I love my dog, ok. Let’s get that straight. I sleep with him every night. I miss him when I’m away from home for too long. I have pictures of him on my phone. I’m one of those people. I admit all of this, for the most part, as a man without shame. However, despite all the love I have for him, sometimes I feel like a single parent who chose to have kids too young. I know that’s kind of a ridiculously drastic comparison, but you get the point, right? When I adopted him, I tacitly consented to a commitment that was much larger than I ever thought at the time.
I got him when I was in my early 20s. By all accounts, I was still a “young person.” And it was perhaps a young and reckless mind that drove me to bring him home. In the beginning, when the possibility of me getting him first appeared, I had bucolic visions of me sitting on a porch and him lying down next to me. He would be my trusty sidekick and instantly obey my every command. It’s safe to say none of that happen. I’m not saying it was a definite mistake, but looking back there are few things I wish I knew before I made the decision to be responsible for a living, breathing animal. The following is a list of six things I’ve learned about being a dog owner and I hope you read and think about all of them before making the huge decision that is adopting a dog.
1. You’re actually responsible keeping it alive (and healthy).
Dogs are not tamagotchis. There is not reset button for them – once they die, they die. You’re now responsible for keeping that thing alive and in good shape. And no, you can’t just throw food at its face and expect it to be healthy. There is a lot that goes into giving the dog the right nutrition, proper bathing, etc. My brother had once had a dog with a food allergy that forced us to only buy certain kinds of special dog food. Before that, I thought dogs could eat anything, except chocolate, and still be healthy.
Also, caring for a dog doesn’t just mean feeding, petting, and the occasional bath. Despite what some people think, namely, cold hearted Cruella DeVille types, dogs have feelings too. They need regular love and attention, just like people. You’ve got to take care of your dog’s mental health as well as physical health. Nothing is cuter than a happy dog, and that being said, nothing is sadder than a depressed one.
2. Dogs are expensive.
Hella expensive. If you expect to do right by your dog, you’ll be spending a good amount of cash. Food, bath products, flea medication, shots, collars, gps tagging, clothes, training, cleaning supplies, and the list goes on. You probably won’t buy all the things on that list, but you’re more than likely to get at least half. Also, think about if you go on vacation and you can’t bring your dog. Who will take care of it? Doggy hotels are expensive and friends/family will most likely need to be repaid with gifts of some kind.
What about veterinary bills? Dogs can get sick and their health bills can be almost as expensive as regular people. You can get dog insurance, but even that’s about $30 every month. You have to make sure you’re financially stable enough to give a dog a home that they deserve. The last thing you want is to get a dog, become attached, and then have to give it away because you can’t afford it; this happened to a lot of people during the recession.
3. Dogs crap a lot.
Dogs are like needy babies, except they can never grow up enough to clean their own crap. The most surprising, and possibly the most definitive, question when it comes to owning a dog is, “are you prepared to pick up dog crap for next ten plus years?” Well, are you!? If the thought of this makes your grimace, then you better get your priorities straight and think twice before adopting that dog. You really do have to pick up their crap and this applies even/especially when you’re outside. You can just let them take a dump on the grass of some one’s lawn, leave it there, and tell yourself “it’s ok. It’s good for the soil. I’m actually helping the environment. I’m contributing to the circle of life. Tomorrow, there will be flowers growing here.” You have to PICK IT UP.
4. Dogs take A LOT of time.
Besides having to clean up after you dog, you have to actually raise and train it. Every day you’ve got to show them some love, not to mention feed them, bathe them, and walk them. And all of that is on top of vet appointments, trips to the pet food store, training time, and any number of things that might require you to take care of your dog. If you’re a busy person and you know you won’t have enough time to properly care for a dog, don’t get one.
5. They might turn out to be half demon.
With proper training, you shouldn’t have to worry about this, but nonetheless, dogs are unpredictable animals. You’ve got to make sure your dog is safe to be around others; this includes other animals & people. If they’re not, you have to be ready to sacrifice your time and energy to make no one ever gets hurt because of your dog. This is a problem I’ve been faced with as the word “demon” has been used to describe my dog on multiple occasions. He’s not that bad, but I do have to be wary about him getting out of the house on his own and I can almost never invite anyone over.
6. One day they will die and it will rip your beating heart from your chest.
Ask even the hardiest of men and you will find the pain of losing a pet escapes no one. Imagine, the movie Marley & Me, except ten times as worse. Losing a pet is never fun, especially a dog. Dogs often get to be a part of our families and losing one is comparable to losing a loved one. I know it’s not the same thing as losing a child, sibling, etc., but the love you give to your family members definitely extends to your pets. In fact, becoming a dog owner is almost like becoming a parent and being certain that your child will die before you. It’s macabre, but it’s also true.
After considering all of this, you have to ask yourself, “is it worth it?” Right now, for me it is. However, had I thought of all this while I was considering getting a dog, my answer may have been different. It really is a life changing decision and if you think you can adopt a dog and get away with living exactly as you did before, you’re wrong. Examine your life, your priorities, and especially yourself. Perform your due diligence.
Lastly, for a lot of people, I think it really is worth it. I don’t want to leave you with the impression that dogs are all work and no play. Dogs are amazing pets and companions. They can truly make your life better by way of unwavering love and affection. They won’t ever judge you and will always be happy to see you. This is article isn’t about bad mouthing dogs, it’s about letting you know the full impact that owning one might have on your life. Lest you get one and the sheer amount of time and energy it takes to take care of it hit you like a punch in the face, like it did me. Dogs are great and if you’ve read through all of this and you think you’re ready for one, then congratulations. Welcome to the dog owners club. Come in, take a seat and get some rest. You’ll need it.