The cost of unconditional love (HLD 360)

18 March 2021

My dog turned four yesterday. Obviously, she hasn’t been with us for all four of those years, and her family arrival anniversary is in May. But on 17 March 2017, my best friend with four legs entered the world.

The old theory about dogs ageing 7 years in one human year has been updated. The new reckoning takes into consideration the size of the dog, and factors in the increased speed of ageing in first year of life. Anyway – all the best information gleaned from the internet says my dog is the equivalent of 32 human years.

She is still in the prime of her life. She can still run and play chasey at will, and plays a full on wrestling game with one of her besties, a sausage dog called Biggie. She and Biggie are about the same age, and have been friends since they first appeared at the dog park when very young. They still play like they are four month old pups, not four year old grownups. They do tend to tire out a bit quicker nowadays, though.

But in honour of her birthday (which was celebrated with treats down at the park with her ‘crew’), I thought I’d have a brief look at what she has meant for us.

I know people who have very strong opinions about pet ownership. They will cite the expense, the cost to the environment, the dealing with excrement, and so on. I’m sure you’ve all met one of these people at some stage. They have very, VERY strong views.

It’s safe to say that I’m not one of them.

But you cannot deny that there is a cost involved in pet ownership. Even discounting the physical cost of being responsible for another living being, and having to factor them into any decision made that involves your household, there is a very real, very impressive, financial cost.

There are a number of websites telling you how much it costs to own a dog. They will tell you that the first year will cost, on average, around $3000 with a further $1500 each subsequent year. Depending on the life span of your dog, and whether or not you have pet insurance, and so forth, your dog could cost you upward of $25,000 over its life time.

I had a quick think about what my little bundle of cuteness has cost us, and I don’t dispute those figures at all. If anything, she’s a little bit more expensive.

Food is one area where my dog doesn’t actually cost me too much – she only has one dry food which is designed for little dogs who are prone to tooth decay, and she doesn’t eat it in large quantities. She does, however, enjoy any food her humans are eating, and is quite partial to scotch fillet steak, roast lamb, and bacon. She will also eat any vegetables her humans care to share. So she has expensive tastes, but she is happy to share.

We have had three dogs during our married life, and this one is undoubtedly the most expensive. Although the second one, a border collie, cost us a fortune in his early days, when counting the cost of the destruction of our back yard and its contents. Bikes, reticulation, and more, gave way to Marty’s unending need to move. He ended up being a lovely dog, but his first two years were a sore test of the relationship between pet ownership and our bank balance.

Let’s assume that the internet figures are near enough, and assume that my dog has so far, cost us $7,500.

Now there are numerous studies that show the effect pets have on people. Decreased blood pressure and cholesterol levels, decreased feelings of loneliness, increased opportunities for exercise, outdoor activities and socialisation – all attributed to pet ownership. One study shows that pet owners actually get sick less often, due to the more diverse bacteria that exist with having a dog in the house! Having a pet teaches children ‘responsibility, compassion and positive attitudes’.

Whether it is better health, more exercise, being happier, having a more active social life, suffering from less stress, or being a more empathetic person – it is agreed by the majority that having a pet is a good thing.

So – the value that Chewie has brought to our lives? That, my friend, is priceless.

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