Every Family Needs A Dog


dogGrowing up I always had a dog … and a cat … and for a while farm animals ranging from sheep to chickens, goats to turkeys. Animals taught me aspects of responsibility that have served me well as a parent. Things like sleeping in is a privilege and your heart always has room for one more but your wallet may not.

As a single mom to an only child, it’s been difficult teaching my son to share. He has all of me, and I have only him. We adopted a cat when he was two but, like most felines, she is very independent. I wanted him to learn some of those early lessons from my childhood.

I wanted to teach him to share his time, attention, and things with another. To me, the answer was clear: get a dog!

So, when I finally felt financially settled and in an apartment where I could get my son a dog, I jumped on the opportunity.

My excitement was met with roadblock after roadblock. This leads me to my first suggestion when getting your family a dog – keep that decision close to the vest until you know it’s a definite. I started the process of adoption by first researching dogs on petfinder.com and then falling in love with a few dozen and filling out applications for each. Then, attending adoption events, having phone interviews, and checking out shelters. (Who knew that to adopt a dog you were required to jump through so many hoops?). In the end, because of my special circumstances (having a difficult to please landlord), I was rejected by more than a few adoption groups and shelters. I was devastated but knew a dog was what I wanted. So, we went to a breeder.

This, painfully, reminds me of suggestion number two to consider when getting a new dog: set yourself a budget and stick to it.

Both adopting and buying from a breeder/shop can be expensive. (I will let you infer which is more expensive) but so is owning a pet. You have another mouth to feed, back to clothe, and heart to shower gifts upon. U.S. pet owners spent almost $70 Billion on their animals in 2017. I spent only slightly less than that on my dog: Pterodactyl.

Yes, you read that right. My family named our new cockapoo after a prehistoric flying reptile. When my son was two and we adopted our cat I let him name her. He was really into dinosaurs at the time and didn’t know a lot about gender; so he decided beforehand that if she was a girl we’d name her Triceratops and if he were a boy, T-Rex (of course). We adopted a girl, Triceratops or Topsy for short. The name absolutely fit and was a great conversation starter.

So, tip number three, let your child help pick out the pet’s name. It gives them a sense of ownership and in my case wins you a special place in your vet’s heart. Speaking of vets, my final tip is to research veterinarians extensively.

We went with the vet suggested by our breeder because our first appointment was free. Three appointments later (all for shots, nothing was wrong with our girl) I was about $750 poorer and had to travel, twice, with bagged dog poop in my front seat. Perhaps this vet was being thorough, but more likely they were milking me for all they could. So, I am still looking for a less expensive vet – if anyone has suggestions – and savings in case I don’t find one soon enough.

Pterodactyl (or Tera for short)  is now eight months old and much of what I hoped would happen for our family has. My son has learned to pick up his toys without being told (or else they will be chewed), he is learning patience while we train her and try to teach her tricks, we are more active, but mostly she brings us joy. So, yes, if you can afford the cost and devote the time, get your family a dog – or two. Who knows, maybe there is a Megalodon or Stegasaurus in my family’s future.