I love my dogs and cat more than anything in the world and there’s not much I wouldn’t do for them.
And I know plenty of other people who feel the same way about their so called “pets”. We are willing to do whatever it takes within our power and sometimes whatever it takes can be a lot.
So, this is an article about what to know before getting a dog (or cat, but I know a bit more about dogs, I’ve still got training wheels on with Mickey as he’s my first cat)
As I’ve said before I’m not an expert of any kind but I can certainly help with this reality check.
The decision to get a “pet” or as most of us say these days “adopt a fur child” or “become a fur parent” is a big deal and needs to be viewed as such.
Animals readily bond with their humans and suffer greatly when that bond is broken.
I read somewhere that dogs are thought to have emotions similar to that of a 3 or 4-year-old child and I think that sounds about right.
Picture what a 3 or 4-year-old child looks like on the first day of pre-school sobbing for its mother and you get the idea. I’ve seen very similar reactions from my “kids” when I’ve left them at the boarding kennel!
When we don’t take the responsibility of taking an animal into our life and home seriously we put their lives and wellbeing at risk.
I have created a very snuggly website extolling the virtues of having fur kids so I know I have a responsibility to balance the cuteness overload with a frank discussion about the sacrifices and the work and expense involved.
Of course I would love everyone to go out and adopt a dog in need today but that’s not helpful if there’s not a real commitment based on a real understanding of what’s involved.
So here are some things to take into consideration and there are probably many more
Firstly of course ….Adopt don’t shop
Please visit a shelter to adopt your fur child. There is plenty of choice at a shelter and you really don’t need to go to a breeder or worse still a pet store or online seller. Shelters have dogs in all shapes and sizes, including puppies and senior dogs, looking for homes. You will find a warm heart with a wet nose that suits you and you will be saving a life.
By adopting rather than buying you won’t be contributing to the massive problem of pet overpopulation.
Pet overpopulation is caused by people not spaying/neutering their pets and then also by the large number of people relinquishing or abandoning their pets, often pets that they bought from a breeder or pet store thereby fueling the demand.
As long as people keep buying pets people will keep breeding animals for profit and throwing away or otherwise disposing of the animals that are not sold.
Don’t be a part of this sick cycle.
There are too many animals worldwide who need homes and when those homes aren’t found innocent animals are often kept in inhumane conditions before being euthanized (in many parts of the world) or left to fend for themselves on the street or jungle (here in Thailand)
We can’t really call ourselves “animal lovers” if we think of animals as “stuff” and buy and sell them like they are cars and bikes.
Ask yourself; Where will I be living for the next 16 or so years?
How will your fur child will fit in?
If you’re planning on relocating overseas or moving into a pet free condo you might need to think things over some more.
That sounds obvious but when you look around it’s sadly not.
As an example, I live in Phuket and the population here is very transient.
Every week there are ads on Facebook for animals “Free to a good home” by people who are moving countries or moving into a new condo that doesn’t allow pets…and that’s the
slightly less shitty more conscientious people; people who say they love animals.
Countless others just dump their animals or leave them behind in an empty house. It is impossible for me to comprehend what goes through a person’s mind when they do this.
You must think ahead.
If you think there’s a chance you will move and you wouldn’t be willing to cover the cost of relocating your fur kid (including quarantine costs for some countries) along with the rest of your family you shouldn’t get one in the first place.
Circumstances can always change but a real commitment to a dog or cat means that they stay with you whatever changes come along because they are family. If you don’t see it that way please reconsider your eligibility as a fur parent.
I had a cocker spaniel who lived until nearly 17 years of age.
He was my dog from when I was 11 years old until I was 27. That is a long time. I admit that in his later years I travelled and lived abroad as a young adult while he stayed with my parents (lucky me) but he was a family dog and it just illustrates my point that a lot can happen in 16 years or so.
Bigger dogs don’t have such a long lifespan, but that’s not really a good reason to choose a bigger dog as such.
You could always consider fostering dogs for weeks or months while they are awaiting permanent homes. That could be an enjoyable way to see what it’s really like having an animal full time without the long term (almost 2 decades) commitment.
Here in Phuket some dogs and cats need fostering while they await clearance to travel overseas where they have been adopted. You could contact the Soi Dog Foundation or PAWS (Phuket Animal Welfare Society) and ask about this.
You could volunteer to socialize and walk shelter dogs until the time is right to adopt one yourself.
You could consider adopting a senior dog thereby only committing to 5 to 10 years and you might well find a beautifully trained family dog who needs a home. No house training required!
Ask yourself; What will I be doing for the next 16 or so years?
Work and babies are among the things that can get in the way of taking dogs for walks or to the vet when they need it.
Will you be willing and able to attend to your dog’s needs alongside work and family commitments?
16 years is a long time and it’s impossible to know everything you will be doing and there’s never a perfect moment to do anything but you still need to give this some thought for your own sake as much as the dog’s.
Run a few different scenarios through your head.
It will hurt you too if you can’t look after your dog adequately or you have to give him up for whatever reason.
Ask yourself; Am I able to walk a dog twice a day for 30 minutes?
Is this something you will enjoy and be able to prioritize?
Take into account that different breeds have different exercise requirements (as in shorter or longer walks but walks none the less) and choose accordingly.
Some breeds are more needy than others and might not do well home alone for long periods.
Some dogs have been bred for specific purposes (personally I have a very dim view of that and of breeding animals in general) and just won’t be happy in an urban, family environment.
Ask yourself; Am I willing to commit some money?
Whether you choose store bought or cook your own, pets need good quality food. They also need regular deworming and pesticide treatments (especially here in the tropics), vet visits for spaying/neutering and vaccinations, grooming, shampoos, collars, leads…
People buy a lot of unnecessary stuff for their pets too just because it’s fun and there’s obviously a thriving industry based on this but some things are non-negotiable, like the vet bills.
Preventative medicine and managing your pet’s health and safety will go a long way to saving you money and heartache.
Get them spayed/neutered, prevent parasites, don’t let them roam and get into fights or run over, manage their weight with a proper diet and daily exercise…all of those things make a big difference still cost time, effort and money.
The routine vet bills aren’t so bad but when things go wrong it can cost quite a bit. Are you ready to make sacrifices to handle it?
If it actually came down to it would you be willing to put off buying a new phone or something else to pay a vet bill?
You might also need to spend money on training or obedience classes which is definitely worthwhile and a very good idea if you lack experience in this area.
You might find you spend more money on rent for a house with a yard or to live in a dog friendly neighborhood. You might spend money on running a car instead of a motorbike or you might need to buy a crate to transport your dog.
Everyone’s budget is different, we’re not trying to be elitist here, we just want anyone considering pet ownership to think through the costs involved and plan for them.
Personally, I’ve found having fur kids means I spend less money on entertainment and “retail therapy”. I simply don’t have time and I’d rather hang out with them.
However I do have to factor in the significant cost of boarding 3 animals if I go on holiday or have to do a visa run (part of expat life)
Ask yourself; Do I have time?
My morning routine takes a while; 3 animals to snuggle and feed, 1 litter tray to clean, 1 small dog tray to change the lining of, a blanket to shake, a floor to sweep, a water bowel to fill, 2 dogs to walk…all before I get myself ready for work.
One animal is not so complicated, particularly a cat which doesn’t require a morning walk.
Having multiple pets to deal with in the morning is probably a bit like having a couple of fairly competent kids to get to school.
I’m reasonably efficient at getting it all done but it still takes time and I need to get up early enough to do it. It would probably be easier if I had a yard because the need for the morning walk wouldn’t be so pressing but there would still be plenty to do and then a yard to clean regularly also.
You have to plan everything when you have pets and your friends who don’t have them
might not won’t understand this in the same way they would if you had human kids.
If you have both kids and multiple pets…well, you know…good luck with that!
Ask yourself; Do I mind a bit of extra cleaning?
There’s no reason your home has to smell or be dirty but there will be extra cleaning to do.
My eldest, Nut, sheds her fur so I need to sweep the floor regularly.
Mickey, our cat, doesn’t go outside and get dirty paws but he has cardboard that he shreds (to save the sofa and curtains) which also needs to be swept up.
The Girls (the dogs) are outside at least twice a day and they don’t wear shoes that can be removed before they come back inside.
Sometimes somebody hacks up a fur ball or similar. Not a big deal, easily sorted out, but not the stuff cute Instagram posts are made of.
I’m pretty sure I already mentioned the litter trays, picking up in a yard if you have one and the small dog tray I have for my small dog who can’t go a whole night without wee-wee time.
Yep, I clean a lot and I’m glad my house isn’t carpeted.
I’m certainly not trying to put people off adopting fur kids altogether, but taking on a dog or cat is a big deal.
I hope that by sharing the realities of responsible pet parenting I am helping people prepare adequately for what I consider one of the greatest joys in life.
Like I said, there isn’t much I wouldn’t do for my fur kids and as far as my two dogs go I know there’s not much they wouldn’t do for me.