“The biggest lesson in tolerance I ever learned was accepting that there are some people who genuinely like cats more than dogs.” – Cailin Lowry
Do you remember being a kid and walking through the grocery store thinking, “When I grow up I can buy all the dunkaroos and ice cream I want! No one can stop me!”?
No, that was just me?
Well, this thought come to me time-and-time again in my childhood. Being an adult to me meant getting to make your own decisions and there were two decisions I couldn’t wait to make: stocking my own fridge and getting my own dog.
There are people that like dogs and then there are dog people. My family is the latter. I loved my family dogs. A home didn’t feel complete without a four-legged friend. I even had my first dog’s name picked out in the ninth grade.
Then adulthood hit.
I graduated from college and three weeks later found myself in New York City. Instead of complete liberation, my mother’s voice ran through my head in the grocery store where I ended up buying fruits and veggies instead of Häagen-Dazs and Doritos (don’t judge me and damn it being so hard to find Dunkaroos).
At 22 years old and working three jobs – there was also no hope for a dog. Maybe when I got a regular, full-time job? But at 23 years old, even with a full-time job, I definitely didn’t get paid enough to afford a dog, plus I traveled too often in order to go visit Peach (or just to travel). So maybe when I earned more money? But at 24 things felt a bit stagnant – but hey I was starting to make a bit of money with freelance writing so possibly at 25! Then I switched jobs, started earning more at both my full-time job and freelance writing. The stars seemed to be aligning! Except for that whole needing to always get home to take care of a dog part…
Finally, at 26 years old two magical things occurred.
First, Peach moved to New York City and we wrapped up the long-distance portion of our relationship.
Then, I got impulsive for the second time in my life.
My first (and biggest) impulse purchase
While walking along a street fair in our neighborhood of Astoria, Peach and I stumbled upon a pop-up dog adoption fair. I’d recently taken to scrolling through dog adoption sites and started following Susie’s Senior Dogs. I knew I wanted to adopt an older dog, but I walked into an RV-type vehicle full of adorable puppies. I just looked around thinking that now probably wasn’t the best time to get a dog. There were so many trips coming up (hello weddings). But then I saw him.
He stood there in his cage, tail wagging and an enthusiastic smile on his face. Okay, yeah, I know he was just panting but it looked like smiling!
The sign said Shyloh, 7-years-old, Jack Russell-Terrier Mix.
I left the truck, walked with Peach to a brunch date with our friends, where I announced I might be getting a dog.
After a few hours, two walks with (then) Shyloh, a frantic phone call to my parents (who fortunately didn’t pick up) and cutting In Our Hands Rescue a check for the adoption fee, I went home a proud dog owner and promptly changed Shyloy’s name to Mosby*.
Next, I panicked.
I had nothing. No dog food. No leash. No kennel. No dog bed. No toys. How did I think I could handle the time commitment of being a dog owner? How much was this going to cost me? I had a bunch of financial goals I wanted to meet before 30. Would this derail me? And why did I pick this dog?! I wanted a big dog and a girl! I’m not a small dog person!
Yeah – it wasn’t pretty. Peach had to field a couple of frantic phone calls my first night with Mosby.
I texted my cousins with dogs and asked if they too had panicked or if I was just a horrible person not cut out to be a dog owner, despite how much I loved them?
They reassured me it was normal (at least in our family) and a month later Mosby was sleeping in my bed and my constant shadow.
It’s been six months since I first brought him home. We’ve road tripped to Western New York and flown to North Carolina. He comes into the office with me and proves he’s a born-and-bred New Yorker with his impeccable subway etiquette.
Handling my budget buster
But Mosby is definitely a budget buster. At first it was the start up costs: the adoption fee, a vet visit, getting him food and learning his stomach got upset by that one so trying another brand, getting preventative medicines like HeartGuard, buying a dog bed and a few toys. Like any first-time dog owner (or dare I say parent) I have gone a bit overboard with fancy food, organic treats, specialty lotions for his itchy skin and even one time…a mud bath! My sister made the point of asking if I treat myself as nicely as I treat me dog. The answer is a resounding no.
In order to handle having a dependent, and a potential money disaster, Mosby gets his own emergency fund. I keep $1,000 to $1,500 accessible at all times in a savings account to handle unforeseen costs of dog ownership (or the occasional mud bath). And no, I didn’t bother with pet insurance.
The grand total is in
In total, my impulse purchase cost me $2,114.66 – so far. I tally each penny spent on Mosby in an excel spreadsheet. This single biggest cost thus far was his $400 adoption fee. Next, have been transporting him on trips or paying for a dog-sitter, which I find using Rover*.
As I rein in my indulgent spending, and finally found some toys Mosby doesn’t immediately destroy on first contact, the cost of dog ownership is beginning to taper off.
But even with over $2,000 spent, an amount that could’ve sent me on a wonderful international vacation or partially funded a Roth IRA or been used to pay rent; it’s completely worth it to me for the amount of love and emotional support Mosby brings into my life.
In a fun twist, budgeting for Mosby oddly encouraged me to double-down on other saving strategies and I’ve actually increased my savings rate since his adoption – so I guess he didn’t blow all my financial goals to reach by 30! Well, not yet anyway.
*Yes – it’s a reference to the show. No – it isn’t the name I picked out in ninth grade. I’m saving that for my first big dog.
*Rover: I will get a referral bonus to use towards Mosby’s next stay if you sign up through my link.