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Pet Rock Day

In April 1975, a group of friends were having drinks in a bar in Bonny Doon, California, when the conversation turned to the pros and cons and all the effort that must be put into caring for pets. Gary Dahl was in the bunch, and he said that pet rocks were the perfect pet and that he had one and it didn't require much work. His comments garnered laughs, but not long after the discussion he wrote a humor-filled 32-page training manual about how to care for a pet rock. Then he set a cent down at a building supplies store in San Jose and bought a flat, round, gray stone that came from Rosarito Beach, Mexico. He placed his smooth stone on a bed of straw or excelsior, and into a cardboard carrier with breathing holes, along with the manual, which he titled The Care and Training of Your Pet Rock.

The cabin-living freelance copywriter had been living an austere life, but he was about to hit pay dirt, or more aptly, pay rock. In August, he took his creation to gift shows in San Francisco and New York, and some department stores and toy companies placed orders. Dahl began selling his Pet Rock for $3.95 and boosted sales by doing television interviews. More than 1.5 million Pet Rocks were sold in under six months. But it didn't last. By February 1976, sales were slagging, and the Pet Rock ceased production later in the year.

But Dahl had become a millionaire, and he went from his cabin to a home with a big swimming pool, with a Mercedes in the garage. He opened a bar in Las Gatos and continued dabbling with inventions. His subsequent inventions—such as the Sand Breeding Kit—were far less successful than the Pet Rock. Dahl also was sued by some of his investors, and forced to pay them an amount in the six figures. Dahl died in March 2015 in Jacksonville, Oregon, at the age of 78. But Dahl's Pet Rocks are still alive, enduring in the cultural lexicon long after their scintillating six-month ascent and rapid descent in the mid-1970s, and they are celebrated today with Pet Rock Day!

How to Observe Pet Rock Day

Get yourself a Pet Rock! Buy a new one or check Ebay or elsewhere for an original one. If you already have one, take it out of its box. Have it sit, roll over, or play dead. Read The Care and Training of Your Pet Rock to become familiar with caring for your pet. You could also listen to Al Bolt's "I'm in Love With My Pet Rock," watch Elmo and Rocco the Pet Rock on Sesame Street, watch Elmo and Rocco on Saturday Night Live, or have a drink at Carrie Nation's bar in Los Gatos, which Gary Dahl opened after his Pet Rock success.

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