What to think about before getting a dog. Especially a high maintenance purebred.

Curled up on the couch drinking a big glass of red wine and preparing to enjoy the professor's pot roast. (It's from this Cooking Light recipe. Takes 2.5 hrs to cook, and worth every minute.)

Curled up on my lap is Gatsby pug, the wonderful scamp who came into our lives last November, a rescue in need of a home (full story here).

We're back from our fourth visit to the vet in about six weeks. First he had crystals in his urine. No problem, a special diet would fix hay. Then came stomach troubles - enter doggie antacids. Then, most recently, non-stop scratching that's left him with painful marks (I'll spare the graphic details). A few weeks ago we tried a cortisone shot & medicated oatmeal bath. When that didn't work, we got oral steroids and antibiotics for a secondary infection.

To the tune of ... a lot of pug bucks.

Now I am not naive to the cost of dogs, especially high maintenance purebred like ze pug. Since I believe that one is responsible for an animal, for the life of the animal, I have never hesitated to plunk down my card & pay for any and all pug expenses. Been doing this for nearly 10 years, when I brought home my first pug. And last spring I paid the final bill for that pug baby, even though they couldn't save him. It was a lot.

We'll do the same for Gatsby till we figure out his allergies & after that. In the meantime, I'd also offer these tips for people considering bringing an animal into his/her home:

Think about the short & long term costs: Yes, you know you'll be paying for food, shots & checkups, but consider setting up an emergency fund for other non-anticipated pet needs. Don't have any extra funds to spare? You will need them at some point.

I especially like this chart that estimates the cost of caring for a dog/cat over his or her lifetime. And this is for a healthy animal, one that doesn't require special treatments or surgeries.

Think hard about how your circumstances could change during the life of an animal: This one is tough, because we can be talking 15+ years. Even more reason to give careful consideration to the possibilities. How many single people bring home that cute puppy with every intention of taking care of it and -- fast forward -- they're married and moving/expecting a baby and re-thinking their decision? It's hard to look that far in advance but important. Pets are members of the family too.

If it's not right for you now, there are plenty of other ways to love an animal: This should be a no-brainer, but it can be easy to forget when you want to bring that cuddly creature home. If you're not ready, don't do it. Consider getting involved with a local shelter or non-profit that's dedicated to a specific breed (which is also a great way to further understand the special issues of specific needs).

Those are just my thoughts. I'd love to hear what other pet owners advise people thinking about bringing an animal into their home. Or how you've dealt with vet costs (anyone use pet insurance?)

Related Links:

Dogingham.com 

Pug Dog Club of America

10 Things You Need To Know Before Getting A Dog