Pet Rock

stone soup

Pet Rock was a collectible conceived by advertising executive Gary Dahl. In April 1975, he was in a bar listening to his friends complain about their pets. This gave him the idea for the perfect ‘pet,’ one that would not need to be fed, walked, bathed, or groomed; and would not die, become sick, or be disobedient. His friends thought he was joking, but Dahl bought a load of smooth stones from Mexico’s Rosarito Beach for about a penny a stone. He marketed them like live pets, in custom cardboard boxes, complete with straw and breathing holes for the ‘animal.’ The fad lasted about six months. Dahl sold 1.5 million Pet Rocks for $4 each and became a millionaire.

A 32-page official training manual titled ‘The Care and Training of Your Pet Rock’ was included, which was the real product: it was full of gags, puns and jokes. It contained several commands that could be taught to the new pet. While ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ were effortless to accomplish, ‘roll over’ usually required a little extra help from the trainer (as did ‘attack’). The owners also found that potty-training their pet rocks was easy, given that they were, in fact, rocks. Dahl continued to work in advertising but avoided interviews for years, because ‘a bunch of wackos’ harassed him with lawsuits and threats. He said in 1988, ‘Sometimes I look back and wonder if my life wouldn’t have been simpler if I hadn’t done it.’

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