The Impact of Pet Ownership on Human Creativity

From the media we consume to the ways we pass time, a crowdfunded illustrated book reflects on the central role dogs play in owners’ lives

A new study by National Pet Owners Survey shows that pet ownership is at an all-time high for Americans. This has had a wide array of implications including increased demand for pet food, wellness services, and pet-specific technology, which continued to grow even through economic recessions. It has also a meant a reconfiguration of media consumption. For example, data from Mintel shows how owning a pet impacts media, technology consumption, and desire for innovation.

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Many acknowledge the positive impact pet ownership has had on their social life or their children, yet for all that we know about pets, there is little research on how they impact our creativity. While the impact is difficult to identify, there is clear scientific evidence when it comes to dogs. A study shows “that talking to and petting a dog are accompanied by lower blood pressure in the person than human conversation.” A very interesting insight on the connection many of us feel when focusing our attention on dogs.

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A book that does a great job of reflecting on the joy of dog ownership is Mark Ulriksen’s Dogs Rule Nonchalantly, a work that could only be produced by an avid dog lover. In it the author tells a comprehensive free-associative narrative on dogs through 65 painted illustrations. He displays a bottomless sensitivity to the experience of owning and loving a dog, different dogs, through life. his book connects the genres of children’s book, graphic novel, and an illustrated table book. It walks the reader through the many things that make dogs so special, such as “Dogs have such short lives. They deserve to be spoiled.” He tells PRINT Magazine:

There are bits of narrative about my life, seen through the eyes and minds of the dogs in my life—who I am, where I live, who I’m married to, my kids. I wrote the book in first person, in my own handwriting, to drive that point home. There are also observations about dog behavior in general, from someone who’s been a “dog person” his whole life.

To create a space for his fans to convey their love for their own dogs, he had a Kickstarter perk where he created personalized covers so that people could tell him about their own dog on a printed high-end art book. When asked to reflect on the role of dogs on his creativity, Ulriksen talks about the various forms and auras that different dogs emit:

I’ve been painting faces for over 20 years and every once in a while it becomes a bit of drudgery… another painting with say, half a dozen faces to portray. With dogs I get the same joy at capturing a personality but with a tremendous range of nose shapes, ear sizes, head shapes, body types. People don’t have that wide range of appearance; think of a Basset’s ears versus a Doberman’s, a Pug’s nose vs a St Bernard’s, a Chihuahua compared to a Great Dane. I’m all about visual story telling and trying to find something real in life. Dogs provide the same set of material to work with, but with more variety and definitely less of a need to flatter.

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Dogs Rule Nonchalantly

Sources: Mintel, the Doggerel, PRINT Magazine