I love taking my dog, Stella, to our local dog park. Sometimes I think I enjoy the experience even more than she does. Nothing makes me laugh more than seeing her zipping around the park at top speed, ears flat against her head, eyes wide, tongue hanging out of her mouth in that expression of pure joy that dogs master so well. Whatever trials and tribulations my day has wrought go right out the window when I watch her play.
Dogs are “man’s best friend,” a name earned not just for their loyalty but also for their unconditional love for us—and we love them back. People in the U.S. spend an increasing amount of money each year on their animals. And it’s not just dogs; we’re spending more and more money on all of our pets, from fish, rodents, and reptiles, to cats, and even horses. In 2012 Americans spent $53.3 billion, and that number is expected to hit $55.5 billion this year. If the cost of owning an animal is so high, how exactly does this relationship benefit us?