It was the type of product that the entrepreneurs of the Shark Tank would undoubtedly scoff at today, but the sheer marketing brilliance behind it was the stuff that the best modern-day legends are made of. I speak, of course, about the Pet Rock, which made its humble appearance in 1975. I just learned that the Pet Rock has lived up to its expectations as stated on the page of its owner’s manual headed “Your pet rock and you” and has outlived its beloved genius inventor, Gary Dahl, who passed away on March 23, 2015 from COPD.
I was 16 years old when I saw the Pet Rock at the mall – it was probably Spencer’s Gifts, the store with all the lava lamps, black lights, incense and rock posters. Even at the age of 16, I had one of those, “Why can’t I think of something like that” moments. Although I was sorely tempted to buy one as a gift for one of my friends, I resisted the temptation. Because, after all, I had an ounce of common sense instilled by my father who would have undoubtedly been disappointed in me if he saw me bringing home a rock in a tiny “pet carrier” box to give as a gift for a friend.
Today, however, when I saw the news in the New York Times that Mr. Dahl had passed away, I had a wave of emotion crash on me as I realized that I would never have an opportunity to tell him how much he made me smile as a result of his invention and truly funny accompanying “Training and Care of Your Pet Rock” manual.
Whenever I think about my life, and ask myself, “What do I have within me to offer the world that is unique?” for some reason I often think about Gary Dahl and his Pet Rock. It’s quite possible that seeing that silly thing on the shelves of Spencer’s Gifts triggered the entrepreneurial spirit within me that has never withered away. Which means, of course, that Gary Dahl touched my soul and he never knew it.
I wonder how many other people out there with an entrepreneurial or creative flair can attribute a certain awakening to Mr. Dahl. If you look at the web screenshot above, with images not only of the original Pet Rock, but the other creative images of decorated rocks, one would have to believe that thousands of individuals were somehow influenced by the man.
For my part, if I go in reverse and reset every domino that has been toppled in the path that has been shaping my direction, I know that one of them has Gary Dahl’s name on it. Rest in Peace Gary Dahl, and thank you for helping nudge my own creativity.