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Americans and their Pampered Pets

Old Towne Pet Resort in Springfield, Virginia
Old Towne Pet Resort in Springfield, Virginia

BOB DOUGHTY: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English. I’m Bob Doughty.

Today, we play new music by Malaysian singer and songwriter Zee Avi.

We also answer a question about the U.S. Open tennis championships.

But first we have a report about a business that specializes in caring for animals.


Americans love their pets a lot --- especially their cats and dogs.

In fact, many Americans consider pets to be as much a part of their family as human family members. So says a two thousand nine report from the Associated Press and the website. Fifty percent of pet owners questioned said they considered their pets to be full members of the family. And forty three percent admitted to feeding the animals people food. After all, a dog is said to be man’s best friend. But what happens when a pet owner has to go away? Jim Tedder has more about a business that cares for pets.

JIM TEDDER: Sadaf Atashbarghi is with Olde Towne Pet Resort in Springfield, Virginia. This well-to-do hotel for animals has become popular among the Washington area’s pet owners.

Ms. Atashbarghi is herself a pet owner. She says her dog is very much a part of her family. And she says she too has been guilty of what some might call puppy love.

SADAF ATASHBARGHI: “I treat my dog as if she were my own kid. I take her to day camp. I buy her clothes. I get her nails done.”

JIM TEDDER: The American Pet Products Association says pet ownership in the United States has reached an all time high. Nearly seventy three million homes have at least one pet. That includes about eighty six million cats and more than seventy eight million dogs.

A pet groomer at Olde Towne Pet Resort in Springfield, Virginia
A pet groomer at Olde Towne Pet Resort in Springfield, Virginia

America’s pet industry has grown a lot since the Olde Towne Pet Resort first opened ten years ago. Ms. Atashbarghi says she has seen a big change in the way people treat their pets.

SADAF ATASHBARGHI: “Several years ago a dog was just that, it was a dog. It was kept outside in its little dog house out in the backyard. And would come inside every so often and you would walk it and the kids would go out and play with it. I don’t think dogs are considered just dogs anymore. I think they’re considered part of the family or an extension of the family. And because of that I think the industry will continue to grow at a rapid pace.”

JIM TEDDER: Spending levels for pets are expected to reach an all-time high this year. The American Pet Products Association estimates that Americans will spend more than fifty billion dollars. Most of the money, nearly thirty four billion dollars, will be for pet food and medical care. A large amount will also be spent on things like boarding and grooming services.

These are services that Olde Towne Pet Resort offers. Its “Doggie Day Camp” has become very popular among pet owners who refuse to leave their pets home alone. Dogs and cats can come for a day or stay for the night. And there are many different activities and services to choose from.

Ms. Atashbarghi says the center seeks to provide pets with the same kind of care they receive at home. This can include unusual requests.

SADAF ATASHBARGHI: “Some dogs like to be tucked in at night, before they go to sleep. Some dogs like to be read to. We have had some owners who have brought in, you when they were gone for Thanksgiving, they’ve brought in turkeys and said I want my dog to enjoy Thanksgiving, please cook this and feed this to him.”

JIM TEDDER: The pet hotel has five hundred suites, or rooms, for dogs and cats. Prices are based on the size of the room and the number of services chosen.

A plan called the Classic choice includes a room that is nearly two square meters big. It also includes three walks a day. The Five Star option includes four daily walks and two play dates. The suite is a little more than four square meters, and comes with or without a window. There is also a webcam so that owners can see their pets while they are separated.

Naturally, no visit to the Olde Towne Pet Resort would be complete without a wash and a haircut. Pets can even have their nails done.

Ms. Atashbarghi says Olde Towne has serviced more than twenty thousand pets since it first opened. Her business has been so successful that it is planning to open a second pet resort in Sterling, Virginia. There is already a waiting list for the new location.


BOB DOUGHTY: Our question this week comes from China. Diyan loves the sport of tennis and wants to know more about the United States Open.

The U.S. Open is the fourth and final event of the four major tennis competitions. The other three are the Australian Open, the French Open, and Wimbledon in Britain. A player who wins all four events in one season is said to have captured the Grand Slam.

Maria Sharapova of Russia thanks the crowd after beating Anastasiya Yakimova, of Belarus, during the U.S. Open in New York Thursday
Maria Sharapova of Russia thanks the crowd after beating Anastasiya Yakimova, of Belarus, during the U.S. Open in New York Thursday

The U.S. Open is held every year over a two week period in late August and early September. This year, play began on Monday.

There are five main events: the men’s and women’s singles, the men’s and women’s doubles, and mixed doubles. There are also events for young tennis players and players in wheelchairs.

The U.S. Open takes place on the hard courts of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. That is in the Queens area of New York City. In two thousand six, the United States Tennis Association named the tennis center in honor of tennis champion and activist Billie Jean King.

The largest stadium was named after another tennis champion, Arthur Ashe. He won the first ever U.S. Open in nineteen sixty-eight. Before that year, the United States had five separate tennis championships. Arthur Ashe was also the first African-American to win the men’s singles competition at a Grand Slam event.

This year, tennis players in the main events will compete for over twenty two million dollars in prize money.

As play began, the top women are Danish national Caroline Wozniacki, Vera Zvonareva and Maria Sharapova both of Russia.

The top men are Novak Djokovic of Serbia, Spain’s Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer of Switzerland.


BOB DOUGHTY: Zee Avi is a twenty-five year old singer and songwriter from Malaysia. Her music career took off unexpectedly several years ago thanks to a video she published on the Internet. Now, she lives in New York City.

Zee Avi
Zee Avi

Zee Avi recently released her second album, “ghostbird.” The soft sound of her voice and ukulele playing give her songs a dreamy effect. Shirley Griffith has more.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Four years ago, Zee Avi was living in Kuala Lumpur. A former art student, she decided to publish a video of her first musical performance. She continued to publish videos of her songs and soon they became very popular on YouTube.

One video caught the attention of other performers and music industry experts. Soon, Zee Avi was offered a record deal in the United States. Her first album “Zee Avi” came out in two thousand nine. Here is the song “Swell Window” from her second album “ghostbird.”


Zee Avi says she wrote half of the songs on her new album last summer in the kitchen of her home in Brooklyn. The other half she wrote while visiting the Everglades in southern Florida. Here is the song “Siboh Kitak Nangis” or “Don’t You Cry,” which she sings in her native language.


Zee Avi plays two instruments, the guitar and the ukulele. She says she is glad to see that the ukulele is gaining popularity. For example, musician Eddie Vedder recently released an album where he sings and plays the ukulele.

Ms. Avi says the ukulele is her favorite instrument because of her small hands and size. We leave you with “Concrete Wall.”


BOB DOUGHTY: I’m Bob Doughty. Our program was written by June Simms and Dana Demange, who was also our producer.

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Join us again next week for music and more on AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.