538 comments

Great News! Dog Ownership is Optional!

wolf_brotherIf you were to show up and gaze down on our planet as an outsider, you could easily get the impression that Dogs run the place, and we Humans exist only to serve their needs.

We provide them with shelter, transportation, medical care and even grooming, in most cases going further into personal debt to do so. We devote millions of acres of our farmland to raising other types of animals which we then slaughter and chop up and feed to our dogs. We even follow them around with plastic bags so we can pick up their excrement while they tug impatiently on the harness, urging us to hurry up so they can continue their guided tour of the city.

Now, don’t get me wrong – this is just what some visiting aliens would think. You and I know the real reason we have dogs. It’s because of our deeply shared evolutionary roots.

huntersIn episode 2 of the splendid science miniseries Cosmos, the host Neil Degrasse Tyson starts up a campfire and reenacts the fascinating tale of how dogs first joined our family circle. Living as pack hunters ourselves sometime within the last 40,000 years, we started noticing that some of the less wild members of the wolf packs surrounding us could actually be useful and trainable. And the group-based nature of our two species meant that they had some of the same social instincts as us, meaning they could become warm companions as well.

So was born Man’s Best Friend, and we enjoyed the help of domesticated wolves even as we selectively bred them into the hundreds of occasionally cartoonish variants known as dogs that we see running around today.

All of this has made perfect sense over almost all of these subsequent millennia. Most of human history has been spent in the wild, trying to stay alive and produce children that could do the same thing. More recently we moved onto farms, living a much easier life but still one with plenty of wild outdoor space, sheep that needed herding and henhouses that needed protection from foxes. On a worldwide basis, roughly half of us still live out in the country (in the US this figure is down to 19 percent). So there is still no shortage of good homes for dogs.

But at the risk of making myself the target of serious anger and hundreds of rational-sounding justifications, I wanted to point out something that seems to have been forgotten by people in my generation and younger. It’s just the plain, perfectly happy and non-judgmental fact that

Dog Ownership is Optional.

My experience might be partly influenced by living in one of the Mountain states, but it seems dog ownership is absolutely contagious around here. Young single adults will adopt a dog shortly after graduation. One dog often leads to another. Young couples will move in together and blend their dog families into one household, Brady Bunch style. Child-raising families have dogs. Older people have smaller, yappier dogs.  When I go out for a walks, I’m often the only one not walking a dog or three.

And this is before we get into the fact that as a society we have gone batshit crazy. When I first published this article I got hundreds of slightly-to-very upset comments from dog people accusing the article of being very anti-dog (it is not – I am saying they are optional, unlike car clown behavior which is never allowed). And then I got about a dozen private emails in support of the idea of a slight reconsideration of our attitude toward dogs. These people were actually afraid to put these comments out in public, because the dog people are so sensitive! As one reader wrote to me privately:

I feel as though the whole ecology of the US has changed in the last 10 – 15 years due to the extreme increase in ownership of dogs and cats, but also the extreme anthropomorphism of those same dogs & cats.

The dog examples in our area include debt over chemo treatments for dogs (and crowdfunding for this too), portraits of dogs (oil and watercolor of course), bronzed dog busts, dogs in strollers, dog spas & hotels, dog bakeries, dog clothing & costumes, toe nail painting for dogs, lavish pet cemeteries, and now people being upset if they don’t receive dog sympathy cards for their death.

All of this is overwhelming for people like me who actually like animals and see their
 amazing abilities to help the disabled or do great work on a farm, but feel that there should be limitations as well. And as you have found out the vitriol that these pet owners have toward any “voice of reason” is quite loud.

I’m not denying the benefits of dogs. We all know that they bring companionship, hardship, activity and even healthy germs and microbes into our homes. But I think the benefits are generally understood, while the downsides and costs are vastly underestimated.

When you’re a young and otherwise unencumbered adult and you adopt a dog, a huge chunk of your freedom is gone. Instantly, just like that. Suddenly you have a very short leash pulling you back to your house. Your new friend needs to be fed and walked. Did you meet somebody special and want to spend a few days with them? Need to fly somewhere to visit family or take a vacation? Sorry, you’re already out past your curfew and the dog is lonely at home.

For people who tend towards loneliness or introversion and who prefer to be at home most of the time anyway, this could be perfect. But for those with other time-consuming aspirations, it is worth considering what you are giving up to get this nice dog time. After all, every activity is a tradeoff that forces you to give up some other option. You enjoy caring for the dog. But is there something that brings even more happiness through personal growth that you would enjoy if only you had more time?

dogtown2When you are shopping for an apartment or a house or a car, the dog completely changes your decisions. Most landlords don’t accept dogs, because (as I can attest) they shred wood floors, carpets, decks, and gardens. You’ll pay more for rent, tend to buy a house further from work, and are also more likely to choose a larger car or even a truck. How will you take your dog across town on a bike? It can be done by trailer, but not many people advance themselves to that level.

Dogs often create a burden on everybody else. One barking dog can ruin a day of work or a night of sleep for 50 households around you. Even well-picked-up dogshit leaves a smear in the public park grass that gets on the picnic baskets of others or the bare feet of children, and then there’s that certain percentage of people who don’t even think it needs to be picked up at all. Dog piss kills plants and grass in front yards as dog walkers cheerfully stroll past by the dozen.

All of this comes at a financial cost that is usually underestimated. People tend to think of a big, cheap bag of dog food and assume that’s how much it costs to raise a dog – just like they quite wrongly use the cost of gas as an approximation of the cost of driving a car. In reality dogs come along with housing, transportation, kennel space, medical care and sometimes even grooming and entertainment costs. The millions of square feet occupied by pet stores is proof of the billions of dollars we spend on these friends.

Sure, it may well be worth the cost to you. But it is definitely worth reminding yourself of all the costs. Because it translates to a cost of your own freedom, which is really a way of subtracting years for your life. Let’s consider the average case:

The median US household has an income of around $51,000 and a savings rate of 5% ($2550). They are also very likely to have a dog, which averages about $2,000 per year if you amortize in the various medical emergencies and one-time costs. But the cost is much higher if the dog also influenced their housing choices or their decision to drive an Outback or a Tacoma or a Tahoe or worse.

Some friends of mine like to travel for two months out of every winter, leaving the pets at home. Without pets, they could easily rent out their beautiful house downtown and bring in $5000 to fully fund those two months in the tropics. Instead, they now struggle to find a house/pet-sitter willing to stay in the house for free. In this case, that $5,000 per year should be added to the total annual cost of the pets.

Despite the manageable-sounding numbers, this is a big deal. A savings rate of only 5% translates to a working career of 66 years, while saving just that extra $2000 brings you to 9%, which means you are financially independent in a slightly less ridiculous 54 years. The average dog family extends their mandatory working career by at least 12 years. Adopt two big dogs and use them to justify a big truck, and you’re instantly up to twenty years extra, workin’ for the man, three weeks annual vacation, conference calls from the cubicle, carpal tunnel syndrome, hope they don’t cancel that pension plan.

At this point in the discussion, we usually arrive at “But I love my furry friend! I wouldn’t give him up for any price!” … 

… and that is exactly the point. Because statements like that mean that all logic has gone out the window. Emotion has taken over the driver’s seat in your life while you are hog-tied with duct tape in the back seat. And emotion is a terrible driver, as you can see from the life path of the American middle class consumer. So think before you drink: Just like children, it’s hard to give up dogs once they are part of your family.

It is very easy, however, to postpone the formation of that family until you are truly ready for it. Financially independent with a nice roomy shabby chic house out in the country, with half an acre of your own organic produce, a nice craft brewery in the garage, and paths and forests where the dog can run free. Even ten years into financial independence myself, I still marvel at the life of dog owners and remain eternally thankful that the adoption of these creatures is completely optional.

And Now For a Completely Different Perspective

Over the summer, I had a discussion like this with my two older sisters, who are both dog people. While they do live in the country, the differences run deeper than just geographical suitability. One of them took the time to write me a counterpoint to explain what it feels to be a proper dog person. So as an offset to Mr. Money Mustache’s typically insensitive and one-sided rant, here are her own words:


——
Good News on Dogs
by Sister MM
 

Good news: You don’t need a dog. Or much of anything, really, but nobody wants to live in a white featureless box eating fortified pablum, so we add things. For some people, the benefits of dog ownership are more than worth the expense. It very much depends on the person and the situation.
In some situations a dog is worth the price.

Therapy for the socially odd:
People are large wild animals. For some of us more than others, dealing with other people is complicated and stressful. It can be rewarding, but it takes work. Dogs give us some of the same benefits, with orders of magnitude less stress and effort.
I felt I made some breakthroughs in dealing with other humans when I started living with dogs. My closest friend was my sister when growing up, and my parents were not overly sociable . I get along with other people very easily, but don’t tend to connect with them. Dogs were quite helpful to me. In addition to the relationship with the dogs themselves, dogs provided opportunities to connect with other (often, lovely socially odd) people over a common interest.

Confidence boost:
When dealing with a dog, you are always on top of the power ladder. It’s not inconceivable that this could change your biochemistry, to make you more confident in your dealings with others. When your brain, for some reason, wants you to fit into the bottom of the pecking order with other humans, isn’t it a relief to go home and have a creature around who needs you to be the strong one?

Human substitute:
When you have a companion animal, you can build a detailed mental representation of the mind of a another creature, as we do with humans.
You have somebody to talk to. (They don’t understand or answer. We don’t seem to care). You can communicate a fair bit just with body language. They are a source of physical affection and touch. Some people need a lot of this, some people just need a bit. You can spend decades finding a mate. You can get a dog now.

Child substitute:
Taking care of somebody or something else is, for many people, very rewarding. It is one of our strongest instincts.
We laugh at dog owners treating their pets like children, but could happiness be defined, in a way, as the opportunity to express our instinctive behaviors? We don’t have 12 kids the way our great-grandparents did.

Animal husbandry:
A lot of us come from long lines of farming folks. Having animals around feels instinctively right. As vestigial, and yet as true as the beauty of flowers or birdsong.

Adventure excuse:
Most dogs are always up for an adventure. People with a high drive for adventure can’t always find other people who are up for it at any time any day. Their obvious enjoyment of high adventure makes us step out the door more often.

Interesting subject for study
Dogs can be studied. They enjoy it. You can look at them, think about them, devise training ideas for them, experiment, and they enjoy every minute of it. They are fascinating creatures.

Own a piece of physical perfection.
Training performance in a super athletic dog is fun. For a little bit of money can buy a dog with the canine equivalent to an Olympian’s body. You can watch the muscles grow and see the exquisite grace in motion. We ourselves don’t have the genetic potential for such perfection. It’s easy to buy a dog that has it.

Fitness:
Some people can’t motivate themselves to exercise. They can motivate themselves to exercise their dog. Oddly, for many people it is easier to get out the door when somebody else’s health or happiness depends on it.
Super athletic dogs are an extreme case. I know quite a few people who have vastly improved their own physical fitness, in order to be a more useful part of a skijoring team. The transformations are startling. Imagine that you find yourself competing in a two-man team sport with an Olympian as your team mate. Your team mate loves to compete as much as life itself, and doesn’t care how slow you are. Would you not start to feel a little embarrassed at your lack of fitness? Would you not soon start devising a training programme for yourself? It happens all the time.

Now that I have a family, my dogs are not as important to me as they were. I could say that I don’t need dogs now. They are a luxury that we can afford. They make our lives more complicated and more unusual, which is sometimes a good thing.

 

— Sister MM competes in skijor races and once trained a dog to retrieve beers from her fridge on command. She is also a maple syrup producer, engineer, musician and mother who lives in the woods with her family.

Epilogue: Lots of emphatic comments on this subject as expected, but one point is coming up often enough that it’s worth putting right here: people saying “Kids are optional too! At least Dogs are cheaper and easier than those troublemakers!”, or some variation on that theme.

You are definitely right – kids are worth considering even more carefully than pets. Here’s an article on exactly that, and in fact the title of this article is a play on the title of this older one:

Great News: You’re allowed to have only one Kid!

  • Ishabaka September 8, 2015, 2:13 pm

    This article begs the question – money and free time – why?

    Reply
  • Gary September 8, 2015, 2:15 pm

    Here is what MMM is talking about:

    Sibling’s Family has ~$100K in consumer debt but has decide to enter into an agreement with a dog-breeding Ponzi scheme wherein they are given a new female Golden puppy which they must breed and raise the litter. From that litter thaey can chose to keep a single male puppy and the rest goes back to the Ponzi breeder. Two new dogs they cannot afford.

    Prior to entering into this scheme, the polled their friends and family. EVERYONE told them NOT to do it. They did it.

    Reply
  • ConArtist September 8, 2015, 2:17 pm

    I enjoyed reading this unpopular perspective. MMM is definitely in the minority here and I give him props for sharing some legitimate concerns about dog ‘ownership’. I am of the mind as a philosophical anarchist that I do not own the dog nor does he own me. We are basically just damn good friends who share food and runs and naps. I have met so many cool people at various dog parks and if I were single I would have quite a few dates too!

    Cost is definitely underestimated by most, as is the time it really takes to train and bond together for mutual respect – hence many of the issues other commenters and MMM mentioned.

    While truly embracing a mustachian lifestyle in many ways, I cannot fathom my life without my dog. Maybe I’m just blessed with a really cool dude, which would make sense b/c dogs typically reflect their owners!

    Seriously though, ‘owning’ a dog helped teach me to care deeply for another being and to have compassion and selflessness which are all positive costs. I matured immensely and the sheer joy I get playing around and watching him smile makes our relationship unquantifiable monetarily. He is still young and spry but will one day get old and sick just like I will but we’ll face that challenge together when the time comes. He adds soooo much joy to my life that I only hope I feel this same way when I have children!

    Reply
  • chris September 8, 2015, 2:30 pm

    As with any topic raised by MMM, the insights are always directional, and welcome. As someone who hears people say “i can travel whenever i want and i have no responsibilities other than work” i think “how sad” . I respect MMM’s advice. And ultimately the advice is to not fool yourself about the major time, care, commitments and cost associated with pets. That said, after agreeing with MMM’s point as a point of principle, I also fundamentally disagree with it for me. There’s no weekend in the Bahamas or parasailing trip to Cozumel that even comes close to giving me the joy having my dog by my side brings me.

    Reply
    • Jade September 8, 2015, 3:59 pm

      “There’s no weekend in the Bahamas or parasailing trip to Cozumel that even comes close to giving me the joy having my dog by my side brings me.”

      How sad.

      Reply
    • Katie September 10, 2015, 11:31 am

      Oh-em-gee (said in my 10-year-old daughter’s voice), Chris, since Jade thinks you’re sad–and her opinion must be the end-all, be-all in regards to what constitutes SAD–you must surely reevaluate how you view your dog as enriching to your life.

      Chris, I’m in agreement with you. I think my dogs (three fluffy, small love bugs that would most certainly be ridiculed on here as not “real” dogs, anyway) have given me countless moments, hours, days … years … of enjoyment, loyalty and love. Sure, traveling is great, too. But, if I were forced to choose, I would choose my two Shih Tzus and one Maltipoo over travel. For the record, I plan to have dogs AND travel one day, with the understanding that dog ownership does present logistical hurdles. However, I do have family that will dog sit (and I would do the same for them, and have), so for my situation, it can be remedied.

      I am SAD that I can’t upload some gratuitous dog pics to my comment. :(

      Reply
  • JP September 8, 2015, 2:36 pm

    As always it is about the happiness value of money as you so often elude. Today in Rome, on my honeymoon, we downloaded a free Rick Steves audio book to tour the colosseum because I really didn’t think the extra $120 for a live tour would make me any happier. I live my life based on this principle now, big thanks to you.

    I was always an animal person but never really needed one. Until I met my wife and we dogsat a pug. Wait a second.. the dog can spend most of the day snoring on the couch and not really care? Also, you can buy pet insurance for $35/month that covers everything after a $200/year deductible? Yes, you are right, I could save some money by not having a dog, but the amount of happiness it brings us every day is completely worth it.

    On the other hand, if you told me I would retire at 45 instead of 35 due to dog ownership, then I may need to rethink things. But, as the quote goes.. “Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.” -Oscar Wilde

    We don’t pay for food/toys/bags because my wife is a bit creative with Instagram and partnerships, but that’s not exactly typical. Instagram.com/thispugslife

    Reply
    • Mr. Military Mustache September 8, 2015, 9:06 pm

      Congratulations on your marriage… Enjoy Rome and your wife…. Perhaps stop commenting on blogs for a few days?

      Reply
  • Cyndi September 8, 2015, 2:37 pm

    Cats rule.
    Dogs drool.

    Reply
  • Heather September 8, 2015, 2:38 pm

    As an owner of two dogs and a parent of four kids, I totally agree with what you’ve said.

    Obviously it is too late for me; I’m in deep with this dog thing. I can tell you, however, that allowed to do it over, I would do it without dogs. Don’t get me wrong, I love my dogs but, they are expensive and becoming more so as they age. One of my dogs requires frequent grooming and has had surgery to fix his teeth. The other is allergic to most dog food and requires expensive substitutes and is starting to get arthritis. They’ve done damage to our home.

    It’s difficult to go out of our house for any length of time. If we take the dog with us, though, it’s a matter of taking our family places where dogs are allowed, leaving very little flexibility. No last minute overnight or late night plans allowed. We have to find sitters that are willing to deal with our kids AND our dogs. There’s the constant barking, begging and walking. I could go on.

    I’ll never have dogs again, but if I start thinking about it, I’m going to come back here and read this post again and remind myself why!

    Reply
  • RelievedBoulder September 8, 2015, 2:41 pm

    Thanks for this great piece. Whether emotional or not the article was a great relief. I live 14.25 miles SW of you and find the dog culture overwhelming and entitled. I don’t want to hate dogs. I grew up loving each of my family’s pets.

    “don’t worry he doesn’t bit” — said the women before I was bitten carrying a hot water tank out of her house.
    “they never do that” sad the man in IPWA as three of his dogs off leash circle me growling, as I walk ON THE TRAIL past his campsite.
    Dogs walking on climbing ropes
    ‘service dogs’ jumping on me … hmmm?

    I find my resentment building. Maybe it is just the dog owners that bother me more than the dogs as self-centered.

    Reply
  • JessDarb September 8, 2015, 2:48 pm

    I loved this article a lot more than I expected to. :) I’m a childfree dog owner, and I think both articles on the optional nature of dependents (be they kids or pets) hit exactly the right tone. It’s very freeing when you remember that these expenses are opt IN, not opt OUT.
    My perpetually broke and bankrupt aunt used to have 5 dogs. FIVE DOGS. And she couldn’t pay her mortgage. It broke her heart when she had to give up both her house and 4 of the 5 dogs because the landlord of the less expensive rental she moved into wouldn’t allow her to have more than one. Now she pampers that dog with gourmet food, BarkBox (MMM you’d hate it), and veterinary care because of her unhealthy lifestyle… and her money problems persist.
    Meanwhile I was able to give up my expensive gym membership because running at night became a whole lot safer when I got a dog to run with, and my expensive security system because the dog defends the house.
    MMM is right: get a pet or have a kid only when it’s right for you financially and emotionally.

    Reply
    • Katie September 10, 2015, 11:51 am

      Agreed! I have three dogs, and they are a luxury. People who have savings (we do) and can afford the curveballs, more power to them. People who cannot (my mother-in-law, who I consider an animal hoarder) … should not own animals until they have the means to care for them.

      Some animals can be very, very low maintenance and cost little (especially if you know some hacks for cheap meds, vaccines, etc.). Others can just rack up costs. While two of our three dogs fall in the low-maintenance category, our one Shih Tzu has had ongoing eye issues (a trait of the breed). He’s had two surgeries already (about 1K total for those), and he’s only 3 years old. Thankfully, we have a healthy emergency fund to cover such expenses.

      But, like Covergirl says, he is WORTH IT.

      Oh, and for cheap flea control, we buy the Hartz preventative from Wal-Mart. (Wal-Mart, I know, THE HORROR.) You can get a pack of three vials for about $5. Oftentimes we’ll buy higher-weight dosages for our very light babies (5 lbs, 10 lbs and 25 lbs) and divide it up so it lasts longer. Never had a flea problem doing it that way, and it’s quite economical.

      Reply
  • Mio2815 September 8, 2015, 2:56 pm

    Yes dogs cost money, but one thing you and your sister forgot. It’s safety. We live in a very nice neighbourhood but in the last few years burglaries increased a lot. In our street 4 families have got dogs, guess which didn’t get broken and robbed. Yes this 4 are the only ones. A single broken window costs more than my dog in 2-3 years.

    Reply
  • Kat September 8, 2015, 3:03 pm

    We have dogs, a cat, and two horses. But no mortgage. We could probably get rid of our animals and retire much sooner, but, we get a lot of enjoyment out of them and what we spend on them, we subtract from elsewhere (frugal with groceries and elsewhere). I doubt we’ll replace these animals when they die, but I wouldn’t get rid of them. I value them and the experiences they contribute to my life. They’re family.

    Reply
  • Christine Lee September 8, 2015, 3:15 pm

    Our dog is so precious to us. He came into our lives 5 years ago as a service/companion dog for our son with autism and he has had a hugely positive impact on our son’s mental health. And surprise, we are all happier and more relaxed in the presence of this amazing animal and his very kind and gentle soul. He brings out the best in all of us. So even if it doesn’t make financial sense, I have no regrets whatsoever!

    Reply
  • Sarah Jane September 8, 2015, 3:40 pm

    I don’t own dogs, but I borrow them to play, exercise and love for a half an hour at at time… and then get paid for it… I live in an affluent “new urbanism” community just outside of Seattle and after deep and long search for an extremely flexible, low-hydrocarbon job that blends well with my husband’s posh, but intense high tech career and raising a couple kids in the ‘burbs I decided to look around at the pressing needs of my immediate neighbors. I would say many, if not most, are still pumping away on the hedonistic treadmill.. trying to live like “the Jones”, or in our neighborhood maybe the “Rajah’s” or “Majudars”: Luxury vehicles, clothing, entertainment, taste in dining and travel experiences… and designer dogs… there is a LOT of cash (or credit) being pumped into these lifestyles! My participation on this forum and enthusiasm for MMM makes me an outlier in my community, but I’m using it to my advantage…. I walk dogs and do pet sitting.. I also turned two unused bedrooms into “kitty condos” where I board cats (doubled my business revenue) and finally, I host a community exchange closet under my front door where my well-heeled neighbors are invited to swap or drop off unwanted goods. I won’t ever own a dog as I won’t ever buy new clothing from Nordstroms as I won’t ever purchase plane tickets to Paris for just the fun of it.. three things I can afford right now…. at the same time…. without debt… It’s not to say none of those three are wonderful and interesting, just that I don’t personally have to own them to enjoy them… dogs I walk everyday.. clothing sometimes literally gets dumped on my doorstep and Paris, ah well, maybe one day I’ll have a legitimate need to pollute the skies with more carbon… or maybe we’ll have a solar-fuel air travel in my lifetime… who knows…

    Reply
  • Francine September 8, 2015, 3:46 pm

    I totally get your logic so it comes down to values.
    I come down firmly on the side of dog ownership.
    Also, I understand that living among us are those who do not like dogs.
    There is an expression: If you can’t afford a vet, you can’t afford a pet.

    Reply
  • Frugal Bazooka September 8, 2015, 3:50 pm

    I knew this blog topic was coming as it has been hinted at in several other posts. Strangely enough I can’t find much of anything to disagree with. I guess timing is everything. Don’t get me wrong. I love dogs and have enjoyed the company of dogs my entire youth and even all thru my adult life until recently. My dogs have been great buddies and I enjoyed hanging out with them as much if not more than most humans of equal or slightly lower intelligence.

    But…MMM only scratches the surface (pun intended) of the many sacrifices – financial and otherwise – that dogs require. The two that got to me the most were the total destruction of a beautiful old style wooden French door and the cost of a dog sitter whenever we wanted to travel. I’ve done the math and it’s hard to believe that the costs for just these 2 items are well into 4 figures…the actual costs over a 20 year period is well into 5. I could go on and on about the negatives, but in the balance – despite the costs – I’m glad we had dogs over the years and equally glad that we currently do not have a 4 legged overlord.

    What I value most at this moment is the freedom to travel and schedule events and adventures without obstacles. This is a fleeting moment in anyone’s life when the planets align to give us the time, money and desire to venture to the edges of whatever environ we wish to explore. Someday a dog may once again be part of the family, but for now we’re going solo.

    Reply
  • Dan September 8, 2015, 3:51 pm

    Dog ownership is optional but I struggle to find a better optional purchase I have made to date. Dog ownership has given me more opportunities to practice and acquire desirable traits that benefit me in all areas of my life compared to any other optional purchase I have made. Patience, loyalty, responsibility, playfulness, fitness, to name a few, although you can’t put a price on these traits I imagine if you could you would be ahead in the long run.

    Reply
  • Egypt September 8, 2015, 3:52 pm

    One thing not mentioned In the article that I value highly from my dogs is safety/protection. I’ve never been broken into, I can walk trough my town at night without dealing with harassment (I mostly feel safe without the dogs, but not being harassed is very pleasant and rare without a large dog at my side), my dog even scared off a bear that came at our tent camping once. Not all dogs are useful for protection, but many are, and I think there’s value in that. My dog would die/kill for me if it ever came down to it. There’s also some health savings costs that come from the improved immune system, and for some, myself included, having dogs has forced me to take care of myself when dealing with depression. Also, you can still bike with your dog even without a trailer- just train the dog to run alongside your bike. I would ride out to my exes with my dog that way, 13 miles each way. This article raises plenty of good points, but I think there a lot of benefits to owning a dog to be considered as well.

    Reply
    • Egypt September 8, 2015, 3:54 pm

      As a farmer, my dog also does a very good job of deterring vermin both from my small livestock and from my gardens. And I do live in the city! She even catches me the occasional meal, although not enough to earn her keep that way.

      Reply
  • Lichen September 8, 2015, 4:16 pm

    I’m an only child and we lived in a rural area with neighbors far away. I begged my mother for a dog, and I’m so glad that she agreed. That dog was a wonderful friend to me. When I look back on my life and the things that gave me joy and happiness, and the things that really MATTER, I think of my family and friends, and the camping and hiking trips and all the fun we had, and my pets. I don’t think about things, cars or houses or stuff. But my pets are definitely included in the things that have given me joy.
    That being said, I think there is a diminishing rate of return, where return = pleasure, when it comes to having multiple pets at one time. Just like you’re allowed to have only one child, you’re also allowed to have only one dog. I now have 2 dogs and a cat, and while I love them all, I’m finding it difficult to give all of them attention, plus the extra expense and care. In the future it will be one pet at a time for me, and maybe I will consider doing without. Maybe when they are all gone, I should make a goal to live pet-free for at least 6 months and see if I die without them. At least then I can make an informed choice since I’ve never lived without a dog or cat, ever, and I’m 54.

    Reply
  • Izzy September 8, 2015, 4:17 pm

    Thankfully I can report that I have no dogs in my “evolutionary tree”–only humans, all the way back to Adam and Eve. And I am glad for every child I had–they make the world a better place.

    Reply
  • superbien September 8, 2015, 4:24 pm

    I agree that dogs curtail spontaneous travel, cost a boatload, and ramp up rental housing costs.

    I ended up getting a dog to try to make my partner happy (surprise, he just criticized the dog too, and I ended up with sole custody in the split; frankly I came out way ahead!). I now have 2 adopted rescue dogs (the second is the first dog’s “helper dog” and they keep each other company). I love my dogs, dearly, but won’t replace them when they go. I won’t abandon them, though, as a matter of character and honor – I made a commitment and I won’t abandon them.

    Reply
  • Rich September 8, 2015, 4:29 pm

    Timing for this article is uncanny. I just released a post about exploring pet insurance. Several coworkers buy pet insurance for their dogs and cats without regard for whether or not it makes financial sense. I took a look at comparing the veterinary costs I incurred for my 8 year old golden retriever versus the cost of pet insurance during that time period. It’s pretty remarkable what I spent on care for my dog….and even more remarkable what insurance would have cost.

    Reply
  • Markola September 8, 2015, 4:44 pm

    Congrats, MMM, on choosing a topic upon which everyone on planet earth will have a strong opinion. Emotions aside, we have considered it rationally from time to time, and here is why we do not have a dog:
    1) We live in Minnesota in the city and dogs have to be walked every morning and night
    2) It is F-ing cold in Minnesota
    3) We are not morning people
    4) We are cat people.

    So, your post caused me to check how much we spend on our two cats. I simply clicked into the amazing You Need a Budget and POW! We have spent over $6,000 in two years. Holy Cat Sh*t, Batman!! A third of that was one surgery, and much of the rest is for prescription, kidney-friendly food for that same cat. Still, as people with no kids, our cats are important companionship to us. I guess this cost/benefit exercise of our cats demonstrates:

    1) We are caring and responsible pet owners (our cats are also always indoors and don’t kill birds)
    2) We are completely frigging nuts because that is more money than I want to spend. We have a 50%+ savings rate that we didn’t build by frittering away our money, so I’d like that $6k back that we spent on…cats!
    3) Oh look, here comes Miss Scotty Boots now to sit in my lap. I have apparently learned nothing today, but Cheers!

    Reply
  • Melody September 8, 2015, 5:10 pm

    Acquiring a dog is optional, but once you have it, it’s your responsibility much like a child. DO NOT ditch your responsibility after reading this article, but think very hard but acquiring a new one.
    Personally I have a cat and while she makes me very happy (living alone, but not lonely thanks to my kitty) I probably won’t get another one when she passes (she’s pretty old, so this is likely to be in the next 3 years or so) due to the cost.

    Reply
  • Jason September 8, 2015, 5:47 pm

    I certainly understand this post. And there are certainly some pertinent points (e.g. loss of freedom or at least being tetheted to a specific person/animal). It also makes perfect sense because this blog is primarily about a Stoic philosophy. Based upon that idea it is a post that comes from a particular logic. That said that doesn’t mean that logic doesn’t have some potential pitfalls. For example, I know the suggestion is that all decisions should be made about cost, but the truth is that is extremely difficult to master and in my opinion leaves items such as passion as an outlier when it comes to making decisions or even love. When reason/cost becomes the specific driver of decisions it does take away, in some respects, from a more human experience. Again, this post makes sense based upon the purpose of the blog, but it doesn’t necessarily capture, I think for some, the other intangible aspects of owning a dog or other things that can/should sometimes be the driver of decisions. Not necessarily always consider the cost. http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-faith-column/2007/05/stoicism-stoical-possible
    http://throughablogdarkly.blogspot.com/2012/10/nietzsche-on-stoics.html

    Reply
  • Clint September 8, 2015, 6:18 pm

    I’m so glad I didn’t think too long and hard before picking up my dog at the shelter six years ago. I probably would have called it off, saved many dollars and be out all theses happy, hysterical moments. Now back to playing with my dodg.

    Reply
  • Kathy O September 8, 2015, 6:21 pm

    Although I have loved having dogs, particularly during a sad time in my life, I come to the same conclusion as Mr Money Mustache. It is going to be difficult for me to see my family at Thanksgiving because my 7 year old greyhound needs a lot of special care. Right now I am choosing between taking care of a dog and seeing my aging parents. After Pepper crosses over the rainbow bridge, I will get my dog fix by babysitting my friends’ dogs. It will save them $50 a day kennel fees (and kennel fleas) and I will get dog companionship without the hassle.

    Reply
  • Matt September 8, 2015, 6:41 pm

    In Ontario, a landlord cannot prevent you from having a pet unless it is dangerous or causes allergic reactions to other tenants. Even ‘no-pet’ clauses are not enforceable. These clauses are invalid under the law.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 8, 2015, 8:57 pm

      I’ve heard that before, but wow, what a crazy law! I can understand discrimination laws, but not pet laws. Maybe you can make up for it by requiring a $100k deposit?

      If not, I guess I’d just respond by not offering property for rent in Ontario. Actually I guess I responded to all Ontario issues simultaneously in 1999, by leaving the place :-)

      Reply
  • Jaime September 8, 2015, 7:17 pm

    Nothing wrong with getting a dog – but just like having a child, pets can be expensive (but not as expensive as a kid – those little fuckers are much more expensive. Ha!). That’s what people need to understand. Simple as that. Good article, MMM.

    Reply
  • Mary K September 8, 2015, 7:18 pm

    I wish a dog wasn’t an option for my daughter, but she has profound anosmia and can’t smell gas leaks, smoke or fire, can’t smell when food has gone bad, and worries constantly that she might burn the house down while she’s cooking. Sometimes, having an animal in the house is a necessary evil.

    Reply
  • Drew September 8, 2015, 7:24 pm

    New reader here, love the site. Just wanted to say I am amazed at how many people say that they have been pressured to have kids. Even if you can financially afford kids, they aren’t for everyone. Dogs aren’t for everyone. When it comes to choices like this, everything is optional.

    I have a toddler and another on the way, and being a father is the best thing that ever happened to me. But I would never assume this should be everyone’s choice.

    Our son also happens to love dogs, and hugs his stuffed dog every night when going to bed. While we would love for him to have one, and want one eventually, it’s just not the right time for us financially. Not to mention that raising a puppy and small children at the same time might just drive us over the edge :)

    Reply
  • G Smythe September 8, 2015, 7:26 pm

    MMM – I love your usual snarky tone and ability to take anyone to task. This is the first blogpost where I felt you put on your large, goose-down filled, marshmallowy, filled-with-grandma’s-kisses boxing gloves instead of delivering a bare-knuckled slobber-knocker.

    Any reason?

    Reply
  • Mr. Military Mustache September 8, 2015, 7:53 pm

    Dogs do best in the country. In my neighborhood, the dogs tend to get a bit neurotic, and seem to spend most of their lives barking at fences and windows. So, I will wait until I move to the country again before I have a furry amigo. I can’t wait :) Thanks for the evenhanded approach Mr. and Sister.

    Reply
  • Patience September 8, 2015, 8:20 pm

    Yes ‘ownership’ is optional, but if you wish the companionship of a dog you can FOSTER one! And in many cases the rescue group or shelter will pay for the dog’s food in addition to vetting.
    You usually also have access to fellow foster homes so you can share duties and if you want to go on vacation simply don’t get another foster dog when your is adopted.
    In addition if you DO provide food or anything for your foster dog and you foster for a 501(c)3 you can deduct it!

    I am a bit disappointed that this option wasn’t discussed in the article because it is a money saving solution.

    Reply
  • Edith September 8, 2015, 8:55 pm

    Really? No mention of cats? At half the inconvenience (or less) and the same benefits, cats are the obvious mustachian option! You don’t have to bathe them, walk them, pick their feces in the park… you put a box with scented litter and then use a shovel every day. It doesn’t even smell! They are not clingy, so you can leave them alone for the weekend or ask a friend to feed them for months, and when you come back, most cats will be okay!

    Reply
  • Tyler September 8, 2015, 9:31 pm

    This post has just risen to my second favorite MMM post of all time (only behind Hedonic Adaptation). I nominate it immediately be added to the classics section.

    Yesterday, literally yesterday, my wife ask if MMM had ever taken a position on pets since they are so obviously one of the most constant and major drains on an average family’s savings rate. I responded with, “I’m sure he has an opinion but probably doesn’t dare offend this reader base that are largely ‘dog people'”. I am so happy to see that I was wrong.

    It is appalling to see how much money people with low savings rates pour into their animals to the determent of their retirement, children’s education funds, HSAs, etc. To be willing to consistently spend money that could benefit your children or your health or your retirement on an animal that loves you only because you feed it for the 10 years before it dies is asinine.

    Big props to MMM for using his platform and having the balls to point this lunacy out. Not that it will change those who are already so emotionally insane as to make ludicrous arguments equating a butthole licking, poop eating, crotch sniffing animal with an actual human child. You know, a person. A real human being that can grow up to invent things, cure diseases, compose music, engineer life saving technologies, among other meaningful and lasting contributions only a human can make. But to those that aren’t yet so irrational as to make that comparison I hope this post helps them think twice and at least make an informed decision that will best serve the humans in their life to whom they are responsible.

    Reply
  • Kitty September 8, 2015, 9:42 pm

    In reference to the benefits of companionship, I’ll go ahead and put this out there…..

    I wonder if there is a direct relation between this cultural view of dogs and our decline in communities and communal resources. People often talk about their pets as if they are human. And since the dog can’t speak, there’s a nice comfort zone there. You can assume your dog agrees and supports your viewpoints. It’s an easy way around – a way to choose friends who will never disappoint you or disagree with you.

    In relationships with real humans, there is always conflict and controversy. I feel like pets are the way people are avoiding having to do the work involved in the soup of real human relationships. People want the benefits of a close relationship but they don’t want the work, stress, time spent, etc.

    I spent years working in nonprofit youth development programs. Youth want real relationships with the adults around them. It’s become a critical point in the programs – to identify non-controlling adults who want to build honest connections with young people. Not talk at them, not teach them, but rather serve as mentors and guides. Two way relationships. Youngsters today have become experts at spotting being played. It takes a huge amount of commitment to serve as a mentor to a young person. If a pet takes up a large chunk of your time – you have a built in reason not to seek new activities and groups – across generations or ethnicities etc. I see this alot with people who seem to have a highly dependent animal – one who can’t survive unless the owner fulfills a long checklist of daily requirements. So, who is highly dependent? Maybe not the animal. It seems that the owner creates the dependency to create a role for themselves and bypass the role that they might have been expected to fulfill in previous generations.

    Yikes – I’m going to get clobbered on here! Thanks for opening up the can of worms, MMM.

    Reply
  • Clare September 8, 2015, 9:43 pm

    Your posts are usually so well thought out and less biased. In this case, it’s clear that your verdict here means you’re not a dog person. That’s fine. Many people aren’t parents for the same reason, myself included– seeing human children as a loss of freedom, gigantic cost and unnecessary. You suggest that you write about this but your post about considering kiddos is about considering only ONE, which is what your family has done. This is all wel and good but your own experience does not pass as scripture and belief to your readers and when you write these clearly prejudiced posts, it’s harder to take you seriously. I do love MMM and almost every other post, but just admit you aren’t a dog person, you know? And I’m sure you’ve assumed but yes, I am a very proud dog owner. My dachshund enriches my life is ways that money never could and I never hesitate to budget for him. He’s family.

    Reply
    • Eldred September 10, 2015, 9:10 am

      But aren’t *all* of MMM’s posts his personal opinion? That’s the hHis opinion that most ‘luxuries’ are unnecessary, most cars are a waste, most people spend WAY too much on housing and commutes. You don’t call those other opinions prejudiced, because you likely agree with them. But since you disagree with this one, you argue against it. How is THIS opinion different from the 400+ other blog posts(which are also his opinions, by the way) MMM has written about?

      Reply
      • Eldred September 10, 2015, 9:13 am

        Crap, I got distracted while posting, and it wouldn’t let me edit. The second line was supposed to say “That’s the whole POINT of the blog.”

        Reply
  • jwc082 September 8, 2015, 10:02 pm

    Had a young mother tell me once, “I love my kids, but I wish I would have waited to have them.”

    This is pretty much MMM making the same argument – you can have a dog, but when it’s time and you can afford one. What’s so hard about that?

    Reply
  • Stunta September 8, 2015, 10:25 pm

    This is one of those want vs. need topics. The path to FI could be on a plane over cloudy skies or on a slower train with enjoyable views. I am on the train because I cannot guarantee how long I will live. I don’t want to miss out on fun things today just to save for tomorrow; tomorrow may never come. At the same time, saving enough is also important to keep the balance.

    My wife and I have 3 dogs and no kids. Dogs boost our morale and remind us to live in the “now” and not stress too much over tomorrow. They are lower maintenance than kids and need the most basic things to keep themselves happy.

    Do we need 3 dogs? No. Do we want them? Yes. do we need to travel? No. Do we want to travel? Yes and some travel is best done when you are young and healthy. Giving up on it so we can save more early, give more time for the money to grow and reach FI earlier is fiscally correct, but f*** that; I may not be around tomorrow.

    Reply
  • Nathanael Kuipers September 8, 2015, 11:23 pm

    I like this article. I used to work at a veterinary hospital, where it quickly became abundantly clear just how many pet owners really shouldn’t be pet owners. Being a responsible owner takes some significant provender, as it were. **It’s a big deal!** You don’t need to buy all the “best” ,most premium food and other, ultimately accessory products from your vet, but you definitely should be able to swing the yearly exam + vaccines, flea medication, and de-worming medication, in addition to twice-yearly blood work for geriatric pets; and you should also have a fund for emergency ailments. And you should be able to do all this cheerfully. You OWE that kind of foresight to your pets, just as you OWE it to your children.

    I am a devoted pet owner — had two cats until a month ago, when the elder had to be put down. I love my pets as I would love my children, if I had any. This love has cost a pretty penny over the years. The point is not to discourage pet ownership. It is to remind people to work that ownership into their financial plans vis-a-vis decision making and prioritizing. You may have to sacrifice something else to make it fly, but the rewards are great!

    Reply
  • EcoCatLady September 9, 2015, 12:59 am

    Well… nothing like timing.

    I’m sitting here cruising the interwebs, because I can’t sleep. I can’t sleep because one of my cats is very sick and might not make it through the night. Even if she does… well, her prospects aren’t great, and I’m an emotional wreck.

    So why did I “get a cat?” Thing is… I didn’t, she got me. She moved in under the pine tree in my front yard 4 years ago and my choices were to watch her starve to death in my front yard, to take her to a shelter where she’d most likely be euthanized in 5 days, or to help her. Seriously, I have actively acquired one cat in my entire life, the rest ended up with me not because I needed them, but because they needed me. I cannot count the times I have said “I’m NEVER getting another cat.” But then… like the newest one trying to wheedle his way in right now… one arrives in the yard starving, begging for food, in need of medical attention, and then what do you do? If you’re me, you cave.

    It always seems incredible to me that the rest of the world somehow has an ability to just not notice them, while I see suffering homeless animals everywhere I turn. I truly wish I had the ability to just turn a blind eye to the suffering, but I haven’t found a way to do it.

    Honestly, I’m really struggling with this right now folks, and earnestly hoping that someone can say something to help me. Cats are my single biggest expense at the moment… and I mean that not just financially but emotionally.

    Maybe if I’d never gotten that first cat things would be different? Maybe I would have managed to have “cat blinders” on like everyone else does and just not notice them.

    Anyhow, this probably isn’t the best time to ask me, but if anyone out there is on the fence about pet ownership, I think you need to consider not just the financial cost, but the emotional one as well. Signing up for a pet does indeed mean that you get a wonderful, beautiful relationship with another being, but it also means that you’re gonna have to face a lot of heartbreak and loss. Lately it seems to me that getting a pet is a lot like adopting a terminally ill child – there is so much love, so much beauty and so, so much pain.

    Reply
  • Christine September 9, 2015, 3:04 am

    As the mother of 3 teenagers, 1 husband, 3 cats and 1 dog – our lives are full of love. Unconditional love, companionship and devotion from the cats and dog. A whole lot of whining and whinging from the teens. Oh the hubby is the best he just wants a boat! Lol!
    What do I want – some peace!

    Reply
  • Trifele September 9, 2015, 4:59 am

    Thanks for the post, MMM! I don’t think I’ve ever seen the comment meter rack up so quickly. :)

    Former longtime dog owner here. I loved our dog, but will never have another one due to the expense, lack of freedom, and filth.

    My impression is that 90% of dog owners (or more?) do not bother to train their dog properly, provide it enough attention, or ensure that it does not bother people. I can’t count the number of times people have let their dogs run up to me, jump on me, etc. without doing anything to stop it. And don’t even get me started about the dog poop. I don’t want anything to do with that scene anymore.

    One of the other posters called dogs a “huge imposition on society.” Amen.

    Reply
  • Lisette September 9, 2015, 5:01 am

    Good point! Unfortunately, I’ve got 2 cats and a dog from before I found this blog (and even worse, I’m 37 weeks pregnant ;) ) while just getting started on the road to FIRE. But I do think both MMM and his sister missed a couple of points how pets help you save money on other things:

    – health care. People with a dog (and even cats) don’t go to the doctor as often. Partially because of better immune system of their germs, the excersize and the physical effects of cuddling and petting
    – less need for entertainment. Going for a walk is done more often with a dog as noted in the post, but replaces activities you would pay for, like getting an icecream or an amusement park
    – lower excersize costs. You get your cardio with a dog, so no need to get that any other way
    – less need for social connection. I work from home and keep my sanity because of the pets. No need to rent office space to talk to people

    I’m sure there are more, this is what popped in my mind. I’m not saying getting a pet is a way of saving money, I know they still cost a lot. And would one pass away right now we wouldn’t replace it until we reach a better financial place. But still, it’s not as grimm as this post suggests ;)

    Greetings from the Netherlands

    Reply
  • jamesindenver September 9, 2015, 6:00 am

    Renters should never have dogs. I have previously owned or currently own 7 different rental properties and have never allowed pets and none of my landlord friends do either. I usually have to turn down 2 out of 3 inquirers who read my ad and respond with something like ‘I know your ad says no pets but I have the cutest little dog who doesn’t bark and is house trained’ (some even attach a picture!)…and I simply click delete on their email.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 10, 2015, 7:39 am

      Yes! I always got those emails too! So I’d put, “Sorry, absolutely NO dogs or cats of ANY type”, and yet the emails would persist.

      A few times I made exceptions and it was always the same thing: pet did a few thousand dollars of damage to the house, tenant thought everything was fine and considered it normal wear and tear.

      They were usually nice people though. I think pet and non-pet just have to agree and live separately. Maybe in entirely separate cities :-)

      Reply
      • Egypt September 14, 2015, 4:52 pm

        I’m sorry you’ve had such bad experiences with pet owners! I think too many people don’t properly train or exercise their pets, which leads to the issues… I’m proud to say, as a dog owner who used to rent, that I always got my full security deposit back, generally with comments about how wonderful of condition the house was left in. Worst my dog has ever done is tear a screen, but those are easy to fix myself before I move out, for just a couple bucks of materials.

        Reply
      • jamesindenver September 16, 2015, 9:40 am

        I think there is some serious money to be made in pet-friendly rentals. My idea is to build a bomb-proof apartment building (poured concrete floors, metal doors, etc) then advertise as pet friendly and double the $/sqft rent. I know people will pay it.

        Reply
  • Home in MN September 9, 2015, 7:58 am

    When I first saw the title of this article I thought “here we go again, another dog bashing article by MMM”. But I have to say, I tend to agree with most of what he says-although I still think many of these articles start because he doesn’t like dogs and usually something happens to piss him off-so he writes another (but I digress…). Most of what he says in this article, I’ve caught myself saying to many people.

    I’ve worked in rescue and I have to say, there are certainly many people who don’t think about the work and cost it takes to have an animal-then end up dumping them leaving someone else to pick up the pieces. “I can’t have a cat in my new apartment, I didn’t think a puppy would be this much work, this dog is just too active for me”. I’ve heard it all and everytime I hear it, I just want to smack someone. I believe if everyone truly thought about having an animals, instead of solely working on emotion, there would be less people like me doing what I do. People need to be responsible, make sure their animals are fixed (and not add to the 70 million being euthanized in this country every year). I also think the “cheap fix” to get a dog also booms the puppy mill industry-don’t get me started on that one…

    So although I hate to say it, on this point I agree with most of what MMM says. That being said, I have two dogs and six cats-they cost me $100 a month with good food and vet bills included. I have no credit card debt, no student loans, mortgage will be paid off in a year and should be “retired” in 10 years. Do I make sacrifices for them? Sure I do. But its a sacrifice I don’t mind making. If I have to work a few more years, so be it. Like others have said, my dog gets me out for a 40 minute walk twice a day (and like others have said, I would not totally do this without my dogs-I’m lazy, what can I say?). If I come home from somewhere totally pissed off, that little wiggle butt really makes me smile and I tend to forget what pissed me off.

    But I also don’t think you have to be FI to get an animal. My neighbor had a cat Franklin(he’s now 23 and living with me after she went into the nursing home but again, I digress). She was 98 and in a walker and she could not move much. People came over to visit her but it was Franklin that got her up everyday, he comforted her when she fell (he sat by her side for hours until help arrived- I found her in the alley once, she had been there for over an hour she said and he was sitting right there), and she could sit and talk to someone when no one else was around. She didn’t have much money but she loved him more then anything. Sometimes an animal is the one thing that gets someone up in the morning, the one thing that keeps someone going, the one thing that tells them they are ok. I’m more then willing to help someone else keep their pet. I think its cheaper than therapy, drugs, a nursing home when someone isn’t ready to go. All these things are sometimes needed but sometimes, all is needed is a Franklin.

    Reply
  • Diego September 9, 2015, 8:21 am

    Great article! Anything that gets this much response should be talked about, it should be examined and scrutinized. I read a science fiction book that takes place in Colorado. The aliens are examining earth and they conclude that dogs are the superior race. Battlefield Earth by Hubbard. Great book. I’ve been dog free but down the road when I can afford it I plan on getting one. :)

    Reply
    • Drew September 9, 2015, 8:54 am

      You do realize the author is the founder of Scientology right? So that may not be a fiction book to him.

      Reply
    • Clint September 10, 2015, 11:47 am

      Sounds like the dog might be getting YOU ;)

      Reply
  • Drew September 9, 2015, 8:51 am

    I grew up in a family where we didn’t have dogs, and we survived. However, that didn’t stop the want for a dog my brothers and I had. When I left for college, my parents finally ended up getting a dog for the family (I joked that it was to fill the void when I left). Eventually my parents got a second dog (when my other brother left for college, see a pattern?) And it was usually quite enjoyable to come home to two bouncing dogs who wanted nothing more than to play or hang out around the property.

    During a period where both of my maternal grandparents needed to transition into the hospital before they died, my parents took on the responsibility of caring for their needs, renovating their house, attending to their personal affairs etc. They felt bad not giving the dogs as much attention (a well noted point of your article above) so I volunteered to watch them during that time frame. And although yes, they did require more of my time, exercise, walks etc. they also brought me a good deal of joy and satisfaction that was otherwise missing from my life.

    I think one of the points missed above (in addition to the protection dogs provide) is that dogs have no ulterior motive. Generally, they want to appease their humans and want to be a part of your life. Now I’m not saying all people are bad and always seek selfish desires, but let’s be honest, most people are in it for themselves. I found no matter what, they were happy to see my when I came home, happy to hang out with me at night, happy to go explore the beach. They didn’t care what clothes I wore, how much money I had, what car I drove, whether I was handsome or ugly, skinny or fat, etc. That’s hard to match on any level, especially with any human (even a spouse or partner)

    Yes, I had an opportunity to “test drive” dog ownership, and I think that would be an invaluable experience for anyone before they make that committment. As well as evaluating the financial “burden” that comes with pet ownership. And dog ownership is optional, and people shouldn’t miss that point which you are trying to convey.

    All that said, I now own two dogs, and what you say above is true. I do have to plan for their care when we go on vacation, I do have to attend to their needs on a regular basis. But I can financially support it, it adds joy more than any stress, and two large dogs offer more protection to my wife when I am not home than any security system (which again is a point sorely missed above in our intertwined history). I do believe that if I didn’t have the ability to feed myself or was up to my ears in debt that it would be irresponsible to add another life (dog or human) to my situation.

    Cheers

    P.S. Two large dogs fit just fine in the back of my manual transmission Elantra GT

    Reply
  • Steve Miller September 9, 2015, 11:05 am

    Having a pet really does limit your freedom to travel. We have used pet sitters during our travels (no cost) — they get a free place to stay, you get a dog sitter. That has worked out well, but it takes some coordination.

    Pets live a long time, so it’s also a very long term commitment. We love our dog but she is 11 years old now and once she is gone, I don’t think we will get another one.

    Reply
  • Leslie September 9, 2015, 11:42 am

    Maybe you should find someone who is actually educated on the topic to write a post about adopting a pet on a budget. You wrote a point/counterpoint article (Point: dogs suck! counterpoint: no they don’t!), which is not helpful at all. Yes, dogs can be expensive, but there are ways to save money. I’d be happy to provide you some tips that work for me. You know, since I actually have a dog.

    Furthermore, how do you suggest we get rid of all these dogs? There is a major dog overpopulation problem in this country, which was created by irresponsible humans. Humans who don’t spay/neuter, who say “ohhh cute, look at the puppy, I want!”, only to take the dog to the pound months later, and who think they need to buy “perfect” dogs from breeders when there are perfectly good dogs in shelters. What would you like us to do with all of those dogs? Turn them loose on the streets? Euthanize them all? Wait, don’t answer that.

    I do agree that there are plenty of people who shouldn’t have dogs. There are idiot dog owners who let their dogs run loose, bark, scare people, etc. Some can’t afford even yearly vaccinations, much less a surgery if the dog breaks his leg. But again, dog overpopulation…

    My biggest beef with this article is the tone in which it was written. Your advice is generally good, but you are smug, smug, smug.

    Reply

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