Pets: A significant member of a family and society

Barry Kukes poses with his dog Bentley.

Regularly, I receive emails from readers of my columns. Some write to say how the column made them cry or made them smile. In either case, the words stirred something inside, and they were affected so much, they felt the need to write to me.

Pets are a significant part of our society. According to AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), 76,811,305 dogs, 58,385,725 cats, 7,538,000 birds, and 1,914,394 horses are owned as pets in 82,553,674 households in the United States alone.

These numbers do not include pocket pets like hamsters, ferrets, etc. When over 80 million households have a pet or two, that says something about humans’ need for animals as companions. I have a flag in my front yard that says, “a house is not home without a set of paws.”

There are 122.8 million households in the United States, so there are many homes without a pet for various reasons, including housing restrictions barring pets, lack of finances to care for a pet properly, and people who just don’t like pets.

A family member

Some people who do not like pets have allergies to fur or had a bad experience with an animal that may be scratched or bit them. Some people simply do not like animals and feel animals should not be in a home. They feel animals are messy.

They leave hair everywhere. They are needy. They are costly. They make noise. They hog the bed. They are always begging, etc. I always know when I am in a conversation with a person who is not an animal lover. They lose interest in the conversation if I mention my dog.

My dog is my family. I am proud of my family, and I will talk about my dog just like I will talk about my son and my wife. However, I do respect people who prefer not to have a pet. That is their choice, and I appreciate their decision. They will never know how I feel because they would never take the time to read a column about pets.

Share your pet story

For the rest of you who are reading this column because you love your pets, “How do you do, and we have a lot in common.”

Pet people all experience the same type of situations. I have a Golden Retriever, and like most if not all other Golden Retrievers, he constantly wants to be petted, gives paw as soon as he sits, rolls in the grass swinging his legs from side to side, spins around like a crazy dog, and smiles all the time. I am not complaining. I love him with all my heart, and I am so glad I rescued him.

Do you have a crazy dog or maybe a cat with a very cool personality? I would love to hear about your pet. I will not lose interest in our conversation because you want to talk about your family. I am happy to listen.

Please email me at about your pet. I might share your insights in a future column, magazine, or book. Feel free to email an image as well.

Please remember to adopt, don’t shop. I hope to hear from your soon.

Barry Kukes is the Community Outreach and Marketing Director for the Halifax Humane Society. The website is

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