The End of the Boom?


My 12-year-old Westie, Cooper, had to be put down last month. He fought a courageous battle versus a lethal combination of diabetes and bladder cancer for the better part of six months. The veterinarians did all they could to extend his life but, unfortunately, the time came when it became clear that Cooper’s quality of life was no longer good enough to keep the fight going.

Now what?

Frankly, and very surprisingly, I am torn as to whether or not to get another dog. Let’s be clear here: I am a big-time lover of animals, especially dogs. I have owned a dog for most of my life and have always welcomed their kinship and company. It would not be shocking to anyone who knows me if I went out in a couple of weeks and got another dog—even another Westie.

But, on the other hand, I am a single parent of two boys, with the older one in college and the younger one just over a year away from joining his brother. I travel extensively for my job, and my commute to New York City is long and hard. So, while my heart says run out and get another pup, my head says that maybe I should take a wait-and-see approach.

Interestingly, I don’t think I am alone among aging Baby Boomers. Many people I have spoken with in recent days have questioned why I would even think about getting a dog right now. Many stress that a new pet would just inhibit my freedom, preventing me from travelling and even entertaining.

Not surprisingly, most of these people are about my age, many have dogs and most say that when their dog passes away, they will not replace it.

This is a problem for the pet industry. Baby Boomers like me (I am at the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation) have long powered the growth of the pet care category. If many of them are like me and question their future pet ownership, our industry could be in for some hard times ahead.

The only solutions are to find ways to make pet ownership as easy as possible for all consumers and to convince younger generations that they need to consider pet ownership, with the hope that they can pick up the slack for the aging boomers.

As for me, I would not bet against me owning a new puppy in a few months—just a gut feeling.

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