Friday, November 18, 2011

The Miser Dog

Is it a frugal thing to own a dog?

We call our dog
"a miniature Great Dane".
Loaded question, of course.  That depends on a lot of things, including (the big question) how much you like dogs.  I grew up with Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds, dogs that my dad said he chose "so I wouldn't have to bend down to pet them".  I love the companionship of a dog, and I know a lot about training them.  (When I was a teenager, one of my neighbors paid me to help them train their dog).  It makes emotional sense for me to want a dog.

But what about the financial side?  Or the time side?  On the minus, there's definitely dog destruction.  Our current mutt doesn't chew up shoes, but he has an odd predilection for gloves -- especially my husband's very pricey biking gloves.  We're out a good bit of money (and good will from the husband) because of that.  There's also the messes that a dog can leave behind -- even if your dog never leaves "presents", shedding dogs mean more frequent vacuuming and such.  When I see those spiffy home decorating magazines, I always ask myself, "I wonder how this would look covered in dog hair?"  Sometimes, not so bad, actually.

Our first view of Miser Dog.
For advice on food and vet costs, I bow to Dogs or Dollars.  Our family keeps dog costs low in a variety of ways.  I've grown fond of getting mutts from the Humane League.  I look for a dog who follows me intently with its gaze -- I've found those are very trainable dogs.  We minimize the need to go for walks at inconvenient times by having a dog door built into the house with a fenced in dog run outdoors.  (For energy conservation reasons, we built this into a basement window well.  From the outdoors, it looks like a dog house.  I think this set up is a real hoot!)

Dog stairs in the basement,
going up to the dog door.

What's on the other side of the dog door:
Dog "house" outside, covering the window well.

For me, though, having a dog means a certain kind of freedom.  When I walk a dog through the nearby city at night, or when I run through the empty backroads with the dog by my side, I don't worry at all about crime.  For a solitary woman, that is a HUGE part of peace-of-mind.  Our neighborhood is a generally safe one, but occasionally there are rashes of burglaries.  But with a dog in the home, I don't ever worry about burglars.  This is especially helpful to us in the summer, when we leave windows and doors wide open at night to cool off our non-air-conditioned home.  In this way alone, my dog is a good financial strategy.

Does the burglary protection make up for vet costs, food costs, and bicycle gloves?  Debatable, really, but I'd vote for "yes".  In one sense, the answer doesn't matter.  The truth is, we don't really see our dog as a financial strategy so much as a lifestyle choice; we think our lives would be poorer in a way we can't quantify if the dog weren't there to slobber on the kids when they get home.

But in another sense, this miser mom is glad to know that her miser dog is pulling his own weight when it comes to household finances.  Go, dog, go!


  1. Hello Miser Dog! What a handsome fellow. I too prefer the 2nd hand dogs. My purebreds (with 1 exception) were tossed by somebody else.

    I often contemplate the financial implications of my dogs. Obviously it's more significant when you have The Pack, but still I agree it's a lifestyle choice. I've often referred to the Mutts as my really expensive Hobby.

    But much like kids, they keep me home on friday nights.They limit the vacations I take. I don't resent that. Why have so many if you aren't going to spend time with them? And time spent with dogs is generally cheap. They aren't exactly hard to entertain.

    Although, I will say my house was broken in to by some very brazen thieves, with Pack o' Dogs inside. Can you believe it?

  2. What a brilliant dog door setup! Never seen anything like it. Did you come up with that idea yourself?

    1. I've had various kinds of dog doors (sometimes cat doors) in every home I've ever lived in. So in some sense, this set-up wasn't so much an "idea" as an "evolution". But I'm glad you like it. We think it's a lot of fun, too! - MM