Just like families of the decades before, many families in the 1970s had pets.
Owning a pet, of course, requires a lot of dedication to the animal. You need to walk it, feed it, and care for it when it’s sick.
For some, the time and expense involved in owning a pet can be a little overwhelming.
As an alternative, in the 70s a California businessman came up with a great way to own a pet sans the responsibility and cost that comes with adopting a cat or dog into one’s family.
This gentleman, Gary Dahl of Los Gatos, California, hearing complaints from friends who were overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for high-maintenance pets, decided to “invent” a pet that would require no daily care. Hence, the so-called “pet rock” was born.
Dahl was in a bar with friends when he came up with the idea of a pet that didn’t have to be walked, fed, etc. and soon decided he could definitely market this idea.
From the comfort of his home, he created a 32-page training manual entitled The Care and Training of Your Pet Rock, full of funny advice on how to care for this inanimate object that would be your new – and very quiet - pet.
Dahl also designed a carrier for the pet rock, which consisted of breathing holes to keep your pet rock alive. The rocks inside the box, which came from Rosarita Beach in Baja California, were nestled in straw for safe-keeping.
Dahl introduced the pet rocks at a toy show in the summer of 1975 and by Christmas time, this fuss-free pet was all the rage. The originals sold for about $3.95 and were carried by a number of well-known retail outlets, including high-end department store Neiman Marcus. Dahl even got the opportunity to promote his pets on the Johnny Carson Show.
Kids and adults both flocked to the stores to purchase their pet rocks and by the middle of the Christmas season of 1975, it was often hard to find them on store shelves. In all, about 3 tons of stones went into the making of the product and more than a million pet rocks were sold before, during, and after the holidays that year.
Imitations were released by other companies but they weren’t quite the same because Dahl held the rights on the carrier and manual.
The 70s fad eventually died down though many people kept their cute little pet rocks on their desks or book shelves for years to come.
But because the product was inexpensive to produce, Dahl made a pile of money on his invention during the short time they were popular.
Today, you can still find an occasional original pet rock on eBay or at a shop that sells 70s memorabilia.