- DH = Dear Husband
- DD2 = Dear 2nd Daughter
We love our Rocky dearly. Let that be understood. But he can be VERY expensive, and when I consider when we bought him and why we bought him, I have my doubts about whether I’d make the same choices if I could go back in time . . .
“I will walk him and take care of him. I PROMISE!”
We bought Rocky, a purebred Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, in 2006. Financially, it was the WORST time for us to buy a pet – especially one that cost us over $1,000. DH was smack dab in the middle of his 6-year career no-man’s-land, and we were constantly stressed about money. It was not a happy time, and perhaps that is why DD2 kept begging to have a dog. “I NEED a dog,” she would say. “I will walk him and take care of him. I PROMISE!” She was 12-years old at the time, and very strong-willed.
For two years in a row, she had looked after a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel whose owners we had met while camping, and when we happened to meet a breeder during the camping trip of that second year – and he happened to have his pregnant spaniel and her family at the camp site – it all seemed too perfect to ignore. We decided to get one of the babies-to-be, and our time with Rocky soon began.
“Kids can learn responsibility from having pets.” True. But do they?
Guess how long our daughter kept her promise to take care of Rocky? A steady three weeks or so – followed by an on-and-off commitment in the years ahead. Before too long, she resented having to take him for walks. As time passed, she went out more often with her friends, and she became serious about running, spending hours and hours at the track. A little more time passed and she moved out. So who has taken the dog out for walks all these years? What is the answer to that question 90% of the time? Mom and Dad.
On occasion, I hear of children who really do take care of the family pet. If you are the parent of such a child, all I can say is well done!
Vet bills . . . and more vet bills . . .
There is a vet close to our home, but there is a much less expensive one about a 40-minute drive away (or as long as an hour + if the traffic is bad). Some years, I just have to make that drive to the vet once – for Rocky’s shots and yearly check-up. But one year, Rocky had a hernia. And another year, he had bladder stones. Some years, he’s had to have teeth removed. When these medical issues arise, the money pours out for check-ups, tests, medications, and surgery – not to mention car gas.
Over the last few months, Rocky has had chronic infections in his ears and his penis (poor guy). I’ve made that drive out to the vet four times, and the infections persist. Examinations, cultures, medications . . . We’ve spent over $600 at this point, and who knows where it will stop?
Our best friend
There are so many wonderful things about Rocky. He is unfailingly cute. He is always excited to see us when we come through the door. He is happy to go for walks with us, to watch movies with us, to go in the car with us, to stare at us we go about our business, and to snuggle us when we rest. Rocky is satisfied with the simple things in life, and he LOVES us. Is it possible to put a price tag on that kind of friendship? Is it possible to put a price tag on the comfort and companionship he has offered for 10 years? Particularly to our daughters as they went through the tumultuous years of adolescence?
I’m all for having pets . . . when the money is there. But if you’re in financial straits? Think twice. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you simply caving to the demands of a strong-willed child?
- Do you have an understanding with your children about what their responsibilities with the pet will be?
- Do you have a plan to enforce that understanding when complaints and resistance happen?
- Have you considered pet insurance?
- Do you know what the basic costs of veterinary care will be for your pet?
- Are you aware of the expenses for unexpected medical issues that might arise?
- Would it be better to wait until the debt has been paid off / you’ve found a higher-paying job / you’ve saved up more?
- Is there a way you can fulfill that longing for a pet by walking a friend’s dog or babysitting a family member’s cat?
Reflect upon your answers to these questions, and do your homework if there are some questions you aren’t able to answer. What do you think? Is now the time to get a pet?
Your comments are welcome.