GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Pets mean the world to many of us, and it's no surprise that some people actually treat their pets better than some of their family members.
We've come along way as pet owners. Think about it: Years ago, dogs worked for people as herding animals or guarding their owners' yards. But that's not so much the case nowadays, with pets having a more inclusive role in the family.
Dog mom Dayna Rowekamp gushes over her adopted dog Jae. She's the first to admit that she never saw herself getting love-struck over a pet.
"I always thought that was baloney when people say they just felt a connection with a dog," Rowekamp said. "I always thought, it's a dog; you can have a connection with any dog. Then we met Jae, and it was immediate."
In fact, Dr. Sharon Henn, veterinarian and owner of Westwood Hills Animal Hospital in Grand Rapids, has seen a trend over the years: people choosing the "pet parent" route.
"They don't want children -- choose not to have children -- but they want to have that nurturing, almost like we have to have an outlet for our caring," said Dr. Henn. "So pets fill that bond."
Even with a family, pet care company Merrick found that of 1,000 people surveyed nearly 70 percent say their dog is their favorite member in the house, with many dogs ranking higher than their spouse and in some cases even their kids!
"Jae comes first in all things," Rowekamp said as she laughed. "I mean, I love my husband, but I love Jae."
Pet parents are going above and beyond to make sure their dogs know just how special they are, from top health care -- tooth cleanings, diabetic care, and cancer treatments -- to celebrating pet birthdays. Some even choose to tailor their weekend plans around their fur child.
"We like to go places as a family, so we will pick breweries that allow dogs," Rowekamp explained.
In fact, Business Insider reports people spend nearly $130 a month on their dog.
And this trend doesn't seem to be changing anytime soon, as many millennials view pet parenthood as more economical than having a family.
"I couldn't imagine we would do those things," Rowekamp said, "but once he got here, and after he was in the shelter, I just want to make sure he feels loved."