Doggone Human

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Americans spend over $40 billion per year on pet care -- much of that on man's best friend. Now, along with the usual places that provide grooming and overnight stays, your dog can visit a spa, take yoga (or, doga), or see a therapist to combat A.D.D.

Yes, dogs are being treated more and more like humans. In her book, "Inside of a Dog," Alexandra Horowitz urges us to balance that tendency by considering a dog's umwelt, or subjective "self-world." Try spending an afternoon at a dog's height to see what they experience, or take your dog on a slow "smell walk" so she can linger in a multitude of aromas.

Americans are also spending increasingly on specialized medical treatments for their dogs, and I'm not immune. When our black lab was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bone cancer, my wife and I had to choose between vigorous therapy and palliative care. It did not take us long to opt for the former -- a leg amputation, followed by chemotherapy, even though the odds were against her. She survived the amputation without a problem and, after a few weeks, was back to taking long hikes with us. Unfortunately, she did not survive the cancer, and we had to put her down just a few weeks after her chemotherapy ended.

If I were faced with the same dilemma again, I would probably choose palliative care. Depending on the disease and prognosis, dogs may simply not benefit from the same medical treatment we give human family. We need to make sure that what we're doing is serving them, and not us.

The night before my dog's leg amputation, I lay before her sobbing. I have to believe I was projecting, even though she did something she had never done before: she reached her paw across my face, and tried to pat away my tears.


With a Perspective, I'm Stewart Florsheim.