You read that right: one German shepherd and one greyhound cost me, all told, about $48,346 over thirteen years.
How many times have I said on this blog that the cost of pet ownership is beyond the means of the average single middle-class earner? The instant you say any such thing, you run the risk of being excoriated by passionate animal lovers, who argue that adoration of a furry friend is soooo worth it, and who imply or say outright that there’s something obscenely cruel, materialistic, and downright sacrilegious in suggesting otherwise.
I’ve always based those remarks on a general sense that I was spending too darn much on the dogs, particularly on the shepherd, and that the vet had me helping to make payments on a Porsche. Though one swift Quicken report suggested I’d spent something in excess of $18,000 on dog care, I never really looked hard at it.
Well, last night in a moment of idleness I ran a Quicken report on the category “Dog” and dated it back to October, 1995, when I bought Anna as an eight-week-old puppy. Walt came along seven years later and lived with us just over five years, from March 2001 until he died of cancer in September 2007.
Between October 1995 and June 1, 2008, when I sent the new vet flowers for kindness above and beyond the call of duty after she put Anna down, I posted $20,515.44 in Quicken’s “Dog” category. Feeling agog at that? Check out the figures here. This accounts for food, veterinary bills, endless medications for the shepherd, training, construction of a dog run (huge rip-off by a guy who ran a short length of chain-link fencing between the house and a block wall and then charged over $435 for the job), toys, dog beds, collars, leashes, and the like.
But that’s not all.
It doesn’t count the $635 that I paid to install a “security” dog door in a wall, supposedly near-impermeable to burglars when deadbolted shut, at the time I moved into my present house: $20,515.44 plus $635 = $21,150.44. I carried that as a capital improvement, so it wasn’t picked up in Quicken’s category report for “Dog.” Nor does it include the several hundred dollars in meat, vegetables, and starches I bought at grocery stores during the Great Chinese Dog Food Scare, charges that got lumped in with “groceries.” For our purposes, we’ll have to write off that cost—it was relatively minimal, anyway, compared to the next one.
Oh, yes. There’s more.
As a young dog, Anna was extremely vocal. A vocal German shepherd is a loud German shepherd.
I was driving a Toyota Camry at the time. It was a very nice car, only about seven years old and running exceptionally well. When I would put Anna in the back seat, she would become very excited and emit a loud, constant “are we there yet?” stream of yaps. Better yet, she would position her head so that her muzzle was right next to my ear, between my head and the driver’s-side window, and she would SCREAM every inch of the way between Point A and Point B. Nothing, including tying her to the seat belts with a special and wildly complicated doggy car harness, would ameliorate this. When I would drive her to the vet or to a hiking trail, I would get out of the car with my ears ringing and literally hurting.
I realized that if I didn’t do something about that, it was going to damage my hearing. No amount of training—and I’m pretty good at training large dogs, folks—did anything to shut her up. The only strategy that worked at all was to open the rear passenger’s side window so she would stick her head outside to scream. But that put her at risk, to say nothing of creating quite a distraction for fellow drivers.
Finally, I decided to buy a larger vehicle. But instead of trading in my perfectly good Camry, as a normal person with even a smattering of IQ points would do, I gave it to my son, whose junker was falling apart like the Minister’s One-Hoss Shay. He took it to San Francisco, where he was living at the time. There he parked it on the street, where a teenaged girl came along at a fast clip and rammed it, full bore, into the back of another car, crumpling it like a beer can. Of which she no doubt had plenty in her own car.
The car I bought to replace mine was a Toyota Sienna, a minivan large enough to pen the dog in the back so that at least she couldn’t shriek directly into my ear. This worked to save my hearing, but it did nothing good for my bank account. The Sienna cost me $27,195.92 (not counting the vastly increased cost of registration over the next several years and the cost of increased gas consumption).
Think of that: $27,195.92 + $21,150.44 = $48,346.36.
That is what Anna and Walt cost me, approximately. Yes. That’s $3,718.95 a year, or $391.91 a month.
If I had kept the Camry for ten years, as planned, and then bought a similar vehicle, the cost out of my pocket would have been around $10,000 to $15,000. And had I put $391.91 a month into savings over 13 years, that 48 grand (plus interest!) added to my other funds would have plumped up my retirement savings to the point where there would be no discussion of my working to the age of 70. No, indeed, my friends: I would be retired today, yea verily, even as we scribble.
Except for the Dog Chariot, most of these costs came in more or less affordable, not-very-noticeable chunks. The $21,150 represents the gradual accrual of expenses such as food and veterinary care, plus the usual doggy gear one picks up at PetSmart.
The pet industry has evolved into a huge cash cow whose primary purpose is to separate animal lovers from their money. And, as anyone who thinks objectively about it can see, it’s very successful at that. Too bad we can’t all think clearly while we’re in the process of letting ourselves be sheared.
5 Comments left on iWeb site
Uh huh.I spent a very ugly amount on my dear departed Jonah.My current dog is costing far, far less.I hope it stays that way!
So, are you getting another dog?
Tuesday, June 3, 2008 – 08:26 AM
Right now the greyhound people have a gorgeous little fawn female up for adoption, ohhh so pretty and I do love greyhounds….
But no, snap out of that!!!!
LOL! Probably not for a while. I think I need to decompress from dog ownership. As much as I miss Anna H. Banana and Walt the Greyhound, gee…it’s nice to have the floors clean. It’s sorta neat to have my old, still viable area rugs back on the floor in the living room and family room, and to have a soft rug on the floor next to the bed that’s not full of dog hair or wadded up and shanghaied for use as a dog pillow. It’s amazing not to be up to my elbows in grease every morning, trying to slip pills down a dog’s throat and cutting up chicken to persuade the dog to eat its food. It’s a relief not to be quietly wondering what kinds of adulterants lurk in commercial dog food (and did they give Walt cancer?). And wow! No daily dog poop patrol…
Most likely I’ll wait two or three months and then give in. You’ve gotta have a dog. Don’t you?
Tuesday, June 3, 2008 – 09:08 AM
Wow. Micah and I may have a dog since we’re probably not going to have kids. But like a kid I want to be sure that we can handle it financially before we take the plunge. I don’t think we could have both…
Tuesday, June 3, 2008 – 05:36 PM
Thats amazing! just under $400 a month, although i think you are a little hard on them allocating the full cost of the car to the dogs, surely you got other benefits from having a larger car? The <a href=”http://www.nationalpayday.com/education/need_money/I_need_money.asp%22%3Ecosts%3C/a%3E associated with pets is still extremely high, Just the basics Vet+Food+toys+time cost families lots of money.
Thursday, June 5, 2008 – 01:35 PM
On maybe two or three occasions, the van came in handy for hauling materials from Home Depot and the brickyard. In general, though, the Camry would have been a better ride: cheaper, classier, and on budget. I could have rented a pickup to haul junk for a lot less than the cost of a Toyota Sienna.
Thursday, June 5, 2008 – 08:00 PM