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Pampering pooches

Local owners aren't alone in spending money on accessories for pets

Local owners aren't alone in spending money on accessories for pets

November 07, 2008|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

There used to be time when the saying "a dog's life" wasn't meant to be a compliment.

But for dogs like Jasmine "Jazzy" Southern Toy, the 2-year-old toy rat terrier of Evie and John Cook of Waynesboro, Pa., a dog's life means pampering - and lots of it.

Evie says she and her husband made a special trip to North Carolina to pick up Jazzy after seeing a photo sent by Jazzy's breeder.

"It was just love at first sight," Evie says.

And, it seems, it was just the same for Jazzy.

Evie and John say she's a constant companion when they're in their home. The pup gives back as much love as they give her.

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"We don't have any small children at home, so we just spoil her," says Evie, who has two sons and a granddaughter.

The Cooks aren't alone when it comes to spending money on their pets. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), consumers spent more than $41 billion on their pets in 2007. That included food, medical and veterinary care, pet insurance, and other goods and services.

In February 2008, the APPA projected that in 2008 owners would spend more than $43.4 billion.

The APPA reported that baby boomers were fueling the trend, because they are treating pets like members of the family or using pets to fill a void for empty-nesters.

And their love for their doggies has spurred a whole new industry. Owners can purchase monogrammed sweaters, personalized food and water bowls and digitized collar tags. Where once dog sweaters could only be found in specialized pet shops, discount stores devote entire aisles to pet-related products.

Euromonitor International, which tracks sales of pet food and accessories but not the cost of the animals, training and other expenses, estimated pet owners spent $23.9 billion this year, the Associated Press reported.

Special beds, special car seat

For Jazzy, spoiling goes beyond what type of dog food she eats. She has a special dog bed that sits between two chairs in their sun room. It contains a soft blanket on which Jazzy can lay. She also has another bed in the Cooks' own bedroom and upstairs in Evie's painting area.

For special holidays, such as Halloween, Jazzy gets dressed up in a witch's hat and cape. While Evie demonstrates by dressing up Jazzy, the terrier raises her head and doesn't move an inch while the hat is placed on her.

Like most dogs, Jazzy is always up for a ride in the car. When the Cooks go, they make sure to first place Jazzy in a harness before strapping her into a specially designed car seat for dogs. Evie says it's for Jazzy's own safety that she's strapped to her pink car seat because she's so small.

As John shows the harness, Jazzy looks up to him with ears perked. "She thinks she's going for a ride," he says with a laugh.

When it's time to go out for a walk, especially when the temperatures start to drop, Jazzy has her own special coat. Evie designed and made the coats, which come in an array of patterns and colors, including a pink polka-dotted version. Jazzy has five coats in different designs.

And just like when Evie dresses Jazzy her in the Halloween outfit, the dog waits patiently as Evie bundles her up in the jacket.

Treats for Jazzy come in the form of homemade carob bits, something that similar to chocolate but dog friendly. Jazzy also likes chicken-flavored rawhide strips that she has once day.

A part of the family

John says Jazzy tries to do her part. When he goes out to check the mail, Jazzy comes along. "And she'll try to carry the mail. But she can't carry in the newspaper, it's too heavy for her," he said.

"She just brightens our life so much. She just brings so much joy and laughter," Evie says.

John thinks that there's more inside their dog than people realize. "It's scary how much she seems to understand us," he says.

Beth Overcash of Big Pool knows just how the Cooks feel when pampering their dog. Overcash is the proud owner of 1-year-old Rosie Pickles, a Shih Tzu-Chihuahua mixed breed.

"She's just spoiled," Overcash says of her pooch.

One of things Overcash says Rosie Pickles enjoys is playing dress up. "I gotta be a stage mother," she says with a laugh.

For Halloween, Overcash dressed Rosie Pickles in a Tinkerbell outfit.

"She seems to love it," Overcash says. "Well, she just loves attention. And when she gets dressed up, she seems to get more attention."

In addition to her outfits, Rosie Pickles also has a special necklace. It's sequined with a rose on it. Overcash says because Rosie has gotten bigger, she doesn't wear it as often. "But she never seemed to mind it," she says.

Whether Rosie Pickles doesn't like the dress up, she's kept her yap shut. "She's so sweet. She's just the friendliest, happiest dog I've ever seen," she says.

And, Overcash points out, "You can't dress cats up." She tried once.

Her owner's pampering has also brought out the flirtatious side of Rosie Pickles. "She loves men and for some reason men seem to love her," she says.

Overcash says Rosie Pickles has been more than a pet. "I feel she's a part of the family. She's given so much to me," she says.

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