Almost every Sunday, when the weather in the Midwest turns tolerable, I get a phone call from my youngest son as he sits in the drive-thru of his neighborhood Dunkin Donuts.
"Watch this, Mom, watch this!" He turns his phone camera to his beloved companion in the back seat.
His dog, a mutt full of personality, yowls in anticipation of her treat: a donut hole topped with whipped cream. The yowling is hilarious, and no matter how often I witness the canine excitement I laugh. I also don't fail to note my son's parental pride.
"It takes her less than three seconds to wolf down that thing," he boasts. He, on the other hand, takes his time savoring his coffee.
Cane, orange-eyed and short-haired, is the youngest of my grandpuppies. She is also, by far, the most spoiled. I receive regular reports on her eating preferences, her sleep habits, her social graces (or lack thereof) and her main interest in life, which is barking at the squirrels she spots from the window. The gall of these critters to frolic in her yard!
Cane owns bandanas, a necessary accessory for any well-heeled dog. Her favorite is a tattered University of Miami kerchief. She also has toys. But more important than such possessions: She owns a house with a nice-size yard and a tall, sturdy wood fence.
OK, I'm exaggerating. The 26-year-old owns the house. But the dog was his reason for buying it. He wanted space for her to run. Never mind that she is taken to the park and walked around the neighborhood.
On our last visit to see the son – and the grandpuppy, of course! – Cane sat next to me on the sofa. Well-trained in the finer points of successful begging, she did not bark as I munched on packaged goodies. Oh, no, she's much too refined for pedestrian behavior. Instead she strategically placed her big head on my lap and stared up at me with such love that how could I not share?
The son, however, is strict about her diet. Bananas are fine, as is the occasional egg. But chips are strictly limited, and I have been thus instructed.
No doubt about it, Cane is my son's fur baby. She offers the kind of devotion that will eventually come, I think, with children and marriage. Their relationship is hardly unique. Millennials, it has been reported again and again, love their animals. As they put off the adulting milestones of past generations, pets, and dogs in particular, have filled a void of connection.
According to the American Pet Products Association, 73 percent of millennials currently own a pet, more than any other demographic. And their pets' needs often influence their shopping and travel choices. An incredible 89 percent of millennials who bought a home in 2018 own a pet, according to a Realtor.com survey, and 79 percent of those who closed on a property said they would pass up a home if it didn't meet the needs of their pets. My son, for example, never considered purchasing a downtown condo because, despite the convenience of such ownership, it simply didn't provide the outdoor space he wanted
Millennials are also spending big bucks on pet clothing and pet-friendly vacations. Travel website Expedia has even published a top 10 list of dog-friendly hotels and cities, ranked on their menus, outdoor dining, streets and parks. Not surprisingly, chi-chi Carmel-by-the-Sea in California is on the list, as is trendy Austin, high-end Bar Harbor, expensive San Diego and laidback Key Largo.
I'm not quite sure about what all this spending on man's best friend reveals about us, and I'll never hang up on a long-distance yowl-and-bark conversation; but it sure does give a new spin to the phrase "going to the dogs."
(Ana Veciana-Suarez writes about family and social issues. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website anavecianasuarez.com. Follow @AnaVeciana.)