The Decades Of The Dog Have Arrived

More on PawNation: Awesome, Dog Decades, Dogs, Lifestyle, Puppies

I talk to my nine-year-old dog (about 60 in dog years, according to a dog age calculator) as if he were a baby. My husband, although he doesn't talk baby talk to Tucker the way I do, says we have species confusion. Face it: We're a blended family with one member being particularly hairy.

My family has always treated our pets as if they were members of the family, but the extent to which we are able to do this has changed at warp speed over the past 10 years. The growth of pet specialty stores and even the shelf space in grocery stores give testament to this. There used to be a few kinds of dog food (anyone remember Pard, Dash and Red Heart?). Now the number of choices can throw you into decision overload.

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Dogs wear costumes at Halloween and trendy clothes year around. There are enough canine toys available to tempt any toddler, and toothbrushes, breath mints, and treats line the aisles of specialty pet stores.

And now we witness the advent of the dog spa. What is a dog spa anyway? A quick search of the Web suggests it's a synonym for grooming. Sometimes amenities turn the sprucing-up experience into something more special than a bath and trim, but since I haven't ever treated myself to a spa day, the hirsute member of the family will probably have to forego the pleasure as well.

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There are clubs for dogs, too, and some are highly selective about their clientele. Getting into New York City's Ruff Club, described as a dog-friendly social club, can be nerve wracking. "The interview takes about an hour and is almost as rigorous as any for private school," says writer Bob Morris in an article for nytimes.com.

Dog camps are another relatively new scene for pets. These camps let you accompany your dog for a day or more, and together, you can participate in all sorts of activities like hiking, games, training and swimming.

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If you ask me, going to the dogs doesn't sound half as bad as it used to. We are not, it seems, in the year of the dog, but in the decades of the dog. And given all they give us in terms of companionship and unconditional love, that's fine with me.

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