According to an informal survey on’s Veterinary Medicine blog — sorry if you didn’t vote yet and this is a spoiler — 62% of pet owners said “Of course” they bought their pets presents for the holidays. That doesn’t surprise me.

I’ve found, however, that those who don’t share their lives with a pet often seem puzzled by such data. And feel the need to express that puzzlement to those who do.

That is, while few people would question your purchase of a flat-screen TV or of a new car, many will feel free to second-guess the amount you spend on a living creature who gives you great joy (and doesn’t question your purchases, unless you’ve bought the wrong type of dog food).

How should you respond to such questioning?

  • A pitying look, suggesting deep sorrow that the questioner is so clueless. An accompanying sigh is optional, and should only be used if you have dramatic flair.
  • Questioning some of their recent purchases for their children/significant others, noting that your dog is smarter and more grateful (not recommended, but fun to contemplate).
  • Inquiring how much they spent on their shoes/jacket/last restaurant dinner–anything that might be expensive–and asking if the money wouldn’t be better directed toward [fill in the name of a charity or political cause]. If your interlocutors are not given to costly or frivolous purchases and do give money to [fill in the name of a charity or political cause], you can inquire how much they’ve given to animal welfare lately. (Don’t worry; if animal welfare was one of their causes, they never would have questioned your canine-directed expenditures.)

But this brings up a valid issue of priorities. You might consider donating some money to dogs in need* instead of buying yours a new collar (or tiara; see below); dogs don’t much care what they wear.

Uneasy lies the head that wears a $4.2 million tiara. Literally. Picture by Sukree Sukplang / Reuters

If you’re flush enough to do both, like Leona Helmsley was, more power to you. Then again, it’s really none of my business–which is the best answer (in reverse) you can give anyone who questions your spending habits.

*Worthy animal welfare organizations will be the subject of my next post.

6 thoughts on “Pet peeve: Second-guessing dog gifts”

  1. THANK YOU for this! And I’m practicing my dramatic flair in anticipation of cluelessness I am bound to encounter at a dogless party tonight (Archie, of course, is invited notwithstanding the no pet policy of the host).

    1. Glad I could help, but I’m sure no one would question why Archie should be showered with gifts. I suspect some of your fellow guests might have even done some of the showering…

  2. Oh! I could go one about this topic! I have a friend who drives a Lexus and throws money at cashmere sweaters, designer shoes, over-the-top expensive scotch–well you get the picture–and when I told her (What was I thinking?) how much I spend on training and food for Sadie she launched into a diatribe on starving kids in India and “How could I spend so much on a dog?” I kid you not. Despite my doing her the favor of pointing out the obvious, she could not see that for what she spent on goo-gawhs and status symbols she could support an entire village in India, or more.

    1. It’s an odd false equivalence, isn’t it? I think once a living creature comes into the picture, people feel free to decide you’re spending your money on the wrong living creature. As long as you restrict your spending to inanimate objects, then the line isn’t crossed!

  3. In re supporting a starving village in India. Where do these people think pet clothes, toys, etc are usually made? Okay, chances are you will be keeping a village from starving in China, but the concept is the same. (Starving villages in India went out with the Green Revolution, which sure dates this attacker.)
    When you buy your best friend(s) toys and clothing you are supporting the folks who make them, and these are usually workers in the same overseas countries that make the rest of our consumer goods. My Miriam is a pointer, with an extremely short coat and a predilection for sunbathing when it’s 108 here in Tucson. When she was shivering indoors yesterday (yes, there is something like winter in the desert) I was more than happy to pull out a lovely cream-colored fleece jersey that I bought at last year’s Christmas clearance sales and slip it on her. I just checked: she is all cozy on our bed, lying half under a quilt, the rest protected by her new top. If only I had a smiley sticking out its tongue and saying ‘neener, neener…….”

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