I never thought we’d be dog people, but here we are.

Tara was obsessed with cats when we met, which tells you how obsessed I was with her, because I hate cats. You’d hate them too if you were as allergic to them as I am.

I signed up for a 15-year labor of love, bouncing from daily regimens of Claritin to Allegra to Zyrtec and occasionally selling my soul to Benadryl when one of those effing cats scratched me. I can’t credibly complain – I surprised her with a new kitten once. 

When that cat, Phoenix, eventually died, Tara granted me mercy. She’s playing the long game. She’ll be around well after I’m gone – she’s blessed with far better genes – and will have a dozen cats within weeks.

I assumed our pet days were over until then. Our lives were too busy.

I didn’t account for the wine. 

One taco night, the subject of dogs came up at dinner. At that very moment, by freak coincidence, I got a text from my cousin. A friend of his had a litter of Mini Australian Shepherds and was looking for takers. Despite having a family rule about no phones at the dinner table, all four of us started Googling dogs. 

Two bottles of pinot noir later, I texted my cousin back.

That’s how we ended up with Wilson four-and-a-half years ago. He’s named after a volleyball Noelle sobbed about when Tom Hanks let it drift away in the ocean. 

We got Toby – another Mini Aussie – three years later. He was a classic pandemic puppy, an homage to Noelle’s favorite character on The West Wing, which we binged through quarantine. Noelle’s naming rights are apparently inalienable. 

So now we’re a full-blown dog family. You probably know that if you’ve ever been on a Zoom call with me. They have an impeccable penchant for chaos when I’m doing my most important meetings or virtual conference speeches.

It doesn’t hurt that they’re both boys. I’d been the lone male for a long time. I fully admit I talk to them in a ridiculous voice that I would be mortified about you hearing. They lick my face, sleep in our bed, wake me up way too early, and burden me with endless guilt when I travel. 

If you had told me five years ago any of that would be true, I would’ve called you crazy.

And yeah, I just made you read a completely frivolous prologue about dogs. I needed a respite from all the seriousness around here. 

Here’s what we’re seeing:

Americans are more split about the prospects of a recession than they were a few months ago. For starters, 45% of U.S. adults think we’re currently in a recession (we’re not). That’s up seven percentage points since June. Notably however, 23% of Americans don’t believe we’ll be in a recession inside a year or more – that’s up 5% since June. One area where people are clearly more pessimistic is interest rates. Eighty-three percent of Americans are at least somewhat concerned about rising interest rates, while over half think they’ll have a negative impact on the overall economy. Truthfully, most people – myself included – don’t know what longer-term impact rate hikes will have on the economy. But, if those concerns get people to tighten wallets, it matters.

You should know that the baby formula crisis in this country isn’t over. If you want your Saturday morning cup of coffee to be half full, you can find solace in the fact that the supply chain problems impacting baby formula in America have improved appreciably since we last studied the issue earlier this year. Thirty-three percent of formula-buying families say they used to have trouble accessing formula but no longer do. Unfortunately, 34% report still having problems finding formula when they need it. All of this has caused a ton of disruption in the formula category, as consumers shift to replacement brands, perhaps never to return. 


Productivity monitoring is the new battleground between remote workers and their employers. Eighteen percent of U.S. adults are still working fully remote with another 21% operating in some hybrid fashion. And, as employers come to grips with this new reality, they’re implementing monitoring tools to measure worker productivity by using software to track their keystrokes and screen activity. Needless to say, the 18% of workers who say their company uses tools like these are not thrilled about it. But, as the job market shows early signs of softening, they may have less and less to say about it. Remarkably, nearly one-third of remote workers don’t know for certain if their employer monitors their computer activity, but they suspect it. Yikes.

Small businesses could feel the pinch of consumer austerity this holiday season. 
This story sucks. But before we get to small businesses, note that people are continuing to shop earlier and earlier for their holiday gifts – the number of Americans who say they have started their shopping already (by the end of September) is up five percentage points from this time last year, which was up nine percentage points over 2020. Supply chain concerns continue to be a major motivator for early shoppers. Unfortunately, as the holiday season gets closer, the percentage of shoppers who say they plan to spend the most money at small or locally-owned businesses keeps falling. Don’t let that happen. (P.S. – If you don’t subscribe to our vaunted Consumer Holiday Tracker, you mustn’t really care about retail).

Drinking is falling out of vogue, which makes me less cool than I was a year ago
. Americans have been reporting lower levels of alcohol consumption since the beginning of the pandemic, but those numbers have accelerated even more over the past 12 months. It all seems to be driven by an increased focus on wellness in America, which we are seeing across all manner of lifestyles, from food to beauty products to mental health services. One thing that clearly isn’t driving it is an interest in non-alcoholic beer. 

More awesomeness from the CivicScientists this week:

  • Amazon’s new “Prime Early Access Sale” should be a big hit;
  • Trader Joe’s shoppers are pretty much exactly what you expect them to be;
  • I was on Chris Cuomo’s new show on NewsNation this week, talking about stuff you read about here every week, and despite some technical issues at the remote studio that required me to shoot the interview on my phone, it went pretty well. I’ve decided to forgive Chris for saying I look like a member of Journey. 

The Top Questions This Week:     

Answer Key: Dick jokes; The latter; Dick jokes; Small group of equally rabid friends; Top 5.

Hoping you’re well.


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