When dog ownership doesn’t add up

By Jane Muller

If there isn’t a dog in your life, it’s likely that the possibility of having one has been discussed. A family pet completes the picture. In some families a furry child was the first. Couples may not realize it at the time but they are actually engaging in a parenting experiment when they bring a dog into their lives.

As the former owner of three full-term dogs, each having lived for around 13 years, I can attest to the benefits of dog ownership. Lessons learned in dog obedience classes were transferable to parenting skills and that famous unconditional dedication can’t be beat. Our cat often emerges from her sleeping place to see who’s come home but it’s nothing like the joyful greeting delivered by a canine.

Without a dog for three years now, our family is not at a dog-friendly stage. All of us are out of the house all day and now that the kids no longer require my care, why would I bring on another dependent. I was mother to those dogs and happy in the role. They required training, grooming, walking, playing, petting, cleaning up after both in the yard and the house, not to mention the paying of food, vet and pharmacy bills.

Our dogs were part of our family and we loved them. Still, I always want to caution families that are considering adding a dog to the mix, especially if they think the kids are going to look after it. Just as childcare seems to weigh more heavily on us moms, so does doggy care so be prepared or take a pass.

My niece knows all about childcare as the mother of six. She wanted her kids to experience having a dog in the family but decided to test the waters by fostering a guide dog puppy through its first year. The experiment is just more than halfway through and I’m not sure of the verdict.

Her approach is one that’s suggested in our feature by Pam Molnar in the Junior section this month. Another suggestion is to care for a friend’s dog while they are on vacation. The article offers other great advice as well as some facts worth considering. I like the financial facts that add up to an estimated lifetime expense of more than $24,000 for a dog.

I am waiting to cash in on that one. I should have saved $6,000 so far by not owning a dog. Of course there are other pets that require less work and less money. Most kids want a pet and they are going to ask for a pet. Whether or not you are engaged in pet talks, the picture book reviewed in On the Bookshelf titled “A Dog with Nice Ears” is worth a read. Sometimes a dog is actually a rabbit.