Imagine a dog declining a treat – a cookie, no less – from someone just because the dog doesn’t know the person offering the treat.
Laura Peterson of Brunswick has such a dog. Luna, short for Bellaluna, and so named because Peterson, 61, picked her up on the night of a full moon in Houlton when it was minus-5 degrees outside, goes to work with Peterson every day. She stays close to her owner, and has very little interaction with the people at Yarmouth Yacht Sales. Even if they’re offering treats.
“She would never take a treat from somebody she doesn’t know,” Peterson said. “One man always comes in with a cookie in his pocket for her. After many tries, he got her to take it. They all tell me at the office that she’s neurotic. I don’t think she’s neurotic.”
Luna, a 68-pound black-and-brown lab mix, does not want for much. She won’t go to sleep, in fact, unless Peterson gives Luna her stuffed animal to cuddle with.
“I am whacky when it comes to my critters,” said Peterson, who lives alone and also has a cat. “She makes me smile and she makes my heart swell and she makes me laugh.”
Peterson is part of an important trend. According to U.S. Pet Market Outlook, 2015-2016, a report by market research publisher Packaged Facts, despite the strong tendency toward pet ownership among 18-44 year olds, it’s baby boomers who are poised to be the pet industry’s most influential demographic group. The report says boomers “have broken the historical pattern of slacking off in pet ownership as they age. Instead, they have superimposed their proclivities toward health/wellness and self-pampering onto their pets.”
Statistics showed that in 2013, pet owners spent some $55.5 billion – $21.3 billion on food, $13.2 billion on supplies, $14.2 billion on veterinary care, $2.3 billion purchasing animals and $4.5 billion for grooming and boarding. Many industry analysts believe baby boomers spend the most on their pets. Some research indicates the demographic is spending nearly twice as much on their pets than those in their 20s or 30s.
Peterson, who grew up in “the county,” in Caribou, has always had pets.
“I’m a definite critter person,” she said.
When her last dog, a collie, died, Peterson pondered her next move. Not having a pet was not an option.
“I wasn’t going to do a puppy because I didn’t think I had it in me,” she said. “I was going to do a rescue.”
Luna and Peterson were destined for each other.
A woman she knows had a dog that had given birth to nine puppies. Peterson’s cousin took one of them, and you know the rest of the story.
“She’ll be 7 on Nov. 16,” Peterson said. “Everybody asks me if she’s a rescue dog because she doesn’t leave my side very often. She’s my girl. She’s very sweet. My life revolves around a tennis ball. That’s the first thing I do in the morning is throw the tennis ball for her to chase, and the first thing I do when I get home in the evening. And when the tide is right in the Royal River, I swim her every day.”
Peterson will not put her precious Luna in a kennel.
“I would not have owned a puppy had I not been able to bring her to work,” she said. “I don’t think it’s right to lock her up for that long.”
The owner-dog bond is tight.
“I’m the Alpha but she’s my best friend,” Peterson said. “She’s there. She’s always there. She gives me a reason to get up and do things.”
Just to keep focused on canines, Peterson recently finished reading “A Dog’s Purpose and “A Dog’s Journey.”
Luna, meanwhile, eats a salmon-based dry dog food and fresh pumpkin with every meal, plus the in-between-meals snacks all dogs seem to crave. Like any well-reared dog, she won’t take the treats from strangers, however.
To Luna, there’s no one like Peterson.
“That’s probably the understatement of the century,” said Peterson’s daughter, Emily Griffin of Lisbon. “Mom loves her dearly. When her last collie died, she went without a dog for two years or so. But she had four or five cats. She was devastated about losing the last collie. Then Luna found her. We knew she would get (a dog) at some point.”
Griffin, an only child, grew up in Yarmouth with all sorts of animals running around. There were barnyard animals, and always at least two dogs – almost always collies. Griffin shares the same love of dogs as her mother.
“We adopted a puppy two months before we had our first child,” Griffin said. “Everybody said we were completely nuts, but it’s worked out just fine so far.”
Griffin said that Luna is great company for her mother, and vice versa. Luna has funny little habits that make her who she is, Griffin said.
“We refer to them as her neurosis,” she said. “She’s just completely attached to that tennis ball.”