2011-05-19 / News

The puppy conflict

Flotsam and Jetsam
By Donna Drago

It’s not often that I am stuck between two opposite opinions on any topic. If I’m asked for my thoughts on something, I either have a strong opinion or I just don’t care. I doubt there’s anyone who knows me who would accuse me of being wishy-washy. But I have to admit that I am currently conflicted.

My daughter recently told me that she was getting a puppy. Now puppies are extremely cute and everyone should have the delight of holding and cuddling a new puppy. But the thought of her getting one fills me with anxiety.

For one, she has a 2-year-old boy who is more than a handful. He consumes her life. Secondly, she already has two cats – how many pets does a family need? And third, as a young family with a mortgage, car payment and other assorted regular expenses, they do not have an abundance of discretionary income.

Granted, she has her own home, her own life and can do whatever she wants, but I tried to talk her out of getting the puppy and my primary reason was the unforeseen expenses – both financial and emotional – that come with dogs.

I can speak with some authority on this because I have two dogs. One is aging and must take daily supplements and meds for its aches and pains. This costs me about $100 per month. Plus it’s very sad to watch it struggle to move. The other is young and healthy, but just last year – when it was 10 months old – it had an accident that put it in the animal hospital for four nights. By the time it was back to normal, this accident cost us nearly $4,000 in vet bills, tests and medications. We are fortunate in that we were able to pay the bill, but in circumstances like this there are so many families who have to suffer through the agonizing decision of whether they can afford to bring their pets back to a state of good health.

Now, I know these types of incidents are the exception, not the rule, but my feeling is that if you cannot afford the extreme costs if they occur, then you cannot afford to have the dog.

Major medical problems notwithstanding, the regular monthly cost associated with having dogs is quite high. Food is about $60; flea and tick treatments and heartworm preventatives are about $30 per dog. An annual visit to the vet and all the associated tests and vaccinations costs around $250 per dog. Then there is grooming, which can cost $400 to $500 per year per dog.

According to the Raising Spot Web site, the first year of dog ownership can cost anywhere from $660 to $5,270 or more.

For a healthy dog, the first year includes costs such as several rounds of puppy vaccines, an electric or stationary fence, crate, all the leashes, collars, and halters for walking. Then there’s bedding and toys, which have to be replaced periodically. Spaying or neutering usually happens in the first year as well.

Raising Spot says, “If a dog’s average lifespan is 12 years, buying a puppy and caring for him throughout his life will cost $4,620 to $32,990. You may spend more or less depending on the dog you adopt and where you live. Keep in mind that this doesn’t include expenses like emergency medical care or dealing with the issues of old-age in dogs, which can run into the thousands of dollars.”

Back to my conundrum. On one hand I see a beautiful, happy puppy that will bring laughter and happiness to her family. On the other hand I see a mischievous or ailing puppy that could cause frustration and financial distress.

“But everyone on my street has a dog” was one defense for why a new puppy was coming to live in her house. It reminded me of the standard childhood argument that begins “But all my friends have a . . .”

“I already have a crazy child, how hard could the puppy be?” was another of the arguments from her side. I totally understand the points she is making. She should have a dog – everybody that wants a dog should be able to have a dog.

But there are way too many dogs now in shelters because their owners didn’t fully examine their financial situation, their available time or their capacity to give a new puppy a lifetime of love and care.

My daughter will get her puppy and I’m sure we will all love it. My hope is that I will never have to say “I told you so.”

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