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Valentine's Day survey results: more "quality time" is the greatest gift we can give our pets

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With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, we’d like to share the results of our survey in which we asked participants to give us their nominations for the “top-10” Valentine’s Day pet gifts. The results surprised and delighted us and we want to share them with you.

As you would expect, the list - see below - includes gift items that you can buy in a store and carry in your pocket (or car trunk). But as much as people want to express their love by giving their pets tangible gifts, the gift they most favor is the one that has no price tag on it. The simple truth is that when all is said and done, it is the only gift whose price cannot be measured in dollars: ‘quality time.’

Here are the results, in order:

                #10    A new sweater or coat
                #9     Enrollment in doggy daycare
                #8     A Valentine’s card
                #7     A sibling (dog/cat/other)
                #6     A new dog bed
                #5     Prepare their favorite meal
                #4     More trips to the park
                #3     A stuffed animal
                #2     Special dog treats
                #1     More quality time together


“Quality time”: what does it mean?

It’s a phrase we often hear, but what does “quality time” mean when we’re talking about our pets? WebVet wanted to know. We invited survey respondents to be interviewed so that we could understand just what quality time means for different people and different pets. We were delighted by the number of enthusiastic responders - so much so, that choosing a representative sample was no easy task.

The WebVet community is a diverse one, encompassing pet lovers from around the world. We are dog and cat and bird owners, single and multiple pet households, in cities big and small, suburbs and rural towns. This writer had the distinct pleasure of talking to a number of survey respondents, and here is some of what I learned.


Who: Linda & Eric Kutche

Where: Flower Mound, TX

For Linda and Eric, the love and companionship of their six-year-old chocolate Lab (Bailey) and their ten-year-old Beagle (Ginger) are gifts without price: “They bring me a lot of peace; some days it’s laughter, other days, it’s calm,” Linda said. “It would be unthinkable not to have them.” She wishes that she could “bottle up their unconditional love and passion for life.” 

As Linda explained, quality time may be something as simple as a long walk in the park with Bailey and Ginger, filled with play, instead of just the ordinary “walk around the block” to take care of business. Or, it might be rolling around on the floor with each of them, followed by a long back-scratch for Ginger and a game of Frisbee with Bailey. The dogs appreciate and respond enthusiastically to these seemingly small gestures.

Linda reminds us of something that we sometimes forget: “Dogs define unconditional love. Everything that happened yesterday is wiped clean. They have a short memory for any act of unkindness they may have experienced. Every day is a new day.”


Who: Kristin Canonaco

Where: Huntington Valley, PA

When Kristin Canonoco found an abandoned Tabby kitten, about two weeks old, in a dumpster in Philadelphia, he was so “cool and calm” that she decided to name him “Fonz”, after the “cool cat” played by the actor Henry Winkler in the old TV show Happy Days.

At first, she had to bottle-feed him every three or four hours. But in spite of his tough start on the mean streets of Philadelphia, Fonz - now 5 ½ - has thrived under her care and, like his TV namesake, never loses his cool.

A busy travel agent who often has to travel herself on business, Kristin hates being away from Fonz and calls her sister when she’s away to find out “how’s Fonz?” He can sense when Kristin is approaching the front door and greets her upon her return, something he doesn’t do for anyone else.

“Whether you’re in the worst mood or the best, it doesn’t matter to a cat; they’re just the opposite of people.”

Kristin acknowledges “it’s a little tougher to get quality time with cats than with dogs. Dogs will play whenever; cats are a little harder to play with.” But for her, “anytime I’m focused on him the most is quality time.” Kristin works with Fonz’s natural playfulness and affection, letting him flop down across her laptop or book when she’s trying to work or read and giving him the attention he’s looking for, even though it may mean deferring her own needs to respond to his.


Who: Leslie Wallace

Where: Staten Island, NY

Leslie Wallace, a “semi-retired” professional pet-sitter, dog-walker, and bird groomer shares her home with – are you ready? – four dogs, three canaries (with their own room), and four other exotic birds. The dogs were all rescued as strays, some abused, and the cause of abandoned and abused animals is one that Leslie is passionate about.

With so many pets, Leslie’s dance card is quite full: “I don’t do anything for myself until they’re taken care of,” she says. Although her routine day begins at around 5:30 a.m. with walks for the dogs (“on their schedules, not mine”), for Leslie, quality time is more than just hours spent: “I devote time to each as an individual, rather than as a group.” As is the case for Linda Kutche, the unconditional love of a dog is worth all of the effort: “They accept you for who you are with all your infirmities.”


Who: Louise Rubino

Where: Coconut Creek, FL

For Louise Rubino, the devoted owner of one dog – a 100 lb. Mastiff/Boxer mix named “Chopper”, - and four cats, quality time has a special meaning. She adopted Chopper as a six-month-old stray who was little more than skin and bones. After a year, he developed Myasthenia Gravis, an immune system disorder that requires a lot of special care: “We try to give him a good life because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. When he has a bad spell, we try to keep him as comfortable as possible.”

In spite of his size, Chopper “thinks he’s a lap dog” and plays gently with Louise’s four cats. They walk between his huge paws without any fear, knowing how gentle he is. Not only that, it was Chopper who discovered one of the kittens himself and led Louise to him. Louise recalled the saying that “Dogs are not your whole life, but they make your life whole.” How true.


Who: Debbie Detzel

Where: Bright, IN

After working in construction and as a bartender, Debbie Detzel has recently started a new business, training people how to walk their dogs and interact with them in healthy ways. With years of experience raising her mother-daughter pair of Boston Terriers - Luna and Oregano - and her American Bulldog, Bella, Debbie knows a great deal about what dogs need to be happy and well adjusted.

For Debbie, knowing each dog’s particular personality is key to spending quality time: “Luna is laid back, a sleeper, and the last one to come when called. Oregano is the clown and will do anything for a laugh. Bella is the most trusting.”

Debbie stresses the importance of spending time one-on-one with her dogs, and emphasizes the importance of understanding the particular needs and personalities of each dog. “Just sitting and watching TV with your dog at your feet is not quality time,” she said. By “training” her human clients to understand the individuality of each dog, Debbie teaches them to end the “vicious cycle” of “no attention = bad behavior = no attention”, etc.

Oh, did I mention that she also has two cats?


The key: make time for quality time

Our survey has hit upon a rule that devoted pet owners have always known: don’t try to “find” quality time for your pet; make quality time. You’ll be rewarded with a happier, more well-adjusted animal, and your pet will be rewarded with a happier, more well-adjusted human companion. Then every day will be Valentine’s Day – for both of you.


Credit: Reviewed by Dr. Amy I. Attas 
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