There is a large part of America that own pets, especially dogs. I knew lots of friends that got a dog in college only to realize they are much poorer because of their new best friend. Most people don’t realize that adding a dog to the family was once seen throughout history as a luxury item. Royalty and noblemen kept dogs to show their wealth. They had so much money they could afford to keep and feed other animals for their own entertainment. They breed useful dogs into small useless lap dogs that didn’t hunt or do anything except lay around and yap at you on your furniture and cost you money. Yes, dogs are friendly, and yes they have value, and some even say they are family members, but they are not necessary and they do have a cost.
Lets break down the numbers for my dog. I was given a 3-year-old purebred yellow lab. He has papers and everything, and I got him because the previous owners had two male labs that fought, and the vet bills for stitches and other injuries finally broke them after a $2,000 bill. I was told the dog cost them $800 and $2,000 in vet bills and about $1,000 a year in food. They also spent around $900 for obedience school, bought a crate for $120, collar for $20, and a leash for $35, and he chewed up a couch and some shoes, which cost them $3,000 as a puppy. So in 3 years they spent $9,875 total for their dog. Imagine that money in your Roth IRA or put toward your mortgage, and they had two of these dogs!!
Now here I come like a total sucker, and when the “free” dog is offered to me I said, “NO!” for about 3 months. Since I worked with this guy, and my wife knew his wife, finally we caved because my whole family wanted the dog. The dog swam in the pond, was loving and kind, protected kids, and was the perfect dog, other than he kept getting bitten by the other more aggressive dog which they kept. They gave us the kennel, which we used for chickens (that’s another story though), we got a leash (we have never used it), we got a month’s supply of food ($80 worth), and then we had to buy a bed for the dog to sleep on. That cost us $60 for the cheap bed (we have two now), then we needed worm pills, chew toys, treats for tricks, and before I knew it we had a dogloo for $100 that the dog is afraid to use. The dog is costing me about $200 a month, or $2,400 a year! That’s money I could be saving for my kids college education every year. The dog will probably live to be 15 years old and have some old dog medical expenses in the future making his cost rise. It will probably cost over $30,000 for my 12 years with our new best friend/ family member, and over $40,000 for the life of the dog by both owners. Money well spent? That’s for you to decide.
So, before you go out and get yourself a “free” dog, understand that pets are a luxury item, which only the wealthy should have. They are a responsibility that should be taken seriously, and if you don’t look at your financials they could be a curse that you will regret. They can be your best friend and be worth the cost, such as when a neighbor’s dog was chasing my daughter across a field, our dog attacked it without hesitation, and ran it off our property. He got a steak that night and was a hero for the month, totally worth it!