LARGO - Charlie loves to get dressed up. At Christmas, he sported antlers. He wore a Superman costume at Halloween. The year before, he was attired in a Batman outfit. The nine-year-old chow terrier mix has a closet full of costumes for various occasions, according to his owner, George Hollis of Largo. For Valentine's Day, Charlie will be decked out in a red scarf adorned with pink hearts, red-rimmed pink-tinted glasses and a large heart which says, "Hug Me".
Charlie, who found a home with Hollis through the SPCA of Tampa Bay, recently won the "Pet of the Week" contest sponsored by East Bay Animal Hospital. His unique costumes have won him awards in the past as well. His next dress-up day after February 14 will be St. Patrick's Day. After that comes Easter. And, of course, you will find him in a patriotic red, white and blue outfit on July 4.
Though Charlie the dog won't be mailing any Valentines, did you know humans send approximately one billion valentines each year worldwide? According to the Greeting Card Association, it's the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas. Valentine greetings date back to the Middle Ages, when young men and women would draw names from a bowl to see who their valentines would be. They would wear those names on their sleeves for one week. That's where the phrase "to wear your heart on your sleeve" originated. Today the saying means it is easy for other people to know how you are feeling.
It is believed Americans began exchanging handmade valentines in the early 1700s. It wasn't until the 1840s that Esther Howland of Massachusetts began to produce the first commercial Valentine's Day greeting cards. Today people give chocolates and other confectionary products as well as flowers or jewelry along with their love notes. The U.S. Census Bureau advises there were 1,241 establishments producing chocolate and cocoa products in the U.S. in 2004. The total value of chocolate and cocoa shipped by those firms that year was $13.9 billion. Some 21,667 florists employing 109,915 persons were responsible for $397 million in sales of domestically produced cut flowers. The number of jewelry stores in the U.S.? There were 28,772 in 2004. In 2006, it was reported that jewelers sold $2.6 billion worth of merchandise in February alone.
Valentine's Day is sure to be a popular holiday in the following towns or counties throughout the country: Valentine, Neb.; Valentine, Texas; Loving County, Texas; Lovington, N.M.; Lovejoy, Ga.; Love Valley, N.C.; Loveland, Okla.; Romeoville, Ill.; Loveland, Ohio; Loveland, Colo.; Love County, Okla.; and Loves Park, Ill.
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