My friend, Robb has a bit of a pet obsession.
He doesn’t own a pet. His complex doesn’t allow for any. But he and his girlfriend are cuddly, snuggley animal starved. He really, really wants a pet. He posts lots of cute pictures of fluff. He has even mentioned he may need an intervention.
As much as a I love the cuteness of puppies and kittens he posts on his dash, I can think of a million reasons why no one should get a pet. Robb, here’s your intervention. It’s also called reality.
1. Monetary Cost
Owning and caring for any pet is going to cost a bit of money. Obviously a goldfish is cheaper than a puppy. But I own a puppy so I’m just going to break down the cost of Archer in my life.
Food: $30 a week (Admittedly I could buy something cheaper, but I spoil the hell out of the monster.)
Treats: $15 a week (Right now this includes special treats for training as well as chew toys which he goes through at an alarming rate.)
Adoption: $250 (Yes, that was the cost to bring him home. It did include his vaccinations, neuter and microchip as well.)
Training: $80 (For one six-week course. I’m paying $100 for another eight-week course at the end of the month.)
Dog stuff: $100 (This includes two beds, toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush, a few toys and leashes. I’ve only included the cost of one of his three crates since I was given two for free. The final crate runs about $120.)
Rent: $100 deposit, plus $25 a month (My lease mandated a pet rent as do most apartment/condo/houses. My rate is quite low for the area although many places are pet friendly.)
Additional costs: I haven’t included the cost of the clothes, shoes and furniture that has been ruined by excrement, biting, clawing or other puppy behaviors.
Total Cost Over Four Months: $950
When I think about how much money I’ve spent in the past four months on this pile of shedding white fur, I get a little misty eyed for the alcohol, movie tickets and restaurant meals I may have bought. Hell, I probably could have a plane ticket at the going rate of owning one puppy.
Admittedly cost of ownership will go down as he graduates from training and he stops outgrowing everything. But still so. much. money.
Personally I wanted a dog for companionship and to force me to create more structure in my day. (The bane of self-employment.) No alarm clock will ever drag me out of bed faster than a puppy’s bark at 6 a.m.
However I never considered the cost in time each day it takes to care for a dog. Admittedly Archer’s breed mix is much more active than many others out there. Nonetheless, each morning we spend 30 minutes to an hour eating, walking and training. In the middle of the day, I take him for another shorter walk of about 15 minutes. If he is still excitable, I will ask the neighbor dog to play for 30 minutes or so, or I will play with him until he mellows out enough I can get back to work. Then again in the evening, he needs to be fed, walked and trained. Typically this takes an hour to an hour and a half as this is the most active part of his day and ensures a slightly later wake up call.
Total Daily Time: 3 hours
That’s about three hours of my day given over to puppy care. Maybe it doesn’t sound like a lot, but it sure feels like a lot when I’m planning interviews, social events and dates. A number of my social activities have become dog social activities so I can pair dog care with human interaction time. I don’t mind the change as it’s healthier for me to, but it’s been a huge adjustment. Dog park friends at 8 a.m. is a little different from drinks at the bar at 8 p.m., y’all.
A puppy must be trained. Archer has gone from adorable sleepy pile of fur to energetic, lively pup who must chew everything. As cute as he is, working out his energy is a daily chore. I have spent money on training lessons which I desperately needed. The lessons take about an hour a week, plus the hour or so drive time to get there. I spend time each day practicing commands with him. However any dog/human interaction often necessitates further training.
For example when a niece or nephew visits, Archer has to be reminded constantly that children are not puppies. They can’t and won’t play with him like dogs. Any time I’m cooking, cleaning or eating, Archer has to be continually reminded not to jump on counters, legs or steal whatever is in my hands. He is slowly learning to wait patiently for his turn. But it’s a hard-fought and ongoing battle.
Anyone with a dog will tell you consistency and boundaries are key to a well-trained dog. I struggle with consistency all the time. There are moments, like when I’m watching “Game of Thrones,” I don’t want to play with the puppy or discipline him for getting into the bathroom trash for the millionth time. But I have to or he will continue to get into the trash. It’s an ongoing war.
Total Daily Training: There are not enough hours in a day to quantify this.
Of course, I work at home. My puppy and I spend far more time together than I do with any human. If I had a job outside of my house, I would most likely enroll him in doggie day care which costs about $200 a month in SLC. The other option is to keep him at home. For Archer this means he would spend roughly 16 hours a day in his crate, since non-crated alone time results in destroyed furniture and decor.
Speaking of destroyed things, let’s take a moment to remember a white rug, black couch and clean floors. Archer has poohed, peed and vomited on nearly everything I own. Sometimes it will clean out, but not always. He has peed in stranger’s houses, family members homes and even in training class. He is definitely an excited pee-er. I have also become obsessed with excrement as will any dog owner. Here’s the thing, a puppy can’t talk. So about the only way to check his health is to look at his doo-doo, observe his behavior and give him a good once over during brushings. The pooh is disgusting. I have to clean it up, so I will notice when something is amiss. Trust me when you’re in the middle of the conversation about Fido’s shit and the rug fibers you discovered as another dog owner relates finding jewelry in a pile of pooh, you will wonder where you went so, so wrong in life.
You got a puppy.
Before anyone adopts a puppy, think long and hard about the costs of ownership. It’s a huge cost. As my brother in-law says, “It’s as close to having a kid as you can get.”
Truthfully there are several times where I have thought about returning Archer. I love him, but the cost of loving him is incredibly high. My life before him was much simpler. However my commitment to the rescue, him and myself, keep me in it despite the hard times.
Despite the negatives there are positive times, like how he loves to curl up on my feet and sleep. Right now, those quiet, peaceful moments are more meaningful than ever before. The first time he “stayed” when I told him to for more than about three seconds, I was so excited he thought he won a marathon. Compliments from strangers on how well he “heels” for a puppy are the highlight of walks. We’ve come a long way, me and the puppy. I wouldn’t trade him, but damn if I could go back to February, I’m not so sure I would adopt him.
Shh…don’t tell him.