BOSTON (CBS) — ‘Pet-nation’ is not far off the mark when you look at animal statistics in the United States.
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We have the world’s largest dog and cat populations, and pets outnumber people by 28 million. Pet ownership is booming, and Deborah Kochevar, Dean of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in Grafton says the numbers only begin to tell the story.
Listen: Pet Perspectives Part 1 With Mary Blake
“We see ownership across all ranks. It’s a $52 billion industry in this country, and a huge percentage of households, over 60 percent own an animal, I think specifically, dogs,” says Kochevar.
Kochevar coordinates HAI, human-animal interaction, coursework at Tufts. She notes there are differences regionally.
“You don’t see stray dogs in Massachusetts, but you do in Texas,” she says.
Kochevar also says our approach to animals has changed dramatically over the past two centuries.
“Whether it was agricultural production, or carriage horses in the cities, animals were used in a much more utilitarian fashion. Throughout that time, people also have had deeper relationships with their animals. I do think we have evolved now into an emphasis on the human animal bond with companion animals that has taken us to new levels,” says Kochevar.
Tara Linehan is general manager of the Pooch Hotel, which is located along the Mass. Pike in Newton. She has a ready answer when people ask her about the current emphasis on pet care. “
Twenty years ago, we had four kids and one dog. Now, we have one or two kids and two or three dogs. The economy has changed. Our focus on life has changed. Everybody works two or three jobs now. So, when you can pamper yourself, you do it,” Linehan explains.
She says that pampering includes people’s pets, and adds the Pooch Hotel is there to accommodate them.
Listen: Pet Perspectives Part 2 With Mary Blake
“The Pooch Hotel has 14 presidential suites.
“The presidential suite is for your couch dog, ” she says and continues. “It’s a daybed for them. The suite has Dog TV ,which is dog dedicated programming, as well as web access for owners when they’re traveling.”
Other amenities at the Pooch Hotel include blueberry facials, mud baths and ‘pawdicures’.
“We really do have such a different idea here and it really does work. The dogs are happy, the staff is happy, our customers are really happy with it, and it’s really fun because at the end of the day, we get to play with dogs all day,” she says.
Another business that caters to pets and their owners in a fun way is the Polka Dog Bakery in South Boston and Jamaica Plain.
“It is a sort of treat boutique for dogs,” explains Assistant Manager Rachel Schlow at the JP location.
Melissa King was recently invited to set up shop in the window of Polka Dog Bakery. She calls her business Pawblo Picasso Pet Portraits.
“It started as just a little side job, and it’s grown into a full-time job, King says.
“There are a lot of other pet artists out there. It’s crazy, the demand. People just love their pets,” she says with a laugh.
King has done over 300 pet paintings in the last two years.
“I’ve done paintings of cats, I’ve done paintings of a chinchilla, some reptiles, I’ve done a rooster, I’m open to any animal,” she says.
Kelly Fitzsimmons Photography, which focuses on infants, has recently branched out to include pet photography.
Fitzsimmons, who lives in Harvard, says it just makes sense.
“Pets are just as much a part of the family as their children,” she says.
She has also learned how to get a good shot.
“Well, most dogs at least, will do anything for a hot dog,” she said with a laugh.