Invasion of the Fuzzy Creatures

By Diana Pesantez • Jun 11th, 2013 • Category: Features

By Diana Pesantez and Seheon Oh

If there is any doubt whether pets are treated like humans, the debate should be settled by Neuticles. Neuticles is a patented testicular implant designed for dogs that sells for up to $919 a pair. It is the latest craze in an effort to give pets an absolute human treatment. Neuticles allows pets to retain their natural look and gives a sort of self-esteem. Neuticles also aids the pet’s owner with the trauma associated with altering.

“It’s a silly notion, this need for testicular implants,” says Jacqueline Yunga, a 28-year-old veterinarian medicine student. Yunga is amazed by the diversifying world of pet industry. “I get it if Lance Armstrong wants one to round out his pair after losing one to cancer. I even get it when women choose to augment their breast size a cup or two. But for your dog? Seriously?”

Americans now spend $41 billion a year on their pets and are expected to exceed the $52 billion mark within the next two years, according to Packaged Facts, a pet industry research firm.

There are two ways to view the modern American obsession with pets, says Katrina Krings, a dog whisperer in the New York City area addressing everything from basic training to aggression problems. “One is that it is a healthy manifestation of affection for all of God’s creatures,” she says. “The other is that it is a sign of a lonely generation of men and women, desperate to nurture a creature that gives them the love that is not forthcoming from more traditional sources.”

Krings often asks the most obsessive pet owners why they are so attached to their pets and usually hears the same response. The pet gives them more love than any person: a spouse, a sibling, and even parents. “The dog loves you just the way you are,” she says. “But the boyfriend tells you that your butt looks fat and you should go to the gym. Your husband ogles other women, but the cat never cheats.”

Mike Lustig is a talented trainer who has superb communication skills with dogs and their people. He assures his customers that he channels the dogs’ feelings through the way they act with him. When it comes to our obsession with these four-legged creatures, he says, “When I come home after a long day’s work, my wife is usually on the phone and the kids are watching TV. Almost no one even notices that I walked through the door. But Laraby, my golden retriever, goes nuts.” Lustig knows that every day when he gets home from work, Laraby will run up to him and almost knock him down. “It’s like he’s been the waiting the whole day for me. And it makes me feel incredibly special. My wife complains that I watch too much TV. But the dog just cuddles up next to me and let me be,” he says.

Dr. Carlos Diaz, a veterinarian of 15 years and a dog lover, says that dogs are the last remaining living creatures in our vicinity who generally have no problem with showing their affection to humans. He says that with the pooch’s love, you feel special all over again.

“Less so can they provide the intimate conversation, sound advice, or gentle rebuke of a healthy and purposeful relationship,” Diaz adds. “No matter, in this lonely age we’ll take what we can get.”

Yana Syrkin is the founder of Fifi and Romeo, an upscale boutique dedicated to creating pet-friendly fashion and jewelry. “There is no limit to what an owner would do for a pet,” she says. “Dogs and cats are the greatest things on earth.” Syrkin finds passion and happiness from contributing to the pet industry, especially when she serves customers. “The face of joy and excitement I see in pet owners’ faces when they find an article of clothing or jewelry for their pet is priceless,” she says.

Pet trends have taught the world that there is absolutely no limit to what people will do or buy for their fuzzy loved ones. A variety of human products have even been redesigned to appeal pet owners for their pets. Such products include fashion accessories like bejeweled collars, and you can even buy matching outfits for both owners and pets.

“People are now wanting to reward their pets in human terms,” says Sam Abdrabouh, the owner of Wespawpets in Sunnyside, Queens. His store features exactly the type of rewards he speaks of.  There is a specific section dedicated to dogs and cats, including a birthday party section. The products include: birthday cakes, cupcakes, hats, hairpins, and gift bags. “People feel extreme satisfaction in giving the absolute best to their pet,” he says.

For instance, Jorge Bendersky became a famous dog stylist. Bendersky says he has an intuition of “what dog owners what.” Recently, Bendersky performed multiple dog tattoos, which uses a combination of canine-safe glue and concealed color inks that are mixed with glitter and rhinestones. “Dogs are like humans, and when they accessorize they get attention. A pink dog does not know it’s a pink, but when people are smiling and taking pictures, it gets attention. So, a dog likes to get tattoos,” he said in an interview with DNAinfo New York.

Robert Maher, the owner of District Dog in Brooklyn, New York, offers a variety of unique toys, treats, and healthy organic pet food. Maher’s specialty is pet health counseling; he receives hundreds of questions a day asking for pet health advice. “I’ve had people call, email, and text me all asking what kind of food a pet on a diet should have,” he says.

Throughout Maher’s store there are pictures of a variety of pet friendly events that his customers have thrown for dogs and cats, such as birthday parties, weddings, and graduations. “The way that people treat their pets is sometimes better than the way they treat their non-fuzzy children,” he says.

Some dog owners even worry about their pets’ mental health.

Diana Beckman, a dog behavior specialist and consultant – otherwise known as a dog psychologist – is continually amazed by how one can find so many controversies, obsessions and trends in our society that are associated with pets.

Beckman’s dog psychology training tool is designed to build owner confidence, which increases the dog’s trust in the owner; it repairs the human-to-dog bond and as a result, clarifies communication between dog and owner. Beckman said that the hardest part of her job is dealing with depressed dogs, as it is extremely difficult to communicate with them.

“Depressed dogs who have no motivation to do anything are the toughest kind to deal with,” she says. “It is almost as if everything I say goes in one ear and out the other.” adds that pet owners have to learn how to communicate their thoughts, feelings, needs and desires with their pets to ensure the best possible relationship between pet and owner. “If we want a great relationship with our dog, then we must take the time to learn their language,” she says.

In the United States, people leave fortunes to their pets, groom them extravagantly, and even buy them plane tickets for vacation. Pet medications are also flying off pharmacy shelves, from Aniprly, used to enhance memory, to Zoloft, used to ward off anxiety.

For two years the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has been promoting their campaign for dog licensing, using the slogan, “Is your dog a REAL NEW YORKER?”

Ken Jackson, a Chelsea resident who has a four-year-old border collie named Chestnut, gives a deeper meaning to licensing his dog. “As a dog owner, I did not hesitate to register my dog with the City of New York,” he says. “Dogs are just like humans; the difference is they communicate in a different language. Registering my dog will allow police to track it when it gets lost and it allows for prompt updates on my animal’s health and vaccine record. Licensing my dog makes her official and a part of my life. It brings us closer together.”

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