Baby Boomers & Pets: Can You Love Them as Much as a Child


Long in the tooth, owners search for novel approaches to care for their aging “babies.”

With contributions from Amanda Daniels Copley News Service

Wallie climbed onto the platform at the Dippity Dog wearing her life jacket, and then she turned her head as if to say, “I’m ready.” The elderly Labrador was lowered into the comfortable and familiar warm pool after a button was pressed, followed by the whirring of a motor. She began paddling her laps in a neat line, taking care not to annoy the two Burmese mountain dogs that were exercising nearby.

Wallie works out at this one-of-a-kind backyard pool twice a week, takes a total of 14 medications every day, and, due to his incontinence, changes into a diaper every night. Her owner, Barbara Beck, is of the opinion that there should be no reason to put a dog to sleep due to old age. To enhance the quality of life of her black Lab, who is now 11 years old, she is willing to do anything and pay any amount of money.

Beck stated, “It’s possible that I’ll develop incontinence someday.” “I wouldn’t want somebody to look down on me just because of it,” she said.

Some people might refer to Beck, who is 51 years old, as a donk, which is an acronym that stands for “dog fanatic, no kids.” Donks are known to shower their pets with every imaginable amenity that money can buy, including but not limited to intelligence-boosting toys, dental braces, orthopedic beds (for pets with bad backs), sweaters and T-shirts, sun hats, shoes to protect their paws, Halloween costumes (angels, princesses, and hot dogs are favorites), birthday cakes, and carts that resemble wheelchairs.

But above all else, they do whatever it takes to make sure their animals live as long as possible. The American Veterinary Medical Association has conducted studies that demonstrate pet owners are spending more money (the increase was 38 percent for dog owners from 1996 to 2001) and their pets are living longer (nearly 17 percent of cats were 11 years or older in 2001, compared with 13 percent in 1997).

According to the findings of its surveys, the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association discovered a similar trend. The most illuminating statistic is that 83 percent of pet owners refer to themselves as either “Mommy” or “Daddy.”

FOREVER YOUNG

If pets are seen as children, whether consciously or unconsciously, then they are children who may age but will never mature. Lorri Greene, a psychologist, believes that being permanently dependent on another person creates a special bond.

The unwavering devotion and love that pets give their owners in exchange for being coddled is a potent force.

Greene, who is now 55 years old, has been leading support groups for people who have lost pets for the past 20 years. During that time, she has witnessed a wide variety of relationships between pet owners and their animals.

According to Greene, “I know people who have taken money out of their house.” “Even though the animal passed away despite the man’s donation of $10,000, he does not feel any regret.”

Greene does not feel any remorse regarding the yearly expenditure of one thousand dollars on her two tabbies, Tara, who is 18, and Bosco, who is 11.

The bonds she shares with her cats are entirely unique to those she shares with her husband and daughter, as well as with her friends. In return for this proximity, she is granted access to regular check-ups for both Tara and Bosco. A blood test is performed on Tara once every six months, and she also takes a pill every day to keep her thyroid in check. According to Greene, she suffers from irritable bowel syndrome and is prone to anxiety; consequently, she must consume a specialized dry food diet.

Greene leads a healthy lifestyle and reports that she is more knowledgeable than she has ever been about preventive medicine. But despite this, she was more willing to take her cats to the veterinarian than she was to visit a doctor for herself.

According to Cliff Matsuda, a veterinarian and an administrator at Animal ER of San Diego, an emergency care clinic, this is not an unusual occurrence. A significant portion of the people he encounters “would do anything for their pets, just like they would for kids.”

Matsuda now performs procedures on animals that were previously unheard of, such as cardiac and abdominal ultrasounds, endoscopy and colonoscopy, blood and plasma transfusions, kidney replacements for cats, hip replacements in dogs, and cardiac pacemakers. All of these procedures are considered to be fairly routine.

Matsuda recalled that when he first started his career as a veterinarian 20 years ago, a dog that was struck by a car in the middle of the night was almost certainly killed.

It is now equipped with the same level of medical support that a human would have at their disposal.

The same is true in the case of rattlesnake bites, which are an everyday emergency during the summer. A dog might not have made it through a poisonous bite not too long ago. Now, at a cost of up to one thousand dollars per day, it is able to obtain medication that could save its life whenever it needs it.

Matsuda is quoted as saying, “Word gets out that you can do all these things to animals,” and as a result, “more and more people will do them.”

Which is what has led to the success of Trish Penick’s practice, who is in charge of the water rehabilitation sessions that Wallie participates in. In the year 2014, she was working as a human physical therapist, a field in which she had already accumulated 15 years of experience.

She explained, “I just found that the animals needed me more.” “I just found that.”

According to what she said, there has never been a shortage of customers at Penick. She runs a rehabilitation program for animals, during which canines participate in activities like stretching, electric stimulation, massage, and swimming in the same way that people do.

Penick estimates that approximately eighty percent of her customers are baby boomers; however, she believes that the availability of time, rather than financial resources, is the primary factor in determining whether or not they give their pets specialized care.

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