COMMENTARY: Buying love

by Nov 27, 2021OPINIONS0 comments



One Feather Editor


I spent 27 years of my life with dogs. I mean, I had dogs before, and a couple of cats, but the dogs and cats before adulthood, and my pets were really my mother’s responsibility along with me. I wasn’t primary caretaker then. I was as dependent for my life as the pets were. Mom let me say that they were my pets, but the reality was that they were her pets.

But when I got out on my own and got married, I purchased my first pet, from my sister, for $75. At the time I got the pup, he was six months old. He lived another 11 years. He wasn’t a purebred dog or even a popular mixed breed. But he was a life that I committed to be responsible for. Unlike my childhood pets, the quantity and quality of his life, depended on me.

At the time, my wife and I worked time-consuming jobs. Trying to have an outside dog would have been cruel as we would have only seen it an hour or two a day. The rest of its time would have been spent alone in the backyard. Dogs are natural pack animals. They thrive in a social order and crave family. My sister’s dog was a chihuahua mix (I think he was part feist). So, he was an indoor dog. That made things easier when it came to spending time with him. We, my wife and I, were his pack and he was a member of our family. And for over a decade, we shared companionship and love. He enriched our lives. He taught patience and consideration.

We had two more chihuahuas, paying another $75 and $125 respectively. One was registered or pedigreed. Prices of puppies, particularly pedigreed pups, can be what some might consider expensive. One website put the average cost of a puppy at between $1000 and $1500. They go higher. For example, a Neapolitan Mastiff or Norwich Terrier average price is $3500, whereas an Australian Cattle Dog might go for $450.

The average dog lifespan is between 10 and 15 years. They may live into their 20’s. That is a significant time commitment. Early in their lives, they require considerable amount of time for play and training. And in the latter parts of their lives, vet visits increase, and they need more things done for them. Food, medicines, vet care, and all the things that make your pet comfortable may cost between $5,000 and $20,000, depending on the length of their lives and genetics of the pup you purchase. Once you emotionally commit to a pet, you feel obligated to ensure their health, safety, and happiness. Time, money, and patience are needed.

Having a pet can be one of the most rewarding and educational experiences in life. It is a long-term commitment.

Dogs are capable of instinctive actions, intelligent thought, and even raw emotion. Anyone who has a dog in their home will relate to you about those emotional family reunions that would occur every day when they returned home from work. Whether you leave them for a few hours or a few months, the moment that you come back home, there is a display of raw affection that is not easily rivaled. When the door opens, the pup’s human is met with barks and whines of pure joy, pouncing upon and licking let them know that they have been missed. Pups can sense your state of physical and emotional wellbeing. They may even be trained to alert you to medical conditions, help you with a physical challenge, and to provide emotional support. They really may be a person’s best friend.

Which makes the thought of anyone taking the acquisition of a pet lightly a little hard to swallow. There is no question that people carelessly decide to purchase dogs and cats. If they hadn’t, the population of stray and unwanted animals would not be as large as it is on the Boundary and across the U.S. And studies show that this time of year, there is a spike in the number of pets that are purchased and the number of pets that are left at pounds and shelters.

People think that a cute, cuddly puppy or kitten would just be the perfect thing for gift giving. And they are so little and playful that anyone would be enamored with a puppy or kitty. However, along with the cuteness, there is the reality of their needs, the feeding, the cleaning, the medical attention, the shelter provisions. As pups move into their adolescence, they tend to be more rambunctious, chewing on furniture, phone and electrical cords, even gnawing on doors and corners of the house. They may have developmental issues that cause them to be aggressive or overly protective, resulting in either bites or isolation.

Pet lovers who are truly committed consider the personal cost and understand that to have the enjoyment of a companion for a decade or two, there are sacrifices that they are ready and willing to make. They realize that a dog or cat is not a Christmas present, but a considerable life commitment. Being a responsible pet owner begins with being a responsible prospective pet owner.

We, here in Cherokee, are part of a widespread problem of irresponsibility when it comes to pet care and ownership. As we try to reduce the number of stray animals and forced euthanasia due to overpopulation, a good step forward would be for all of us who are considering buying puppies and kittens as presents this year to take a step back and commit to not add to the overpopulation and suffering. And doing that will help to make the season bright for all.