I am one of those lucky people who grew up and almost always had a dog, along with other animals, in my life. When I was eighteen months old, my parents bought a small farm and even after my parents’ divorce, my dad kept it and after a few years of living in town with my mom, my sister and I returned to the farm to live with my dad. I could write for days about how lucky I was to have the experience of living there, but that’s not really the point of today’s blog post. Today, I’m talking about how dogs seem to be everyone’s best friend these days.
Life on a farm isn’t always easy for dogs. We had Rex, Snoopy, Tag, Star, Duke, Speck and Dottie as farm dogs growing up. A few of them were hit by cars and died early, and Star was killed by some neighbor’s dogs one day while my dad was away at work. They were working dogs in the sense that they lived outside and helped us with livestock and protecting the farm. Most nights, they slept outside in dog houses unless the weather got really bad and then they came inside to sleep in the closed in front porch. Nobody thought anything about that, in fact, most dogs then lived outside, even if they lived in town. It was just how things were. My sister and I were pretty much outdoors all the time with them anyway, unless we were inside for dinner, homework or because the weather outside was bad.
As adults, the first dog Mr. Taleteller and I had was a Greyhound named Treat. Life with Treat was completely different. She lived in the house, took daily walks with us, traveled the country in style, had collars for every holiday and special occasion that you can imagine and lived a very cushy life. Part of the reason for the transition was that Greyhounds are much different from the Border Collies and Australian Shepherds that I grew up with. They don’t have the body fat to live outside comfortably in the Midwest. Another reason was that we loved having her company and wanted her inside with us. At that time, a lot of people were starting to keep dogs in the house, and while we weren’t that unusual, it wasn’t unheard of for dogs to be outdoors, either.
Now, I rarely see dogs who live outdoors all the time. People may let them outside into fenced yards for a while, but the dogs are usually in the house with them when they are at home. I don’t know many at all that sleep outside anymore at all. It’s just a large shift in thinking and our culture. I was reading a study this week that said that Baby Boomers who prefer dogs for companionship is almost equal to humans who prefer other humans for companionship. 36.9% of Baby Boomers preferred canine companionship compared to 37.8% who prefer humans for companionship. The same study also noted that Millennials show a much higher preference for dogs. 40.7% of Millennials preferred canine companionship while 31.9% who said they preferred human companionship. That’s right, more of them would rather spend time with their dogs than with other humans.
I think this is interesting because I predict the trend is bringing about some changes. I know that in Europe, dogs are accepted in a lot more places than they are here in the US. We’re already seeing more access for dogs in certain places like stores. Workplaces are allowing employees to bring pets to work, especially in the tech industry, which tends to have a high Millennial demographic working for them. Some are even offering “pawternity leave” for employees who adopt a new pet. People are traveling more with pets and more hotel chains are offering not only pet access, but pet amenities like beds, treats and turn out services. We have dog parks now, something that didn’t even exist twenty years ago.
I think it’s pretty exciting to see the new places where dogs are allowed to go now. My hope is that people will exercise good judgement with where and when to take their dogs so that they don’t ruin it for everyone. The backlash we’re seeing in the travel industry is a good example of that. It’s not surprising to me to see that pets are rising in popularity, family status and as confidantes for all of us. They haven’t been called man’s best friend for years for no reason. They keep our secrets, don’t judge us and are always happy to see us return. In any event, I think it’s really interesting to see where we’ve been and where we’re going with the dogs in our lives.