Barack Obama has Bo, Kevin Rudd has Abbey and Charlie Brown has Snoopy. Every man needs a dog they can call their best friend.
The power of canine therapy in stress management and mental health is a proven one, with reduced blood pressure recorded in those who interact regularly with dogs. Pet therapy is used by armies, hospitals, aged care homes and schools around the world, with trained dogs assisting with disaster stress relief, soldiers in rehabilitation and children with literacy issues.
Even the tourism industry recognises the need for pet love, with an increasing number of pet-friendly hotels. Big-name brands such as Fairmont and Ritz Carlton even offer hotel dogs that can be 'signed out' by guests for some dogwalking therapy time.
Almost 3.5 million Australians own dogs and the pet industry is booming as more Australians recognise their dogs as an integral member of their own family. The average dog owner spends $1500 per year on their pet, and dog walkers, dog spas and grooming, dietary supplements and accessories are the fastest-growing segment of the pet industry.
Sydney lawyer Stephen McMahon, 34, is one of the many handing over their cash in exchange for some puppy love. He is the master of Bentley, a three-year-old 'moodle' (Maltese poodle cross) who wears Ralph Lauren, drives in Stephen's convertible with the top down and visits the groomers for a haircut regularly.
“I can't imagine life without him,” says Stephen, who lives alone. “I went to Hong Kong recently and Bentley stayed with friends down the coast. When I came home my apartment felt empty and I found myself opening the door gently, because he has a habit of sitting beside the door, and going into the kitchen to fill his doggie bowls even though he wasn't there.
"I've made some good friends through Bentley; fellow dog owners who frequent the same parks and cafes I do. Bentley helped me move home and settle into a new neighbourhood without feeling lonely.”
Andrew, 42, is an officer in the New South Wales police force. He's been married for 15 years and lives in Balmoral Beach. He and his wife consider, Remy, their Lahsa Apso, an integral family member.
“Remy gets all the benefits and attention we would show our kids if we had them,” Andrew says. “Our holidays revolve around pet-friendly locations since he has come into our life. We've been to farm stays in Berry and Thredbo and a pet friendly hotel in Nelson Bay; he even spent an evening with us under the Harbour Bridge watching the Vivid Festival Lights recently.”
A typical day for Remy is a walk in the morning to a beach cafe where he meets up with his friends, Bentley the Moodle and Panda the Spoodle. Then it's home for breakfast, where Andrew feeds him with chicken breast mince, followed by some time at a leash-free park.
“He greets me at the front door often carrying a toy or ball and helps me switch off from my work,” Andrew says of his doggy mate. “No matter what kind of a day I've had at work, Remy will always brighten my day.”