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Thousands having love affairs ... with pets

In what may prove to be the winter of my life, I inexplicably have fallen in love again. Moreover, my partner and I are openly and unashamedly affectionate. We don’t care who witnesses our kissy-face behavior.

“Imagine? At his age,” we suppose passersby say to each other, followed by negative head wagging.

“Look, they both have white hair,” one of them adds.

My working wife - forgive the redundancy - of 22 years doesn’t mind my affair.

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Jan, however, is openly jealous of how much weekday time we two spend just walking, cuddling and looking deeply into each other’s eyes.

In truth, the object of my affection becomes her weekend lover. For Nicky, our dark-eyed, floppy-eared, four-footed son with the tail of a household feather duster is unarguably one marvelous mutt. We adopted him from a county animal shelter, and Sir Nicholas quickly stole both our hearts.

I named him for a czar. Since he had an ignoble beginning, I wanted him to have a noble title and a standing within our family.

Little did I know at the time. Today he rides beside me in the car, deputized as Official Rage Control Officer. He has his own spot on the sofa with a monogrammed towel marking the location. He holds bedroom privileges, accompanies us on vacations, enjoys a special diet and is under medical care. Cost is seldom an issue where our barker-in-chief is concerned.

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Plainly, we belong with the 63 percent of United States households caring for at least one pet. A recent scare headline states, “Pets Are Taking Over the Country.” The facts disclosed dog and cat owners spend an astonishing $36 billion a year on products and services. This exceeds the money Americans spend on either jewelry or candy in a given year.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, according to one theory, insecure Americans look to their pets for some measure of security. Consider, who is more dependable than come-when-you-call-him Nicky or Brutus or Lady?

One new area for spending on pets, especially dogs prone to run away, is the dog identification industry. Note: Some 10 million dogs go missing every year, and you never want to be the father of an 8-year-old girl when her pet is suddenly absent. So, in addition to those traditional ID tags in the shape of hearts, fire hydrants and doggie bones, we now have microchip tracers.

These grain-sized data-bearing devices are implanted under an animal’s skin, usually between the shoulder blades. One of the largest microchip companies, AVID Identification Systems, of Norco, Calif., has some 11 million pets in its database.

For the less technological and more frugal owners, there are Internet lost pet sites, such as Petfinder, Pets Missing In Action and Lassie Come Home. Finally, there are a handful of searchers for hire. Among these, according to author Susan Orlean writing in The New Yorker, is pet detective John Keane. His professional name is Sherlock Bones.

Sherlock, or John, told Orlean that actual searches are “very stressful.” If the owner doesn’t find her animal in the first eight hours, it’s unlikely she’ll be successful. He currently limits himself to consulting and producing materials, like posters and mailers.

Sherlock Bones has been in business for 29 years and after pumping up his expertise, he says, “You’re dealing with people in a crisis. It’s serious business ... (and) you don’t go to a rabbi to learn how to play baseball.”

Keane, a disenchanted wage earner in the insurance business, works out of Washougal, Wash., and my fervent wish is that neither of us ever has a need for his sleuthing services.

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Prime Notes

  • A quote for the week: “They love me even without my makeup.” This is a survey-respondent answering why people love their dogs beyond all reason. Source: “The New Work of Dogs;” by Jon Katz.
  • Meanwhile, 18 percent of pet owners confess they’ve attended a birthday party for an animal. Source: AARP The Magazine.
  • Heart disease affects o
  • A quote for the week: “They love me even without my makeup.” This is a survey-respondent answering why people love their dogs beyond all reason. Source: “The New Work of Dogs;” by Jon Katz.
  • Meanwhile, 18 percent of pet owners confess they’ve attended a birthday party for an animal. Source: AARP The Magazine.
  • Heart disease affects one in four women over the age of 65. Source: Center for Disease Control & ne in four women over the age of 65. Source: Center for Disease Control & Prevention.
  • Here’s Liz Smith, 82, and honest to a fault, on her new book, “Dishing,” which is about food and celebrities: “I’m a lousy cook myself, but I like anything that someone else will do.” Parade magazine.
  • Journalist/poet Don Marquis said, “Middle age is when a man is always thinking that in a week or two he will feel as good as ever.”
  • Lines you’ve got to love: Grandmother Jodi Hunt, of Greensburg, Pa., is teaching her grandson, Doug, age 5, the story of creation. Kid is stuck remembering Day Seven, then blurts out: “I know. On Day Seven, God was arrested.”
  • Fact: Just 3 percent of all Americans admit to leading a healthy lifestyle, meaning these good people get regular exercise, don’t smoke and maintain a proper weight while eating five or more fruits and vegetables daily. Bulletin: Those age 65 and older did the best. Four percent of the savvy seniors live right. Source: Wall Street Journal.
  • Only the U.S. and New Zealand permit “direct to consumer” drug advertisements. Thus, we now suffer that ad nauseam line on television, “Ask your doctor.”