The Dog Decision: Think Long and Hard Before Making a Pooch Purchase

Family Matters on 12.09.11
Contributor bio

Photo: "Gunny" by Alia Hoyt

I'll just go ahead and start this off by telling you that I love animals, especially my two dogs, Gunny (pictured) and Vegas. My children adore them and I couldn't imagine our lives without them. Now that you don't think I'm a total Grinch when it comes to pets, I'll explain to you why many families might be better off to wait to add an animal into the household mix. Some of my points will be completely obvious to many of you, but others won't have even crossed your minds, unless you've owned high-maintenance animals before. Unfortunately, many people adopt on a whim, which is often why animals are abandoned at already overcrowded shelters.

1. Cost. I'm not talking about adoption fees, puppy shots or even annual vaccines and vet visits. Where your wallet really takes a pounding is in the regular costs and emergent situations. For example, flea, tick and heartworm medicine ain't cheap, to put it mildly. Many dogs require costly medicated food for allergies or other reasons, which will also put you in the poor house in a hurry. My mom's bulldog, who lives with us, requires insanely expensive eye drops and has to regularly visit a doggie ophthalmologist (not kidding) who must live in a million dollar home, as much as she charges. Our Labrador has a penchant for eating sticks, which in and of itself is not a big deal. However, it is less than ideal when said sticks get stuck between her gums, cause ferociously bad breath and she has to be sedated to have them removed (that's happened two times in the last 5 months). Don't forget that you'll have to pay for pricey boarding or dog-walkers anytime you want to leave town, unless a friend or family member really doesn't mind watching your pooch for you.

2. Maintenance. I know your kids promise to walk, feed and brush Fido every day. They won't. You'll end up holding the doggie bag, literally.

3. Clean-up. We have a pooper-scooper the size of Texas and I really should have purchased stock in Swiffer Sweepers years ago, I use so many every day to collect wayward hair. Bulldog slobber can also reach amazing heights when properly flung.

If you've read all of my Debbie Downer points and still find yourself financially, emotionally and physically capable of caring for a pooch, by all means go for it. Like I said, I love my babies, but next time I'll research breeds that are low-maintenance, hypoallergenic and possibly hairless. Even then, there's no guarantee that they'll be a cinch to care for. We had a rescue tabby cat that went into kidney failure earlier this year. The sum total of her vet bills would probably make you pass out from shock.

I have to excuse myself to go Swiffer my kitchen floor, but I'd love to hear your comments about pet ownership, whether they're good, bad or ugly.

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Tags: Budget | Pet Safety