Parental Discretion
By Mark Kalaygian
October 9, 2013

Editor's Note: The following was originally published in the October 2013 issue of Grooming Business magazine, but the message can be equally valuable to pet retailers.


Tragedy can go a long way in giving some perspective in life. I got a hard reminder of this lesson recently when I found two lumps on my dog Maxy’s belly.

My Jack Russell Terrier has always been a beloved member of the family. Like so many young couples, my wife and I adopted Maxy early in our marriage, sort of as a test run before we embarked on the adventure of parenting children. However, finding those lumps was a game changer, and the responsibility of being a pet parent quickly took on new meaning for me.

Of course, I immediately brought Maxy to the local veterinarian, who said that the lumps were tumors on her mammary glands and would have to be surgically removed for biopsy. Intent on getting a second opinion, my wife and I turned to our former long-time veterinarian, who is located an hour away from our new home. It was not that we didn’t like or trust the new vet, but he never inspired the same type of relationship we had with his predecessor—a relationship that was fostered by a superior pet-bedside manner and a clear understanding of our pet’s health.

After our old vet confirmed the original diagnosis, we decided to have him perform the surgery, despite the fact that his estimate for such a procedure was about 40 percent more expensive. We just felt better knowing that Maxy was in the hands of someone we trusted implicitly, whatever the cost.

For retailers, my experience can provide some insight on the mentality of “pet parents.” There are a lot of us out there these days—76 percent of participants in a recent survey by Rover.com revealed that they identify themselves as “parents” to their pets—and this is exactly the demographic that pet stores should be courting. Like my wife and me, most of these clients will spare no expense when it comes to taking good care of their four-legged loved ones, which can be music to the ears of an independent retailer.

However, pet parents will also be extremely discerning when it comes to deciding whom they trust to help provide that care. With this in mind, a retailer’s greatest asset is its reputation as a trustworthy establishment that will deliver the best possible information and products for both pet and parent. Without such a reputation—and the relationships it fosters—a pet store is bound to end up on the wrong side of parental discretion.

Unfortunately, we got the worst news possible about Maxy: the tumors were malignant, and she probably only has about a year left with us. For our part, we are committed to fighting for our “child.” It will undoubtedly be a tough—and expensive—process, but we are determined to do whatever it takes to beat the odds and extend Maxy’s life as much as possible. That’s what good parents do, right?