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by David the Dogman

Pets are an important part of many families. A recent survey by the American Animal Hospital Association of 1,206 pet owners in the United States and Canada showed that more than 80 percent of the respondents were female and an incredible 48 percent of these said they rely more on their pets than on a spouse or child for affection.

"Pets can provide their owners with unlimited affection and unconditional love," says Dr. Jay Geasling, president of AAHA. "In return, many people treat them like members of the family."Significantly, 50 percent of dog and cat owners said they had given their pets a human name such as Molly, Sam or Max. More than 60 percent include news about their pets in their holiday postcards, and 36 percent include a photograph of their pets with correspondence. An amazing 27 percent said they had taken their pets to a professional photographer to be part of family photographs or to be photographed with "Santa Claus" or the "Easter Bunny."

Nearly 50 percent take their pets in the car on errands and 53 percent vacation or travel with them. Twenty-Five percent blow-dry their pets after bathing them, 45 percent provide a special bed, and 75 percent buy special premium pet food. Nearly 60 percent of pet owners said they love their pets so much that when the pets die, they will bury them on family property. Although nearly 80 percent of the respondents were dog owners and 61 percent cat owners, 11 percent had birds, 6 percent own "pocket pets" such as a gerbil or hamster, and 5 percent own a reptile. Another 13 percent had other types of pets ranging from fish to horses.

Walking in a public place with a dog is one way to ensure it is unlikely you will be robbed. Lou Castle, an Internet friend who is head of Los Angeles Police Dogs who has handled thousands of cases of robbery on the streets, tells me that he has not known one victim who had a dog with them at the time.

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