Out of idle curiosity, I ran a Quicken category report for the past 12 years and restricted the categories to one: “Dog.”
According to Quicken, to date I’ve shelled out $8,217 for the privilege of owning a dog—well, for five of those 12 years, two dogs. That doesn’t cover everything. For the first few years of Anna’s residence with me, I didn’t break out every food and toy and miscellaneous expense for the pooch.
And it doesn’t count the leather chair that had to be rebuilt after Anna chewed an arm off it (that was when SDXB started calling her “the thousand-dollar-a-day dog”). Or the carpets that had to be replaced after a long, slow house-training. Or the van I bought to carry her around after she developed a habit of placing her muzzle next to my ear and screaming until my eardrums hurt every time I put her in the car. The Camry I replaced with the gas-guzzling Sienna had at least another five years on it, and it was a great deal more fuel-efficient than the Dog Chariot. If you calculated in the cost of the replacement flooring (all tile) and the larger vehicle and the cost of running said larger vehicle, you’d be looking at, oh, say, another ten grand. That would bring us to something like $18,000 for the pleasure of 12 years of dog company.
Well, it doesn’t match the cost of raising a child. Yet.
But the next time you gaze into two limpid pools of puppy-love eyes, think: this is not a minor undertaking! Bringing a pet into your life is expensive. Vet bills (which can take your breath away-my last bill was $450!) are just barely the half of it. Over time the combined costs can add up to something very, very large.
Would all that money have gone into savings? Probably not. It likely would have been diddled away on living expenses. I do have to say, though, that if I hadn’t had that $450 vet bill, the larder would have been quite a bit fuller in the month I had to pay it. Yes. It would have been nice not to have to go hungry, or to raid retirement savings, to pay for the cost of owning a dog.
Anna is very elderly and frail. She won’t last much longer, alas. It makes me very sad. I can hardly imagine what my life will be like without a furry companion.
Still, when I contemplate the possibility of adopting another dog after she’s gone, I have to ask myself: can I afford another $18,000? Or even $8,217? When I’m 70-something and scraping by on Social Security, will I be able to take care of a dog?
I don’t think so. In fact, the cost of pet ownership is rapidly moving beyond the means of the average middle-class American. At one point, I estimated that a single person would need an annual income of at least $80,000 to own a dog without having to tighten her belt now and then. Possibly a two-earner household could afford an animal more comfortably. But for single middle-class earners, dogs are about on the order of horses: an indulgence for the wealthy.
How much do you spend on your pets? Do you think this is affordable in today’s economy?