Christmas has gone to the dogs in Linda Lanyon's house.
The co-founder of B.C. Chihuahua Rescue has three chihuahuas and a poodle who get the royal treatment when Saint Nicholas comes to town.
Lanyon is not the only pet lover who pampers her puppies. An estimated $38.4 billion was spent on pets in the U.S. in 2006 with more than 55% of dog owners and 37% of cat owners splurging on holiday presents for their four-legged family members.
Keith Assen, manager of Buckerfield's in Nanaimo, says he is not surprised pet-spending has well surpassed what people spend on children's toys in any given year.
U.S. consumers spend more annually on pet products than they do on children's toys by more than $14 billion a year.
"A lot of the time you find pets have replaced children and (pet owners) want to spoil them," said Assen.
It is the special bond which lead many pet owners down the aisles at Christmas.
Buggies are filled with edible treats, toys, clothes, collars and leashes, food, plush beds and jewelry for beloved animals.
"They definitely get more gifts than everyone else," said Lanyon as she cradled one of her chihuahuas. Lanyon was at Buckerfield's to get pet pictures with Santa Claus. She knows her dogs are spoiled rotten, but "they're my children," she explains as she gives the mini dog in a little red jacket a cuddle.
Lanyon had to buy her dogs a bigger Christmas tree this year to accommodate all their dog-related ornaments, which includes an angel dog for the tree topper. Her dogs all get stocking stuffed to the brim and all their presents are individually wrapped and left under the tree on Christmas Eve.
Lanyon made the mistake of putting the treats out early one year and they were torn open before Christmas morning.
"They are just like kids," she said with a laugh. Coco gets treated like a king every Christmas with a flood of toys and gifts from family members.
Owner Bonnie Hilderbrand loves to pamper her pooch with matching outfits and fancy accessories.
The poodle/shih tzu cross has been her baby since her son left home three years ago.
"Oh, I just love (Coco) to death," she said. Christmas would not be the same if her dog was left out of the picture.
The only present frowned upon with most pet lovers during the holidays is a pet itself.
Lanyon urges people not to adopt a pet over the holidays arguing that bringing a pet home is a big decision and not a last-minute Christmas present.
"It's a lifelong commitment and it can be too much stress at Christmas time with so much going on."
Assen leans back and watches pet owner after pet owner come in with their dogs and cats to have pictures taken with Santa Claus. They get the odd hamster or hedgehog. One year, someone brought in a chicken. Another person brought a turtle to pose with the man in red.
There is no doubt people love their pets, but Assen says he suspects people overindulge their pets during the holidays because they know they can get away with it.
"They can justify it in their minds because it's Christmas."
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