, a snazzy fete attended by 20 other members of the city’s canine couture set.
While local pooches may not strut their stuff in anything other than built-in fur, it doesn’t mean they can’t be spoiled at home.
From rhinestone collars and satin dog carriers to custom-made pet beds and, yes, doggie cologne, every mutt can live out its “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.”
Happy Dog, an Aromas-based company specializing in cook-it-yourself dog food mixes, guarantees their product to be human-grade organic chow.
Gizmo doesn’t get that, though the Amdurs are very careful with his diet.
“Being so small, we have to be very careful with his stomach,” said Charlotte. “He gets snacks, but it’s mostly things like a carrot or a piece of chicken. He’s very gentle with my granddaughter. She’s two and when I’m changing her diaper he’ll go right up to her and touch her face. I think maybe it’s because she shares her Cheerios with him all the time.”
About the only thing she won’t share with Gizmo is her blanket. Well, he won’t share it with her.
“He has a blankie, a little baby blankie that he confiscated from my granddaughter and that he drags all over the house,” said Charlotte.
Just remember to spoil pets within reason, said Amber Settle, owner of The Pet Palace in Gilroy.
“People tend to do what’s called anthropomorphizing,” said Settle, referring to the tendency of owners to project human emotions onto animals who may not share those thought patterns. “There are a lot of people who say things like, ‘He knows that if he gets into the trash when I’m gone, he’s in trouble.’
“Their associative abilities and their drive, the motivation behind their actions, is animal. They’re not kids. They’re not human like us.”
Settle said she sees cases of anthropomorphism in plenty of her customers, from couples who don’t want to spay their cat because “she should have the experience of (giving) birth” to owners who constantly change pet foods because they think the animal is “bored” or don’t properly secure their animals in the beds of pickup trucks or the back seats of cars because the animals like the feel of the wind in their face.
“A lot of times people overstimulate their dog,” said Settle. “She’s being carried everywhere, into all of these strange and noisy situations. Or say you have that litter of puppies and she’s getting passed around like a hot tamale or feeling the hard end of a leash from children who may not know better. That’s traumatizing.”
Still, of all the harms an owner can inflict on their pet, the bond of attachment can be the most painful, said Settle.
“Some people just have too many pets and they can’t take care of them properly,” said Settle. “They love their pets and won’t get rid of them come hell or high water, so they’ll stick it out since they made this promise to the animal.
They might not have the money to do what needs to be done through a veterinarian or they’re not willing to redistribute the funds that the dog will need, and that’s unfair.”
Settle recommends researching a dog before purchasing any breed, and asking tough questions about the costs of ownership, pet maintenance, safety and care.
Like any relationship, once that process is complete, it may not always be fun, but caring for the animal will be your responsibility.
The real way to spoil a dog is to give them as much thought as they deserve, said Settle, spoiling your animal the way you would spoil yourself, with plenty of face time and adoration, an active participation in their interests and an eye for their well-being.
“Kind of take a deep breath and go through the inconveniences,” Settle said.
“Even though, gosh, you have to clean their ears constantly, wouldn’t you do that for yourself?”
Now that’s treatment that will get you a paws-up vote from every pet.