Scholarly article on topic 'Can we live without a dog? Consumption life cycles in dog–owner relationships'

Can we live without a dog? Consumption life cycles in dog–owner relationships Academic research paper on "History and archaeology"

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Journal of Business Research
OECD Field of science
{"Dog–owner relationship" / "Dog ownership" / "Pet-related products"}

Abstract of research paper on History and archaeology, author of scientific article — Tony Ellson

Abstract This article uses an observational study of dog ownership to explicate understanding of consumer behavior in the marketing of pet and pet-related products. A close examination of the relationship between dog and dog owner reveals more than metaphorical parallels in consumer behavior. Dog ownership reveals a reciprocal altruism that prohibitive restrictions support. These restrictions are protective and punitive. The values and beliefs of the dog owner underpin these restrictions. The dependency on primitive cognitive functions within the domestic environment enables the dog owner to internalize an ideal through the relationship with the pet. This internalization explicates the need for businesses to support pet and pet-related products by core values rather than slogans and glossy programs to complement the dog owner's view of the relationship with their dog.

Academic research paper on topic "Can we live without a dog? Consumption life cycles in dog–owner relationships"

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Journal of Business Research 61 (2008) 565 - 573

Can we live without a dog? Consumption life cycles in dog-owner relationships

Tony Ellson *

Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Aberconway Building, Colum Drive, Cardiff CF10 3EU Wales, UK


This article uses an observational study of dog ownership to explicate understanding of consumer behavior in the marketing of pet and pet-related products. A close examination of the relationship between dog and dog owner reveals more than metaphorical parallels in consumer behavior. Dog ownership reveals a reciprocal altruism that prohibitive restrictions support. These restrictions are protective and punitive. The values and beliefs of the dog owner underpin these restrictions. The dependency on primitive cognitive functions within the domestic environment enables the dog owner to internalize an ideal through the relationship with the pet. This internalization explicates the need for businesses to support pet and pet-related products by core values rather than slogans and glossy programs to complement the dog owner's view of the relationship with their dog. © 2007 Published by Elsevier Inc.

Keywords: Dog-owner relationship; Dog ownership; Pet-related products

1. Introduction

The relationship between the dog as a pet and the dog owner lacks any obvious mutualism or symbiosis. At first sight the relationship seems to reflect lifestyle, status, aspiration, personal hope, and perhaps even fantasy. A more reflective look at the relationship reveals a biological sense of reciprocal altruism between dog and dog owner. Behaviors of reciprocal altruism include mutual recognition, repeated interaction, the conferring of benefit at small cost, memory of favors, and resultant reciprocation (Pinker, 2002). The dog can be characterized as a heteronomous mimesis because the dog is a product of the dog owner's internalization of values and expectations of an idealized relationship.

The commentary, "humans are the only animals that do not live in the real world ... we live in created worlds of culture", (Spradley, 1975: 6) suggests that observation of dog ownership is likely to inform something beyond usual studies of consumer behavior. The role of dog ownership is physical, biological, imaginary, and human. The behavior of humans in the context of dog ownership is complex. The status of the relationship

* Tel.: +44 29 2087 4000; fax: +44 29 2087 4419. E-mail address:

0148-2963/$ - see front matter © 2007 Published by Elsevier Inc. doi:10.1016/j.jbusres.2007.07.011

between dog and human becomes more confused by terminology. Ownership implies dominion, mastery or title of the dog; companionship suggests a more convivial camaraderie or comradeship; relationship invokes possibilities of affinity, dependency, and possibly, complementary reciprocity. Observations of metaphoric relationships with pets (Belk, 1996) and personal introspection (Holbrook, 1996) and the use of allegorical, symbolic or parabolic storytelling are a means of experience and a method of empowerment (Denzin, 2003). The semantic confusion of these titular aspects of dog and human relationships has parallels with familiar and often interchangeable corporate confusions over words such as client, customer, consumer, shopper, buyer, purchaser, and vendee to name a few.

Kuhn (1972:109) suggests "shifting emphasis from cognitive to the normative functions of paradigms . enlarge our understanding of the ways in which paradigms give form to the scientific life" to avoid the constitutive nature of the research activity. The observation of dog and human behavior is augmentative rather than constitutive because the dog owner participates in a heuristic process that provides "moments of meaning, understanding, and discovery" (Moustakis, 1990: 22). These moments break away from theoretical bases that feed an appetite for the traditions of a particular community of practice by seeking wider plurality and understanding in the context of a

narrative. A community that champions and promotes an existing methodological paradigm, and demands a "right" answer, seeks consonance in the known rather than "to probe readers to re-examine the taken-for-granted assumptions that underly their work" (Golden-Biddle and Locke, 1993: 595). The use of a derivative approach embracing the term ethography through the combination of techniques from ethology and ethnography in the context of animal consumption is thoroughly rehearsed by Morris "The Cat" Holbrook (1997).

A pattern of behavior or social action gives form to culture (Geertz, 1973). An insistence on the depersonalization of arguments through the use of third person and passive voice is supposed to "lend an aura of "objectivity" and "consistency" to the research account" (Smircich and Stubbart, 1985: 728). A quantitative approach can be considered "devoid of emotion, heavy as granite" (Levi, 1990:71) sometimes inviting defensive responses, demands for a "right" answer, and empirical generalizations in an effort to make sense (Becker, 1998). This article uses stories and personal reflections of dog ownership as a heuristic process to seek "moments of meaning, understanding, and discovery" (Moustakis, 1990: 22), and uses writing as "a private way to capture and give concrete form to sometimes too-elusive ideas" (Wolcott, 1991: 22). This approach undoubtedly has problems because of a potential for "compulsive extroversion of interiority" (Clough, 1992: 63) and writing "the self into the text" (Billig, 1994: 326) is a subjective representation of reality that lacks the ability to raise theories and understanding.

The assertion that, "there is no substitute for experience, none at all," (Maslow, 1966: 45) is the imprimatur to a journey of discovery and revelation. The constitutive nature of the research activity can be avoided by "shifting emphasis from cognitive to the normative functions of paradigms ... enlarge our understanding of the ways in which paradigms give form to the scientific life" (Kuhn, 1972: 109). Personal experience and self-reflection expressed through stories, anecdotes, vignettes, and moments of epiphany are perhaps "the ultimate form of participant observation" (Holbrook, 1995,1996:152)andamethodto "bringthe self to the field ... create the self in the field" (Reinharz, 1997: 3). Consumer research assisted by Subjective Personal Introspection (SPI) enables the reader to share lived experiences (Holbrook, 1996) because "if we cannot see the situations we look at, we will have nothing to say about them" (Eisner, 2001:144).

The multivariate nature of observation and narrative is a foil to two dimensional topographical envisioning of data that avoids the inconclusive and endless flatlands of some empirical studies (acknowledgements to Tufte, 1990: 12). This approach may be provocative or persuasive (Wolcott, 1994: 369), it may attract a variety of encampments around different totem poles (Van Maanen, 1995), and yet surely some consolation occurs in narrative as, "it has always been the paramount function of myth: to find shape, a form, in the turmoil of human experience" (Eco, 1995: 87). After all, even the suggestion of learning from animal companionship, let alone experiential and participative narrative, is a step too far for some!

First, this article provides an opportunity to explore the interaction between dog and human using an observational and participatory storytelling approach. Secondly, the paper eluci-

dates the role and mechanism of the relationship as well as aspects of personality in consumer behavior in relation to dogs and dog owners.

2. Study

2.1. Relationship with dogs and other pets in youth

My wife's family owned a cross breed dog in her childhood. I never knew Podger yet memories related through stories suggest laughter, hilarity, affection, and occasional folly. To someone whose family never owned a dog in childhood, these stories confirm idealistic thoughts of Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, Snowy, and Shadow the Sheepdog; the dash around the garden on three legs with paw in mouth, vigorous paroxysms of licking and a stuck jaw following a toffee treat, panting on the back seat of the car resultant in the bib around his neck, and of course, the infamous urination on my father-in-law's leg on a family picnic. These memories reflect "a source of human amusement and a source of and vehicle for folk wisdom" (Belk, 1996:125) to shape an essential ingredient of family culture and folklore. The dog's charm and character emanate from recalled behaviors, behaviors that might be considered odd or eccentric, trivial, possibly anti-social, or even unacceptable by human standards, yet behaviors that invoke hilarity, affection and joy during family gatherings. The contrast of his successor is a foil to this idealized memory, coming from a rescue home, briefly causing mayhem, returning to the rescue home.

My family's non-ownership of a dog was possibly on account of my mother's preoccupation with tidiness. I was scared of dogs. I do not know why but I was convinced that no good could come from close proximity with those canine teeth. At the age of five, a local police dog handler introduced me to students of his training class in a local park. There must have been at least twenty dogs that licked my hands and face, wagged their tails and generally displayed unexpected friendliness. It was probably unhygienic, I would not let any child of mine do the same, but I lost my fear of dogs.

2.2. Previous dogs and summary thoughts about these previous dogs

We have owned a dog, or more than one dog, during most of thirty years of marriage. Zeb was a male golden retriever who came to our home at the age of eight weeks and only six months before our first son was born. We probably did not understand what was required in those days. We bought a book on caring for and training dogs. Whilst feeding, grooming, and veterinary care are reasonably straightforward activities requiring common sense, training is a more difficult concept if you have not done it before. The book, the words, and even the pictures are suggestive and yet inadequate. We have discovered that it is more a matter of training the owner rather than the dog but the book did not tell us that. We did our best. After Zeb, we briefly, and unsuccessfully, owned Sam, a rescue dog of curious pedigree and even more curious behavior and habit. We subsequently acquired Tess, a Bernese Mountain Dog, a large tri-color dog,

black, brown and white, with distinctive markings and weighing around 120 lb when fully grown.

Big dogs do not live as long as smaller dogs. There is both pathos and bathos in this short life. The rapid growth and development to full size, the playful puppy to playful adolescent, the proud and strong presence in middle years, and the sad decline into old age. The ability to view the quality and power of a whole life over a short space of time evokes strong feelings of compassion rather than pity, and yet, the shortness of life itself portrays to humans at least, a hasty transition from the exalted "top dog" and older statesman to a frailty that demands love and care.

When Tess was six years, she was losing some of her agility through a slow yet remorseless loss of use of her back legs and we looked for a successor. Hilly was another Bernese. She would bounce around wanting to play whilst Tess growled and warned the young whippersnapper to keep her distance. Tess was not well. The introduction of a young dog was too late in her life. In the end, a stand-off was established and they lived, if not entirely blissfully, together. When Tess died two years later we found Henry, another Bernese. Hilly loved the new puppy. In fact, they were the best of friends for the rest of Hilly's lifetime. We still have Henry eight years later (Fig. 1).

Freddie is a further male Bernese recently arrived in the household. He was born by caesarean section when the veterinarian thought that there were four more puppies. Freddie was the only, yet large, puppy. He has a wall eye, one eye colored blue and the other brown, as well as a slight deformity of his back foot. Henry is not sure about Freddie (Fig. 2).

2.3. Other pets in the household before thinking actively about acquiring new dog

A cat we named Theodore came with the house and lived outside. Theodore had been a farm cat and he looked after

Fig. 1. Henry at eight years.

Fig. 2. Freddie and Henry.

himself. We have kept pet rabbits in an outside hutch and these survived to ripe old age. We have previously, and perhaps unusually, kept sheep. It started with two lambs as sort of four-legged lawn mowers on an orchard and over time they turned into thirty sheep. Lambing usually happened in early spring. My business trips away from home seemed to be conveniently timed to coincide with lambing. Once one sheep starts to lamb then they all seem to start. Sheep are no respecters of time or weather and so my wife used to spend long parts of the night in various sheds accompanied by two young children, a gas lamp, and buckets of water, soap and towels, lending a hand as necessary. The sheep have all gone now and we have a motorized mower. It is easier that way — now I am home more often.

2.4. Household influences on the idea of a dog or pet

The purchase of a dog prior to the arrival of children was part of a life change package at the time and subsequent dogs became substitutes or replacements for the aged or the dying. Dogs were part of the household whilst the children were growing up and they were involved in the choice when we viewed the litters. However, truth told, we made the final decisions based on the fact that we were responsible for their feeding and welfare. Males tend to be bigger and pushier, females smaller and possibly gentler. I tend to prefer male dogs and my wife tends toward female dogs. To some degree the choice depends on our perception of why we have a dog in the household: guarding, companionship, image, education and fun are some possible reasons.

2.5. Context and thinking about the acquisition a dog or pet

A dog needs space inside and outside a house but whatever the size of dog, house and grounds need to be escape proof. Larger dogs need more space than smaller dogs. Yet it is paradoxical that smaller dogs need smaller gaps to escape and are more troublesome to retain. Hedges, fences, and gates are a special challenge to lively and inquisitive puppies. Chewing furniture is almost mandatory, and our tables and chairs in the

Fig. 3. Soft toys are less fun than furniture.

2.9. Walking and exercising dog

Walking and exercise is a vital aspect of keeping a dog fit and healthy but control and handling seem to say something about the owner. We have used dog agility training as a means of giving the dog confidence, enjoyment and fun (Fig. 4).

Taking a dog for a walk is good company but it can also be inconvenient and embarrassing. A dog reflects the owner. We sometimes meet a man with his dog. The dog always growls and the reaction is always the same. "What's the matter with you today?" says the owner as though this behavior is a once-off and incomprehensible event. A nice looking, well-trained and well-groomed dog attracts a sort of vainglorious attention and interest.

2.10. Neighbors and legal requirements regarding dog

kitchen show the crude craftsmanship of several generations of puppies. Repellents do not seem to repel these youthful four-legged apprentices of carpentry and six months seems to be the usual period before wooden furnishings are no longer attractive.

Soft toys are a possible alternative to tables and chairs although they are not so much fun (Fig. 3)!

2.6. Living space for dog

A dog has to live somewhere and meeting this requirement depends on the amount of room available, the size of the dog, and the expectations of the owner. We have always kept our dogs in the kitchen and utility area. There are several reasons. There is plenty of room, they have direct access to the garden, and there are quarry tiles on the floor that are easy to clean. It is a busy room and we share each others company. Most of the dogs have chosen a favorite corner as their own.

An owner is responsible for the actions of a domestic pet. Dogs and neighbors can be a problem. Sam would stand at the same place by a fence and bark remorselessly. The neighbors complained. They were right to do so. One day he escaped from the garden and terrified another neighbor's hens, killing some, and scattering others far and wide. Fortunately the neighbor's ownership of a dog promoted some understanding and forgiveness.

This same neighbor's dog is fed more like a human — chicken, steak, potatoes and so on. He is overweight and looks peculiar. He has a large inflated balloon-like body on short skinny legs and he waddles around the garden. The dog has bitten various visitors and remarkably manages to survive these attacks. They tell visitors not to touch the dog and we keep our hands in our pockets in his presence. The owner is scared and last thing at night you can hear him pleading for the creature to shuffle in for the night. I would find it hard to love that dog.

2.11. Holiday arrangements

2.7. Issue of grooming dog

Grooming can take a lot of time. The introduction to grooming and bathing at an early age is important so that a dog does not become distressed or irritated by the grooming exercise. Henry does not care for water after leaping into a narrow and weed-ridden river that he mistook for a green leafy path. Freddie in contrast enjoys a bath: shampoo, towels, and hair dryer. Nowadays, a special vacuum attachment is employed as part of the grooming process.

2.8. Cleaning up dog mess

Dog mess is a chore. The activity of clearing the mess makes you feel like an owner of, rather than a companion to, the dog. This may be a relationship too far! In the garden we use a special trowel and pick up the mess each day. This is one of those less desirable duties yet perhaps this serves to emphasize an inconsistency in the relatively sterile living of Western culture. Some people seem to leave their dog's mess on the pavements. This is anti-social and appalling. It's enough to give a dog a bad name.

Kenneling, house-sitting, leaving with friends or taking away are some possible solutions for pets when going on holiday. Some holiday homes and hotels do not allow dogs and traveling overseas with dogs can be problematic. If the dog is

Fig. 4. The high walk.

Fig. 5. House sitters? I'm in charge.

such an integral part of the family then options are limited and adjustments have to be made. After some disappointing experiences in kennels we have consequently chosen house sitters (Fig. 5).

The dogs can stay somewhere familiar, maintain their usual schedule, and the home is occupied in our absence.

2.12. Dog acquisition

2.12.1. Unconscious and conscious thinking about acquiring a dog or other pet

I suspect that I viewed a dog as part of an idealized lifestyle like snow on Christmas Day or sitting around a roaring open fire on a cold night, and perhaps even a sentimental and almost trivialized notion of reality. One thing that you learn from keeping dogs is that you get out of them what you put in. If you do not have the time, the patience, or the money, dogs will be a problem. Every dog is different. A new dog in the house should not be seen as a direct replacement for the last one. Each has peculiarities and specific behaviors all its own.

2.12.2. Early/first discussion about acquiring a new dog The big question after keeping a dog is, "Can we live without

a dog?" The companionship of a dog in the household becomes habitual. On occasions of a time lag between dogs, the house feels somehow still and empty. Perhaps it is the loss of regular feeding, walking, or just talking to the dog, some of the routines taken for granted for so many years. Pet or no pet? A new puppy is a hard work. You start all over again. House training, obedience training, more regular

feeding routines, more messes, and an imposition on what you do and when you do it. No one is under any obligation to keep a pet but "the remarkable affection and rapport" that exists between humans and pets "just to keep me company" that Holbrook (1996:165) describes and the common role of pets as "good for people" or as "medicine" identified by Belk, (1996; 122) is a strong motivator in the decision to continue to have pets as part of your family. Dog or other pet? The idea of any pet suggests different things to different people. There is of course an element of choice. There seem to be clear preferences for one pet or another. We would not want a cat - indoor or outdoor -too impersonal, too distant, too near the food preparation surface (cf. Holbrook, 1997)! These views are possibly based on preconception, association, observation, and experience. Which dog? Pedigree or mutt? Large or small? Even the choice of a puppy from a litter is a harrowing affair. Classic shape and markings are important for showing. They are all small, they are all cuddly, and they are all vulnerable at this age. Some breeds are bigger than others and Bernese Mountain Dog puppies reflect the size of larger breeds at an early stage. Here, Freddie is ten weeks old and already has a weight of twenty six pounds (Fig. 6).

Judgments of young puppies are generally based on motor behaviors such as licking or cuddling; whether the dog appears to be pushy, retiring, or lively; or practical constraints such as availability of a litter.

2.13. Buying products/services for the new dog?

We usually visit the veterinarian almost as soon as we return home for assessment and planning of routine vaccinations. The initial choice and purchase of puppy food is taken on the recommendation of the breeder along with free insurance for a limited time. Acceptance of the advice of the breeder is part of trying to make the new arrival feel comfortable.

Fig. 6. The ten week baby.

Fig. 7. Sleeping upside down.

2.14. Arranging home environment to include new dog

There is a lot of snuffling and pushing by an older dog when the new puppy arrives in the home. It soon stops although for a time it does look a bit rough on the new dog. No doubt they have probably been used to the rough and tumble of their siblings.

The introduction to toys and bedding give the puppy some idea of its territory. Much of a puppy's early days are spent sleeping ... and often upside down (Fig. 7).

2.15. Medical and other services for new dog

Our veterinarian practice is part of a training school. The main purpose of visiting a veterinarian with the new puppy is to check for inherent pathological problems and possible infestations of fleas for example, as well as establishing a vaccination program. They are also almost indecently keen on spaying and neutering. The students are trained to reel off a long list of good reasons for doing so like a mantra. We have heard it many times. They do not tell you reasons for not doing so. At this time I feel like a companion to the dog with some strange empathy for his threatened loss confirming Belk's (1996:138) observation of "greater reluctance of male informants to have their male pets sterilized". The head of the practice is a woman.

2.16. Feeding new dog

When we brought Freddie home, we had been feeding Henry a "senior" food of a particular manufacture. He seemed to do well on this food. The pet store happened to have a special offer by the same manufacturer for large breed puppy food. We bought three small sacks and Freddie happily consumed. I think that he would have eaten anything. The special offer was finished and we bought a new larger sack of the same. The contents were different. I tried to contact the manufacturer without success. I became frustrated. I faxed the CEO in Switzerland. All hell broke loose. I was showered with telephone calls and letters, free coupons, requests for samples and so on. I was almost impressed. However, what really impressed me were the words of one executive who

telephoned to apologize. He said that he and his colleagues were "passionate about our feed". He sounded as though he meant it and I believed that he wanted the best for Freddie. I forgave him and his company and Freddie is still happily consuming their food.

Hilly and Henry had a favorite game called "collar and ear". Hilly would roll on her back with Henry's collar in her mouth and Henry would hold on to Hilly's ear in his mouth. It sounds dreadful but they fortunately have soft mouths when they choose. Occasionally one of them might let the other one know that it was hurting and then the game would stop.

Freddie's introduction to Henry when he was seven years is more contrived after our previous experience with Hilly and Tess. Henry is given his feeding bowl first at meal times, he has first chew on smoked bones, and we generally try to help him maintain his position as older statesman in the dog section of the family.

When the playing and chewing have stopped there is some peaceful respite . for everyone (Fig. 8).

2.18. Other household members' thoughts and actions about new dog

Children tend to be pleased to see a new dog but generally enjoy the relationship without the responsibilities. It could be described as a sibling relationship without the rivalry.

2.19. The wider picture — what dogs tell and say to each principal

Our dogs have all had their own personality and character. We speak to each dog individually and differently. We

Fig. 8. The older statesman and the new addition.

2.17. Relationships with current other pets

sometimes speak for the dog and each dog has a different tone and a distinguishable voice. Freddie, probably as a result of his background, uses one occasional but always the same swear word. Henry's voice is more slow, refined and thoughtful. They can probably lock you up for it but it seems that we are not alone in creating a sort of human persona for our dogs. The asylums are going to be busy.

2.20. Dogs grow up: epiphanies in life of puppy and related events

Freddie has chewed just about everything. He is now ten months and he still chews and plays with his toys. He has reached onto the worktops with his huge front paws and eaten bananas, lemons, even dipped his nose into a fruit desert. He has pulled down and chewed newspapers, paper towels, he has lavished his attention on a coffee grinder, a pestle and mortar, and he has removed the dials from the washing machine. Some people use wire crates to cage the dog at an early stage and maybe we should have done so. We have never had a dog like Freddie for chewing or stealing.

2.21. Acquiring veterinarian services for dog as dog grows up

Hilly became unwell at around four months old. She refused to eat. I think that the veterinarian thought that we were fussy "parents" and encouraged the feeding of tasty morsels such as cheese. After sixteen months of poor eating, many visits to the veterinarian, and courses of antibiotics, the veterinarian decided to take a blood sample. Hilly had pancreatitis. All the tasty foods to tempt her had made matters worse. We changed her diet to a special low fat dietary food that was very expensive. She stayed on this food for the rest of her life. We changed veterinarian.

2.22. Feeding dog as an adult

The choices of food are wide in terms of price and variety. Cost is important but then the notion of value is related to the well being of the dog. It is a convincing argument if you believe that a particular food keeps the dog fit and healthy for longer. The difficulty is to know the truth of the claims of manufacturers. Many manufacturers have advice lines to help with almost any aspect of a dog's life. And then of course there are different foods for different times in the life of your dog. It has become a sophisticated yet perplexing market to most pet owners.

2.23. Epiphanies involving dog as an adult

I took Zeb, a retriever and traditional gun-dog breed, to a clay pigeon shoot. He was fine... until the guns started firing at which point he ran several miles home. I found him hiding under a hedge in the back garden. Sam barked and chased chickens. Tess chased two strange men in a field at the bottom of the garden and it was Tess who took a cooked chicken from a trolley in the dining room, consumed the entire corpse, and

made the most appalling smells for a week afterwards. Hilly had a strange fixation about Christmas decorations and would be nervously entranced for hours. Henry growled fiercely at an overenthusiastic kennel owner who insisted on prancing around in front of his friend Hilly. The man never pranced again... well, not in front of Hilly anyway!

2.24. Behaviors on daily basis with dog during dog's adult years

Who walks dog? The dogs are walked by my wife and me together although I do occasionally take them alone. A dog weighing more than 120 lb needs someone to counterbalance the leaning power. Who feeds dog? The dogs are jointly fed although it is rather dependent on who has the time at feeding time. Who plays with dog? We talk to the dogs and we make sure that younger dogs at least have play things available.

Training? This takes time. It should be done at least once a day for a period of 15 minutes but this is not always possible as walks take precedence. It is just another commitment if you want to achieve an obedient and happy dog.

2.25. Life with dog in dog's old age

Feeding? Ideally dogs need special food as they become older.

Playing? Playing with a large dog can be hazardous with a distinctive possibility of being knocked to the ground and, albeit a friendly gesture, jumped upon and pawed. Grooming can be a playful and joyful activity with hair flying everywhere and yet you cannot allow a big dog to become too playful! Age in a big dog brings the advantage of less gusto, less likelihood of brouhaha, more gentleness, and more warmth. There is more tenderness, more patting and stroking, more reflective companionship as though we are recalling lost moments of youth.

Veterinarian trips? Just because a dog becomes old does not necessarily mean more trips but like humans, age can bring problems.

Epiphanies in late life? Older dogs tend to behave more calmly and their behavior is less punctuated by mad dashes or excitable episodes. They appear to become more imperial as though the wisdom of time has overtaken them. I am hoping that the same applies to humans.

2.26. Death of dog

Hilly became ill over a relatively short period of time. She stopped eating and gradually she drank less and less. She had blood tests and it was found that she had leukemia. We agreed with the veterinarian that she was not strong enough for dramatic treatment and we made her comfortable. She slowly became weaker and thinner. She was still pleased to see everyone, she remained mobile until the final two days, she had plenty of cuddles and attention, and we continued to talk to her. Then she could not get up and so I would carry her outside to lie in the morning sunshine and bring her back inside later. She did not seem to have pain, she would look around at the birds and

Fig. 9. Hilly's ashes and collar on the mantel.

trees outside, and she watched us moving around the kitchen. Finally one evening she could not lift her head. We called the veterinarian to our home.

Our daughter was out; my wife, myself, and our son were at home. The veterinarian described what he was going to do and what was going to happen. Tess had to be put to sleep some years before. We knew what to expect. I sat on the floor with Hilly's head on my lap and my wife and son stood nearby. I held her front leg whilst the veterinarian found the vein and then placed my thumb on the vein whilst he inserted the needle. We talked gently to Hilly and within a short time her eyes closed and she stopped breathing. It was peaceful, it was her corner in the kitchen, and it was a good end to her life. We shed tears.

The veterinarian left us for a short time with our dog and our thoughts. A few words between us sought reassurance and confirmation that Hilly had felt no pain. Somehow this was another part of Hilly's life with her family that was uniquely shared not simply through active involvement but as the closing chapter of a much revisited book. The veterinarian returned and the practical matters returned with him. We carried Hilly on a special stretcher to the boot of his automobile. We wanted something of her to remain and we chose cremation. We thought that her ashes could be buried under a shrub or a tree in the garden that she loved so much. We did not want her to simply disappear from our lives having been part of it for so long.

The ashes seemed important at the time. A small casket containing her ashes and her collar sat on the mantel next to a pottery replica whilst we decided where she could safely be buried (Fig. 9).

Hilly left us with Henry and puppy Freddie. There was still a link to Hilly through her close friend and companion Henry in particular. It was a sad moment. We still miss Hilly, we still talk about her behaviors, and we make loving comparisons with her successors. Hilly, like all our dogs, was an individual who lived her life in a particular and memorable way that was entwined with the lives of all family members. Hilly had recognizable and distinctive characteristics and, like every member of a family, influenced thoughts and judgments, values and beliefs, memories and incidents that become a part of a rich fabric that contributes to our experience of life.

We added her picture to the kitchen wall alongside our other departed dogs. We affectionately call it Death Row and we can look at them and remember them and talk about remembered events . and we often do (Fig. 10).

3. Theory implications about relationships

When caring for pets there is an inclination towards anthropomorphism, "an incorporation of the animal into ourselves" (Belk, 1996:129) that can be understood through the assimilation of animals into the family life and activities; adjustment of pet behavior to the patterns of owners (134); the encouragement and forgiveness of silly behavior (124) and loyalty (126); and "the way we view ourselves in the contemporary world" (140). These are recognizable sentiments for dog owners.

Holbrook (1987:158) parallels the experiences involved in human consumption becoming a metaphor for consumer behavior in his study of Koko the ape and proposes that more needs to be done to explore consumption activities of pets as opposed to purchasing decisions (159). Belk's (1996:121) identifies predominant mixed metaphors in the relationship between owners and animals as "pleasures, problems, parts of self, members of the family, and toys" and alternatively "animalistic and chaotic".

The concept of ownership implies an unequal relationship. Unlike a child, a dog does not become independent and leave home. This suggests companionship and a part of the family. However, there is a clear line between an owner's property and a dog's property, what a dog is allowed to do and what a dog is

Fig. 10. Death row.

not allowed to do, what is acceptable behavior and what is not acceptable behavior. This relationship will vary between dog owners, their values and expectations. Dogs are supposed to adopt our values and behave in a way that conforms to our expectations. Dog ownership may in part be an expression of idealism, a perception of life style and perhaps the way we wish to be seen. Pet ownership is an expression of self. We make a covenant with our pets in return for enrichment of and benefit to our life that is the consequence of a mutual exchange between owner and pet. Pets can be troublesome, time consuming, unpredictable, difficult, and simply hard work. They can also offer a rewarding experience that augments the lives of those in close proximity. This relationship personifies the relationship between supplier and customer. The passion expressed by the company executive in the instance of Freddie's food seemed to be reciprocated by actions and values that were mutually attractive to company and owner.

In the same way that the idealized view of Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, Snowy or Shadow the Sheepdog does not represent the true nature of dog ownership so ". slogans and glossy programs don't give a company a market orientation" (Shapiro,1988: 123). The reciprocal altruism that exists between dogs and humans -encouragement, forgiveness, loyalty, pleasure, joy, laughter, and memories to name a few - is an auspicious model for a strategic relationship between a customer and supplier.

An anthropomorphic application helps to illuminate the bond between dog and human. A dog succumbs to the prohibitions and demands of the host family throughout life. These restrictions are protective and punitive, underpinning the values and beliefs of the human. Dog owners are able to internalize and determine a perception of an ideal relationship between themselves and the dog, harmonized to their own expectations of the relationship either based on formal ideas of ownership or the less formal nature of companionship.

The role of personality in marketing pet and pet-related products is a vital facet for understanding pet and owner behavior. Holbrook (1992:417) highlights the "complex mediating and moderating effects wherein personality influences the links in a causal chain from product features to purchase intentions". Reciprocal altruism in dog ownership is more usually repaid by gratitude and loyalty than may occur between human participants. The expectation of suppliers of pet and pet-related products is no less exacting than dog owners' expectation and experience of their dog. The relationship between dog and dog owner is an aspect of consumer behavior that explicates the need for businesses to match pet and pet-related products through values rather than slogans and glossy programs. Suppliers should take account of the potential strength of the dog owners' internalized view of the relationship with their dog and the high expectations that are more usually perceived in that relationship. That is more than can be said for many consumer-supplier relationships.


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