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Why We Won’t Get a Dog as a Chanukah Gift

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Update on December 6th: We are now the proud caretakers of Joey and Rocky, two gold fish.

The people who live next door to us have a dog.  So do the people across the street.  The same goes for several families down the hill, and up the hill as well. You can imagine the chorus when one neighborhood canine starts barking.

There are simply dogs everywhere in our new suburb.  In fact, the week we moved in, a polar bear sized white beast (I’m not exaggerating), escaped (again) from his house.  It took six kids to corral him, attach a leash and walk him home.

Hence, you can understand why the boys want a dog for Chanukah.   Much to their regret, it’s just not going to happen.

I didn’t have a dog growing up, and while I resented my parents’ decision, I am apparently inflicting the same fate on my kids.  Fortunately, my husband, who grew up with cats, agrees.

We recognize the myriad benefits of having a dog.  It would be a companion for the kids; a way for them to learn responsibility.  But you all know the reality… I would be the one walking, feeding and caring for the dog.  I would be the one going to the vet.  I would be the one wielding endless rolls of tape to get the dog hair off the couch.

Plus, I now have this to back up my argument: having a pet costs money.  A recent story in the New York Times exhorted readers to think about the costs of owning a pet before making a holiday gift purchase.

Yet the reality is that pets cost far more than many people expect. And right now, as the economy continues to stumble, those costs have become a burden to many people, like the cat lover who cannot afford medical care or the horse owner struggling with boarding fees.

The problem is that the general information out there is not realistic. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates the cost for a large dog at $875 a year for food, medical expenses, toys and a few related expenses, and $560 for first-year setup costs. The estimate for a cat is $670 a year, with first-year expenses of $365, for a total of $1,035.

The Times goes on to talk about how those numbers can really run much higher.  But that’s not what this story is about.  Pure and simple, I am not bowing to the neighborhood pet pressure.

Besides, I think I’ve come up with some other Chanukah presents that might take their mind off the dog thing.  This year, I’m leaning towards the type of gifts that take time, make a mess, and require a dash of creativity.  So far I’ve stashed away some paint, glue, wax, felt, Popsicle sticks and Legos.  And if I end up with a Popsicle stick puppy or a floppy-eared wax figurine, well, I’ll deal with the guilt then.

In the meantime, our youngest will just have to stick with his favorite stuffed animal named “Bow Wow.”  And maybe a goldfish or two.



2 Responses to “Why We Won’t Get a Dog as a Chanukah Gift”

It’s not just the expense either. My wife and I believe that the value in spontaneous travel far outweigh the educational benefits of a pet. We can and do travel last minute locally and beyond. This just wouldn’t be possible (or fair to the animal) if we had a pet.

We have 2 large dogs, a cat and 4 fish. We love them. They can be expensive however… But, we’ve found ways to limit the expense. We made our own dog house from landscaping timbers found at our house when we bought it. Cost = $0. We made our own cat house (our kitty mainly lives outside and it’s getting cold now) from a wooden box found at the end of a neighbors driveway and a piece of foam core for insulation. Cost = $10. We did research into pet food and discovered that while the wonderful food that we were feeding really is great, the store brand pet food at Costco was ranked just as high – and was much cheaper (even cheaper than Purina). We do our own vaccinations (except for rabies) and use the horse version of heartworm preventative (measuring it out on a fancy very accurate scale) – huge savings.

And, we still travel! We have a wonderful pet sitter who comes every day – at $20/day. Not that bad when we save on other expenses while traveling.

Pets are expensive, but they also have wonderful benefits. A huge reduction in asthma in kids that grow up around them, someone to love, responsibility, empathy towards others… To us, this out weighs the negatives. Yes, we work hard to limit expenses – we are doing that with all parts of our lives. But for us, not having them simply isn’t an option.

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