A couple of months ago, we adopted a dog from the local animal shelter.
This was not my idea.
In the four years since our yellow Lab died, I had grown accustomed to life without the mess, hassle and expense of a dog. But where I felt peace, my husband and teenage daughter felt only a gaping, dog-shaped hole in our family. After resisting for months, I finally, reluctantly, caved. Enter a young, 20-pound poodle/terrier mix named Thor.
He’s costing us.
The adoption fee, including neutering, was just over $200. Then came a new collar, food, toys, booster shots, a three-month supply of heartworm and flea/tick medicine and a leash. In the subsequent two weeks, three more leashes followed (heʼs a chewer). Add to that a trip to the groomer, far too many paper towels, and the inventory of household goods he has destroyed so far — including my new flip-flops, a set of earbuds and an $80 Macbook charger — and you will understand why I keep saying, through gritted teeth, “This was not my idea.”
Owning a dog costs a lot, although I can’t say exactly how much. Bankrate.com estimates the annual expense to be $580-$875. The ASPCA website says $1,314-$1,875. And Petfinder.com, with the winning in entry in the Least Useful Data Contest, comes in with an estimate (for the first year) anywhere from $766-$10,350. How exactly does one budget based on a range like that?
Fortunately, now that the initial costs are out of the way and the dog is apparently tired of the taste of leashes, we’re left with mostly predictable expenses: food, grooming and medicine. Right now Iʼm putting $100 a month into the Dog category. (That doesn’t allow for emergency care; we’ll have to work on that over the next few months.)
I confess I resented Thor’s effect on the budget. I didn’t want to redirect $100 to this new category when there are so many other places we could use it. Was this completely nonessential dog worth the hit to our budget?
I was leaning toward no. And then something happened.
I fell in love with him.
Each morning, to help him burn off some puppy energy, I take him for a 6:30 a.m. walk on the wooded trails near our house. What began as a chore has turned into an essential part of my day. While he runs off-leash through the forest, chasing chipmunks and following scents, I stick to the trail, listening to the birds singing, inhaling the earthy aroma of the woods, and enjoying a few moments of peace before work.
Thor repeatedly sprints up the trail and then back to me, his ears flapping with every bound. He radiates pure joy, and, though I hate to admit it, it melts my heart.
Getting a dog was not my idea, and from a budgetary standpoint, it was a step backward.
Turns out, I’m OK with that.