I’m going to get a lot of heat for this post. I realize it’s a touchy subject but hear me out first, ok?
There is no doubt, animals add an element to life that can’t be beat – particularly dogs. Not only are they good for ones mental well-being but physical health as well. They force you to go for long walks, they help ward off depression, reduce stress, can increase your social circle (hello dog parks!) and they teach you (and your kids) responsibility, unconditional love and ultimately <gulp> loss.
Can you really put a price on all of the above?
The short answer: Yes you can…and you should.
Sure, owning a dog is a lot cheaper than having children. But if you are already in debt, a dog will only make it worse.
I realize my story is not typical. And I know I made a lot of mistakes during dog ownership. But when you own any animal, be prepared for the unexpected.
Love at first sit
Not long after I graduated college, I was living by myself in Florida – states away from family and friends. I lived in a one bedroom apartment and found I was talking to myself more than a sane person should. So, the thought of getting a dog started to take shape.
I located a local adoption drive going on at a Petco near my apartment and decided to check it out. What’s the harm in looking right? WRONG!
Mistake #1 – Don’t go casually looking for a dog at a shelter or adoption event unless you are 100% sure you want a dog. Because I guarantee, you’re going to walk out of there an owner.
Which is exactly what happened one fateful Saturday afternoon. I found Reed. I was sitting on the floor playing with a puppy when he walked over, plopped in my lap and laid there contently. He chose me.
Thankfully, this event took place at a pet store because I didn’t so much as have a collar or leash. And thus began the expense of owning a dog. A few days later and Reed had his first visit to the vet. It required routine shots, blood work and a prescription ointment to treat a skin allergy. Cha-ching! Oh and did I forget to mention the $350 non-refundable security deposit my apartment complex required?
And so it begins…
Three months later, Jay and I were rushing our now beloved pet to a vet ophthalmologist. Yes, they have those. Reed was suffering from Lens Luxation – where the lens detaches itself from the retina. It can cause immediate blindness once detached.
To say I was beside myself with worry and grief would be a massive understand. The cost for surgery was $1,500. This would save his eyesight though. How could I not do it? The alternative would be eye removal. How would I afford such a costly surgery? I did what any recent grad would do. I called my parents. This was the first and last time my parents ever stepped in to rescue me from a financial situation.
Mistake #2 – We should have removed the eyes. We would have saved THOUSANDS of dollars over the course of his life. But we didn’t. I told the doctor to them.
Making lemonade out of lemons
It was hard to admit but we received a “lemon” dog. But we loved him so fiercely that we overlooked his expenses. He was our fur baby! Case in point, he was in our wedding.
With the eye surgery came glaucoma and constant visits to the vet to check the eye pressure ($70 a visit). Not to mention the expense of daily drops (at one point he was on 3 a day). None of which we would have dealt with if we just removed the eyes.
We were able to keep the pressure at bay for about two years before it started creeping up to the point of pain for Reed. A second surgery was required to relieve the pressure.
Mistake #3: We should have removed the eyes. But we didn’t. $2,200 surgery.
A move and a removal
Not long after the second surgery, we relocated back to my hometown. Without a vet ophthalmologist nearby, we had to travel four hours round trip to the closest doctor (tolls, gas and $200 a visit). We were lucky to have a local vet check his pressure and when it would get high, we would make the trek south. We didn’t last more than a year in between surgeries when the call was finally made. We needed to remove the eyes.
There was almost relief in that final decision because then I could stop waiting for when or how it will happen. It WAS happening. Knowing the inevitable did not prevent my devastation though. How on earth were we going to handle a blind dog?
We had two options for the surgery. Remove the eyes completely and sew them shut or put in prosthetic eyes.
Mistake #4: We should have removed the eyes and sewn them shut. But instead, we opted for the implants. Cost – $2,700.
(I will wrote a blog post going into greater detail of the prosthetic eyes at a later date).
This required continuous monitoring and trips to the ophthalmologist. We were constantly worried he was going to injure himself because he still had the corneas.
Surprisingly, dogs do quite well without eyesight! He adapted beautifully.
However, between the eyes, we also dealt with pesky ear infections, seasonal allergies, urinary tract infections that required a special diet, fleas, dental cleanings, digestion issue requiring fluids and medication, monthly heart worm medicine, yearly blood work/shots, and what eventually ended his life – Cushings Disease.
Don’t forget the non-health related expenses too. Grooming, boarding/pet sitters, food/treats and training (which we had to do after Reed went blind. He became more aggressive towards strangers).
We all get older
As pets age, the expenses to keep your beloved animal alive just keeps going up. When Reed was diagnosed with Cushings Disease we had three options. 1) Do nothing and let the disease progress. 2) Try to slow the progression of the disease with medicine and expensive monthly blood work to keep an eye on the levels. 3) Try to reverse the Cushings Disease and send him into Addisons Disease. This can be deadly to dogs as they can go into shock.
Now, what do you think we did? You guessed it. Prolonged his life with medicine and blood work. Please note, this was not routine blood work. No, this was a special kind of blood work that involved spending the morning at the vet where dye was administered and several vials of blood were taken. Then it had to be sent out to a special lab.
Mistake #5: We should have let him live out his life as comfortably as possible.
Eventually, my dear Reed went into kidney failure and we made the awful choice that all pet owners fear. It was time. I will spare you the devastating details that followed with saying goodbye to our Reed. The details of which I’m still not completely over.
When the fog lifts
It’s so hard to see clearly when you are going through these traumatic events because all you want is to keep your fury friend happy and healthy. You will do it no matter what the cost because you feel like you owe it to them after all the love they’ve given you.
But really, the most selfless thing you can do for your trusted companion is letting them go and not prolong suffering.
Do I regret bringing Reed into our family? Not for a second! He will go down as the greatest dog I have ever loved. No other animal could compare.
Would I get another dog one day? I’m not sure. If you ask my husband, he will adamantly say no. For him, it’s a cost based decision. For me, it’s the heartbreak that dissuades me.
In conclusion, a dog can add great value to your family, however you bottom line will suffer. Is that a reason to not get one? That’s up to you.
Does the costs of owning an animal outweigh the money costs and heartbreak?