HIGHTOWER: The High Price of Pooch Pampering

Time for another trip into the Far, Far, Far-Out Frontiers of Free Enterprise.Today, Spaceship Hightower takes you on a return visit to the World of Canine Consumerism -- a rapidly-expanding segment of our free-enterprise universe that warrants careful monitoring, lest it overwhelm us. Reporting that Americans now spend more than $21 billion a year on their dogs, Mother Jones magazine repeats a joke that's making the rounds in certain yuppie circles: Who's having children these days? Only those couples who can't afford dogs.For the seven out of ten people who think of their pets as their children, nothing is too fine for fido. But pampering pets can be more expensive than caring for kiddos. For example, a bag of Healthy Times snacks for children runs $1.99, but a similar-sized bag of Haute Canine Natural Gourmet Dog Snacks will set you back ten bucks. Also, while you can send your little tyke to a placed called Mountain Camp in California for $610 a week, a week at Sierra Mountain Doggie Camp runs $1,500.As you might know, many cities have created special "Dog Parks" -- public spaces set aside for dogs and dog-people, so the pooches can run unleashed. But what to do afterwards when your dog is well, dog tired? Water helps, of course, but is it enough? No, says the maker of REBOUND! -- a sort of Gatorade for romping hounds. This bottled drink is a "mineral enriched" sports beverage for dogs, supposedly "rehydrating" them after they've had a vigorous workout. It replaces "electrolytes," provides vitamin E and two types of amino acids, and even gives[quote] "an energy boost" to old dogs.This is Jim Hightower saying ... I could use a swig of that every now and then! But at $1.17 a bottle for REBOUND! I think I'll just stick with Gatorade ... or beer.

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