In search of ponies: Christmas gifts not for pets

Walking through the stores this holiday season, at first you may think,“that squeaky toy is so cute, Fido would love that!”

But as you shop, you may start to get the feeling it’s not an accident the Christmas tree shaped dish full of frosted beef biscuits is at the end of the isle right where you would see it, or, that you had to steer around a pile of pup beds that are more plush than any mattress you’ve ever owned.

And before long, you start to realize the retail powers-that-be are targeting your pets.

Well, not your pets exactly…

In 2011, American pet owners are expected to spend just shy of an estimated $51 billion on their pets. Yes, that was $51 BILLION dollars!

And of course the marketing gurus know you are willing to drop bucks on your pet, and yes, they are out to get you.

And what better time than Christmas, especially when, of the nearly 73 million households that have pets in the U.S., almost 70 percent will buy gifts for their critters this year.

So in other words, no, the squeaky toys, Santa hats with ear holes, red and green biscuits and over-sized, memory foam dog beds aren’t in the middle of the isle by accident.

In the days of old, pet Christmas marketing was limited to the red nylon mesh stockings filled with rawhide bones hanging in the pet food isle.

If you looked hard, you might have found a little squeaky duck or a package of catnip balls mixed with the petware at your local grocery, but that was the extent of it.

Ah, how times have changed.

If you’re looking for the ultimate in pet gifts this year, for $3,200, you can replace that faded nylon collar with 1,600, hand-set diamonds, then spritz your pal from a $3,000, 4-ounce bottle of Le Pooch V.I.P fragrance.

Or your canine can feast on gourmet peanut butter biscuits at a measly $50 for a package of eight, and don’t worry, of course they’re all natural.

If, on the other hand, you’re feeling stressed because you just can’t swing that $500 cedar climbing tree for Morris this year, don’t be so hard on yourself.

I’ll let you in on a little secret.

Morris doesn’t care.

He won’t feel left out Christmas morning when everybody is unwrapping their gifts and he won’t think you forgot him.

Quite the contrary, he will probably be sitting off to the side licking his nether regions and wondering why the family decided to congregate in his usually peaceful living room – and during nap time no less.

Nor, will your pooch sulk into a corner and cry because he didn’t get that fancy leash and collar set you had your eye on.

Why? Because pooches don’t really like collars and leashes, they like us and the time we spend with them when the leash comes out.

And Fido could care less about a $6 peanut butter biscuit when what he really wants is to visit that little box in the laundry room where the cat scratches up feats of unbelievable tastiness.

A closer look at the numbers shows that though spending a lot on their critters, pet owners do tend to put their money where it matters most, with estimates that almost $45 billion of that $51 billion will be spent on food, medicine and veterinary care.

What that means is that, no, you’re not a bad pet owner if you decide to scratch Fido off your list and instead drop a couple of toys in the charity box on your way out of the store.

Because while Fido is just happy you got an extra day at home with him (and that you didn’t notice you dropped some ham on the floor), there’s a child somewhere nearby who, unlike Fido, will notice when they’re forgotten Christmas morning.