The rise of pet owners who consider themselves more as a “pet parent” rather than owner is being seen across America, but especially in Omaha. This trend has allowed locally owned “Pet Specialty” shops like Three Dog Bakery & Spaw, The Green Spot, Wag, Long Dog Fat Cat and others to thrive in this area. These shops offer designer foods, treats, gear and even spa services like painting their pet’s nails.
A new survey commissioned by Milo’s Kitchen Brand dog treats, reveals that 81 percent of Americans consider their dogs to be equal members of the family. Of those, 77 percent own up to talking about their pups as if they are a human family member.
Pets have become such an important part of the family dynamic that a majority consider their pets just as important as their actual children. The Milo’s Kitchen survey shows that 58 percent of pet owners are comfortable using nick names for themselves like “Mommy” and “Daddy” when talking about themselves in reference to their pets.
This idea of pet parenthood is supported by the fact that 77 percent of pet owners celebrate their pets birthdays as they would a human friend, and 10 percent of pet owners admit to celebrating Mother’s and Father Day with their pets. Pets have become so welcome in the family that many pet owners often share mealtimes with their pet.
Sadie Denker, UNO Student and owner of a 1-year-old Calico cat named Stella, says,”My cat is definitely considered one of the family. We actually have a sixth chair set up in the dining room just for Stella to sit in while we all eat diner. She is very spoiled. Whatever Stella wants, she gets.”
But what makes pets so special? For most people it is the companionship and closeness they feel to their family. Pets add that extra something to a family’s dynamic and can often bring the family together in the most needed of times.
Morgan Parriott, UNO Student and owner of a 3-year-old Boxer named Winston, and a 3-year-old Miniature Poodle named Finnley, says, “My dogs definitely bring the family closer, they’re always there for us when we need them. Even when I was younger and I had to move around from school to school, having my dogs always be that unchanging variable was really comforting. I can’t imagine not having a dog at home.”
Even when families live in separate homes, having get-togethers with their pets can be an impactful bonding experience. Andrea Labenz, UNO student and owner of an 8-month-old Australian Shepherd named Jax, says that her and her sisters, Lexi and Ashley, all bond over having play dates with their dogs.
“We really bond over spoiling our pets,” Labenz says. “In fact for my sister’s wedding we are all having our dogs taken to a pet spa to get groomed just like us. It’s a really nice one too, they have a doggie swimming pool and tvs for them, we really love any opportunity that we get to pamper our pets. Every time I go to the pet section of a store I always bring home a little toy for Jax.”
While pets don’t quite need the same attention as children, they can definitely be a handful. Owning a pet presents a lot of responsibilities and allows owners to learn a lot of important life skills.
“Since living on my own with two dogs I have learned a lot about responsibility,” Parriott says. “They have really taught me time management skills and commitment. I always have to make sure I have time to be at home with them and take care of their needs. It can be a lot of work at times, but it’s definitely worth it.”
“Jax can really be a lot to handle sometimes,” Labenz says. “He’s kind of like a furry kid but it’s not so bad because he’s so sweet. Every time I’m stressed he knows just how to bring my spirits up again, he is so human-like I don’t know how to explain it.”
Even with all the hard work that it takes to keep up with pets, almost all pet owners will say that it’s worth it. Pets share an unspoken bond and sense of loyalty that is unmatched. Maybe there really is a reason behind the saying “Man’s Best Friend”.