By Allen and Linda Anderson
Question: Why would the University of Oregon’s College of Business Administration be profiling 667 pet owners?
Answer: People with pets are major players in the world of business.
The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association reports in its 2003/2004 National Pet Owners Survey that 62 percent of U.S. households now welcome at least one pet into their homes. These humans are fueling $31 billion in pet products, more than people spend annually on human toys or candy.
Add to products the popular pet services — massages, chiropractic, acupuncture, liposuction, gourmet dinners, and hotel accommodations — and you get an industry that is vitally interested in what will make you buy that designer dog dish or French day bed. (“New Survey Shows America’s Love Affair with Their Pets Stronger than Ever” by Tierra Griffiths and Julie Rowe)
So. Oregon College of Business Administration graduate students, under the leadership of Lynn Kahle, head of the marketing department, tried to figure out what your choice of a pet tells about you. With that essential information, marketers can appeal to your sensibilities and convince you that Precious really does need a plastic bowl with a lid that doubles as a Frisbee. Here’s what they found with their questionnaire:
— Dog owners tend to be more honest and forthright than most other people. They are loyal and spiritual;
— If you consider yourself to be a cat person, you probably are a bit of a loner, yet have fairly high job satisfaction. You tend not to toe the line when it comes to the rules and rituals of an organized religion;
— People who are primarily attracted to fish as pets are more optimistic than most and not as materialistic or concerned about social status.
Kahle concludes, “A more thorough understanding of the motivations, values, and lifestyles of pet owners can help marketers design more effective advertising approaches, both for pet products and in advertisements for nonpet products.” (“We Lavish Love, Money on Our Pets Study Reveals Psyches of Animal Owners” by Ranny Green, Seattle Times, 1993)
So the gathering of this kind of data is how pet commercials are targeted directly at what excites and interests you — not your animal companion.
Well, we have a slightly different take on the subject. We think that not only do animals often reflect a person’s psyche, they also mirror their souls, or the amount of love in their hearts. It’s our opinion that a person who says, “I don’t like animals,” is experiencing a disconnect between the heart and the mind. Ask any animal lover and they will tell you: Animals are our hearts.
In our new book, “God’s Messengers: What Animals Teach Us about the Divine,” we write, “Sometimes before we speak at a book event, we say to the bookstore manager, ‘Watch the people who come in the door. Animal lovers are the most compassionate and generous people on the planet.’ We speak about you with confidence because we know that when you relate to animals in a loving and respectful way, you have the opportunity to learn from some of life’s wisest teachers and to be restored by its most skillful healers.”
New York Animal People
Animals reveal the softer side of humanity, even in places that are usually associated with brashness or lack of compassion. Rightly or wrongly, movies and news reports often depict New Yorkers as too busy to befriend strangers. Yet, on November 7th, we were delighted by an especially rewarding experience prior to the event we were about to do at a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Long Island.
As residents of Minnesota, we have often watched lines of cars stop to let a family of ducks waddle cross the road. But what we experienced in New York showed us that people’s loving connection with animals unites all of us in ways that express the best in human nature.
Mary was a bookstore patron who had arrived early to attend our presentation. She rushed into the area where we setting up the event and urged Allen to go with her. She asked, “Can you help an injured sparrow?”
Allen followed Mary to find that a baby bird had flown into the storefront display window. The little fellow stood very still on the sidewalk, looking dazed and in shock.
By this time, a circle of men, women, teens, and children, who were rooting for the little fellow, had surrounded the stunned bird. Nearly a dozen New Yorkers all wanted to help the bird. Mary repeatedly and sincerely said to those who had gathered, “This sparrow was trying to attend the God’s Messengers’ book lecture.” Pointing to Allen, she said, “This is the person who is doing the lecture. The bird was trying to get into the store but didn’t know about the glass.”
Another woman, Pat, gently touched the bird’s back, stroking his feathers. The crowd gave a cheer when the bird moved his head back and forth and opened his tiny eyes, blinking, and taking in all that was going on around him. After a few seconds of Pat’s gentle touch and the encouragement of the onlookers, the sparrow flew off into the parking lot area. At that moment, the people who had been watching began shouting and saying things like, “He’s going to be okay! Look, he’s flying!” They were delighted to witness the spunk and courage of this tiny New York survivor.
Pat stayed outside to follow the sparrow’s progress. Allen went back into the store and continued to prepare for our presentation. A few minutes later, Pat hurried over and said, “Good news! The little bird flew to the trees. He’s going to live!”
We were touched by the love, respect, and openhearted generosity that these Long Island, New York residents gave to a small creature. When Pat announced that the sparrow was fine, someone said, “God keeps his eye upon the sparrow.” Such a beautiful moment reminded all of us of the truth in this statement.
Just the previous day Linda went to a hair salon in Stony Brook, Long Island. Her visit started a party when she asked if anyone had pets. The first words out of the manicurist’s mouth were, “I have a cat and she saved my life.” From that point on, everyone had a pet story to share. Animals brought Linda, a stranger, together with a roomful of the salon’s regular clients in an instant, bonding as they shared their mutual interests.
We loved our visit to the Big Apple where we found friendship flourishes among humans and animals in homes, businesses, and in nature.
What does your love of animals reveal about you?
Allen and Linda Anderson are co-editors of “God’s Messengers: What Animals Teach Us about the Divine” (New World Library) and “Angel Animals: Exploring Our Spiritual Connection with Animals” (Plume). You are invited to visit their website at www.angelanimals.net and sign up for the free Day Brightener online newsletter. Send your true stories to Angel Animals Network, P.O. Box 26354, Minneapolis, MN 55426 or you may e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Return to the January/February Index page