Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Barbara Klein.
I'm Steve Ember. This week on our
program, we tell about pets in the United States.
this month, the Westminster Kennel Club held its yearly dog show in New York
City. Westminster has been awarding
prizes to special show dogs for one hundred thirty-three years. Dogs are judged against a description of the
perfect dog for each kind or breed. Then
one is chosen as "Best in Show". This
year, more than two thousand dogs of one hundred seventy breeds competed. The winner was a Sussex spaniel called
Stump. Stump is ten years old—the oldest
dog ever to win the championship at Westminster.
Westminster Kennel Club was the first member of the pure breed dog registry
group, The American Kennel Club. The AKC recognizes dog breeds in the United
States. Every year, it develops a list
of the most popular breeds. The same breed has won that honor for the past
eighteen years -- the Labrador retriever.
The club's Web site describes Labs as gentle, intelligent and family
friendly. Yet not all Labs are the same.
American writer John Grogan discovered this after he and
his wife adopted a Labrador retriever they named Marley.
The dog caused Mister Grogan a lot of trouble, but also
provided many stories for his newspaper articles. Later, he wrote a best-selling book, "Marley
and Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog." Marley was happy and fun-loving. But he was also extremely large and difficult
to control. He ate anything that he
found around the house, including plastic, clothing and jewelry. He was expelled from dog training school. And he had an abnormal fear of loud noises,
especially thunderstorms. Unfortunately,
the Grogans lived in Florida where many of these storms develop. Marley would attack the furniture, walls and
doors until his feet bled if he was left alone in the house during a storm.
Grogan, his wife Jenny and their three children all loved Marley even though
the dog almost destroyed their home a number of times. John Grogan wrote that he briefly considered
the possibility that his dog could be trained to be a show champion. But he soon realized that this was not to be.
earned a place in our family. Like a
quirky but beloved uncle, he was what he was. He would never be a Lassie or
Benji or old Yeller; he would never reach Westminster or even the country
fair. We knew that now. We accepted him for the dog he was and loved
him all the more for it."
American Pet Products Association carries out a National Pet Owners Study every
two years. The latest one shows that
seventy-one million homes in the United States last year included a pet. That is sixty-two percent of all the homes in
America. The study also showed that Americans owned more than seventy-seven million
dogs and more than ninety-three million cats.
The association's market research shows that Americans
spent more than forty-three billion dollars on pets, pet products and pet
medical care last year. And it expects
that number to increase to forty-five billion dollars by the end of this year, even
with the current economic downturn.
Vetere is president of the American Pet Products
Association. He says the organization
has seen fewer sales of pet supplies recently.
But he says pet owners are spending their money on other things like medical
services. He says people want to keep
their pets healthy longer. And he says that
special treatments developed in the past ten years are more costly than
Vetere also says Americans are working longer hours and hiring people to care
for their pets during the day. And, he
says Americans are taking their pets with them on trips. That is easier to do these days because more
hotels and vacation areas permit pets.
For example, the Web site petswelcome.com lists more than seventeen thousand pet friendly hotels, campgrounds and
beaches in the United States.
the economic downturn is creating problems for some pet owners. The Humane
Society says that more people are leaving pets at animal shelters. This is
because they have lost their homes and can no longer care for their animals. The group provides money for shelters and
rescue organizations to help them care for homeless dogs and cats.
Humane Society official Nancy
Peterson says groups are also helping pet owners pay for pet food. And they are placing animals in temporary
homes until their owners can take them back.
The central part of the United States suffered its own
economic crisis in the nineteen eighties.
The price of farm land dropped and banks no longer provided the credit
farmers needed. Unemployment reduced the population. The number of people in
the small town of Spencer, Iowa, for example, dropped from eleven thousand to
eight thousand in just a few years.
Spencer public library worked to help people in the town find jobs. It created a list of jobs and offered books
on job skills and training. It also set
up a computer so people could research job openings and write applications.
cold January morning in nineteen eighty-eight, library workers found a small,
almost frozen kitten in the book drop. A
book drop is the small metal door in the wall of the building where people can
return books when the library is closed.
No one knows who put the kitten there or why. But it turned out to be
lucky for both the kitten and the town.
The library held a contest to name the cat. The winning name was Dewey Readmore Books. Library
officials agreed to permit him to live in the building. Dewey loved to keep people company while they
chose books or used the library computer.
Soon, Dewey's presence began attracting families and school groups to
The local newspaper wrote about the new library
cat. His story spread across the nation. Dewey began receiving letters from people in other
countries. And a film crew from Japan
arrived to include him in a movie about cats.
librarian Vicki Myron was Dewey's main caretaker. Last year, she published the best-selling
book "Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World." Here she gives readers an idea of how much
the cat meant to her town.
"How much of an
impact can an animal have? How many
lives can one cat touch? How is it
possible for an abandoned kitten to transform a small library into a meeting
place and tourist attraction, inspire a classic American town, bring together
an entire region and eventually become famous around the world? You can't even begin to answer those
questions until you hear the story of Dewey Readmore Books, the beloved library
cat of Spencer, Iowa."
Pets are important in American homes, and that includes
the White House. President Obama has promised his two daughters a dog.
When it arrives, the new family member will join a long
list of pets that have lived in the White House. Some presidents kept rather unusual animals.
For example, President Benjamin Harrison's son had a pet goat. President Calvin
Coolidge had raccoons.
Theodore Roosevelt's family had a pony, a sheep, a bird, guinea pigs, dogs,
cats, rats and a snake. President John
Kennedy's daughter Caroline had a pony named Macaroni. The Kennedys also had hamsters, dogs, birds,
presidents seem to have taken the advice of President Harry Truman who said:
"If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog."
Perhaps the most
famous presidential dog was President Franklin Roosevelt's Scottish terrier,
Fala. Mister Roosevelt took him just
about everywhere. In nineteen
forty-three, Fala appeared in a short movie about life in Washington during
World War Two. A statue of Fala is part
of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C.
may have been the first White House pet to be a media star, but he was not the
last. In nineteen ninety, first lady
Barbara Bush's Springer spaniel Millie told about her life in the White House
in "Millie's Book." And President George W. Bush's Scottie dog Barney had his
own Web cam series on the White House Web site.
program was written by Nancy Steinbach and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Barbara
I'm Steve Ember. You can find transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs at
voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again
next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.