Pet Rock Day

Day 2 - Pet Rock And Box Original 70s - Doodlewash

Once upon a time, back in April 1975, a group of friends were having a drink in a bar in Bonny Doon, California. They chatted about the usual things one might expect and then began to complain about their pets and all of the effort it took to care for them. One member of the group, a man named Gary Dahl, quipped that his perfect pet was a rock. This got the group laughing and, to them, the idea of a pet rock just became a running joke. To Dahl, it was a pretty darn good joke and he immediately started writing what would become a 32-page training manual of how one is meant to care for a pet rock, filled with puns and silliness. Later that year, with a bit of ingenuity and quick-thinking, he brought it to market as an actual product. Yep, a Pet Rock on a little bed of straw in a carrier with a manual for $3.95 (which would be $18.50 in today’s dollars). It was an instant hit, garnering magazine articles and television appearances and over 1.5 million were sold in less than six months. Which, as it turns out, was also the length the fad would interest people. Less than a year after that conversation in the bar, the product was discontinued, but Dahl was now a millionaire. He was right about the joke being a good one, and happily laughed all the way to the bank.

Even though the official product was short-lived, the joke lived on and it was still a fun thing to have a pet rock for years after. I remember having one as a kid. I can’t remember what I named it, but I thought it was awesome. It’s perfectly ridiculous, and as a product, almost insanely so, but that’s why people loved it. That, and a magical timing of the year, when people had just been through Nixon’s resignation and the highest unemployment rate in years. A nationwide distraction came in the form of an unassuming rock in a box that delivered some much needed happiness and left its own little impact on history. As for Dahl, none of his other inventions over the next several years achieved the success of his Pet Rock. He would later use his marketing prowess to help others and even published Advertising For Dummies in 2007. He passed away in Jacksonville, Oregon in 2015, but left us with an unusual legacy in the form of one of the most memorable marketing ideas in recent times.

What I love about this story is that it’s a wonderful example of someone chasing even the craziest of ideas to completion. According to the L.A. Times, Dahl’s wife quipped after his death that it was just their second year of marriage when she would suddenly find herself searching for the “perfect” pet rocks on the beach with him. “I thought I had married a madman,” she said, and I have to think that anyone who marries a creative person must feel this very same thing at some point in life. There are people who have ideas and then there are those determined people who actually make them happen. And even a rock in a box inspires me to reconsider all of my own crazy ideas that have simply been spinning around in my head. Thinking about clever things is wonderful, but in the end, it’s doing those things that matters most. That idea for a painting, amazing invention, or the next great novel. Ideas are nothing until they’re manifested and shared with others to enjoy as well. So, I hope all of my fellow dreamers out there will also be inspired to actually DO that thing and complete the project that’s been burning in your heart. When we finally do it, even if it’s not a million dollar success, we can always enjoy the event for its bold ingenuity as we happily celebrate our very own little Pet Rock Day.

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About the Doodlewash

Da Vinci Paint Co.: Aureolin, Vermilion, and Indigo.  Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Day 2 - Pet Rock And Box Original 70s - Doodlewash
Recommended4 recommendationsPublished in By Charlie

Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!

27 Comments
  1. Mary Roff 2 weeks ago

    Perfect pet rock! I remember seeing those boxes. A good lesson for all.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 weeks ago

      Thanks so much, Mary! 😃💕Great memories from these little wonders! 😉

  2. photoscientist 2 weeks ago

    Wow, that was almost at the beginning of time of January 1, 1970. LOL.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 weeks ago

      hehe… it actually showed up a few year later. I actually didn’t show up until 71! lol 😉

  3. Sandra Strait 2 weeks ago

    Love your pet rock! It’s as cute as bug!

  4. Sharon Nolfi 2 weeks ago

    I remember the pet rock craze! Great rendering in paint.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 weeks ago

      Thanks, Sharon! 😃💕 Yeah, it was a craze that was totally crazy… and so much fun!

  5. Lori C 2 weeks ago

    Yep, I had one. However, mine came from the backyard. Lol I love your little painting of this icon. 😛

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 weeks ago

      Thanks so much, Lori! 😃💕 Hehe… yeah, you could totally get one for free, so the actual product was definitely the little manual that came with it!

  6. Lisa 2 weeks ago

    Had one for years in its original box. Now lost to time and moving.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 weeks ago

      Oh, very cool that you still had one for years! 😃💕 I remember the box and the rock, but it’s been years since I’ve seen it in person!

  7. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 2 weeks ago

    Gary Dahl was a brilliant businessman, even if he could never teach his pet to do anything but roll over and play dead. Your Doodlewash of this nonsense is also brilliant, Charlie. if someone opens this page having no idea what to expect, your painting and article describe it to perfection.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 weeks ago

      Thanks, Sharon! 😃💕 Yeah, I figured this one needed the whole story if someone just happened to wander by… hehe… weird and wonderful!

  8. SnehLata Maheshwari 2 weeks ago

    Liked the pet Rock.all story.n main the lines All dreamer s ……..
    Nice lie
    Thanks so much.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 weeks ago

      Thanks, Snehlata! 😃💕 hehe… yeah Pet Rocks were totally silly, but so much fun! Glad you enjoyed this!

  9. smzang 2 weeks ago

    Pet Rocks and Furbies…two of my most fondly remembered toys.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 weeks ago

      Yay! hehe 😃💕 Philippe loved Furbies, though I never really got to enjoy them. Totally thought about getting one recently though. lol

  10. smzang 2 weeks ago

    Just to clarify…Those toys came out when I was grown…we used to have toy stores (A movie was made using my son’s GI Joe collection (Full Grown Men…starring Alan Cumming, Amy Sedaris, Debbie Harry, etc).

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 weeks ago

      hehe!! And yeah, I got that, but really? Are we ever fully grown? I hope not! lol Life is too much fun when we still have that child to guide us! 😃💕

  11. June Hadaway 2 weeks ago

    Pet rocks were certainly affordable. Mine came from the yard. He was my little lost foster pet. To this day I still have a rock….well, it’s really a stone; a worry stone. 😃😩 Great story with a cute little painting of the rock in a box.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 weeks ago

      Thanks, June! 😃💕hehe! That’s so awesome you still have a little foster pet today! And I’m sure those worries are easily put aside with such a sturdy companion. 😉

      • June Hadaway 2 weeks ago

        I always love your responces…all so fitting and thoughtful. Thank you Charlie

  12. Nancy Jackson 2 weeks ago

    Loved the idea, meanwhile here in California we are painting rocks leaving them everywhere it makes kids and adults so happy. Some are simply amazing. Facebook has several, look up Lodi rocks, or Stockton rocks etc… interesting. I have a yard full of rocks, way to many pets. Ha ha ha. I like how shiny your rock turned out. Having fun!.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 weeks ago

      Thanks so much, Nancy! 😃💕 That sounds like so much fun! So many pet rocks… so little time! hehe

  13. jskunstweven 2 weeks ago

    Hi Charlie, nice drawing; I have never heard of pet rocks before here in Belgium.I think i have a whole bunch of pet rocks. Wherever i go on holidays i cann’t leave without picking up a piece of rock for my collection. I cherish them as keepsake of my trips abroad. I always remember the exact place where they came from.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 1 week ago

      hehe! I think those natural pet rocks are the best ones of all! 😃💕 This was definitely just an American marketing gimmick so you didn’t miss much!

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