More than half of pet owners plan to buy their furry friends gifts this this holiday season. And the National Retail Federation says the amount of money spent on pets this season is increasing – up five dollars a pet since 2013. For some Oklahoma pets, that means a very merry holiday.
Last week at Quail Springs Mall in Oklahoma City, last-minute present panic had yet to set in. Crowds were still fairly light in most stores, and cashiers were enjoying the holiday music piped over the mall’s P.A. system. But on the side of the mall near Macy’s, things are a bit more hectic.
Lindy Hoyel, 22, shakes dog toys and calls out the name of a 7-week old Great Pyrenees puppy that sits patiently on Santa’s lap waiting for its picture to be taken on a giant red and gold striped couch. Tank’s sister, a 180-pound English Mastiff named Charlie was supposed to be in the picture as well. Charlie was a bit overwhelmed though, so she had to wait off to the side.
The dogs’ owner Ashley Strange has a daughter who joined Tank on Santa’s lap. For Strange, it’s a way to celebrate the season in a memorable way.
“I'm a single mom and I thought it would be fun. I do have a little family; it's just not traditional. We started last year. Charlie was about 7 months old, we started with her last year, and now we have a tradition ever since,” Strange says.
Santa sports his classic red pants and suspenders on the couch, but he dons a blue shirt decorated with dogs wearing Santa hats in honor of the occasion.
He has been taking pictures with pets for several years, so a huge English Mastiff that wasn’t the most cooperative didn’t faze him at all; nor did the bird dressed in a gray tutu that showed up later that evening.
“I've taken pictures with monkeys, with all sorts of different ones, with bobcats, so I've had just about everything, and it always surprises me what people call home pets,” he says.
“Where I look at a dog or a cat or some birds or something, some people really get involved with like a parrot, or a monkey. When they don't have children, they have pets, and they're as close to them as they would be a child.”
“What's popular with humans is what's popular with pets. So just like you take children to get their photos taken with Santa, pet parents want the same for their pets,” says PetSmart’s Debbie Beisswanger.
Pet owners, or pet parents as she calls them, have always loved their animals, but they’re spending more and more now.
“We've seen it increase every year really, and I think that's something you'll see across the board.”
And it’s not just on dogs, though canines clearly get the better end of the deal when it comes to how much their owners spend on them during the holidays.
There are gingerbread houses to go in your fish tank and reindeer antlers for your guinea pig. Beisswanger says PetSmart actually had owners of smaller pets, like birds and gerbils, demanding more than just dog and cat treats this season.
“When we think about it, it's just really, ‘Why not? Why not bring your pet into the celebration? Why not purchase toys or treats or something that really fits their personality.’”
“Just like with humans, pet parents get as much joy in finding that perfect gift for their pets as they would for any other family member,” Beisswanger says.
Toys, treats and a commemorative picture package of your dog – or bird -- on Santa’s lap. Mitchell Rickner works with Santa at Quail Springs, and he says nine times out of ten, those pet parents buy the full package, which he says is more than the average parent coming in with their kid spends.
Pet owners go all out, Rickner says.
“They get two 5x7s, two 4x6s, and 8 wallets, and that runs $32.50 with tax.”
And Santa says he sees that spirit of abundance when it comes to a pet’s wish list, too. Apparently St. Nick is responsible for Fido as well.
“When you have kids here, parents will have a list for the children, they will also bring out a pet list and all, and it's usually just exactly what you'd think: it's dog biscuits, or it's a bone, it's a ball. It's something like that,” he says.
But if you forgot to send off your pet’s list to Santa before this Christmas Eve, don’t worry. He says he’s never seen a dog that doesn’t appreciate a table scrap or two.
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