This article has been written by Vivien. Vivien is a freelance Copywriter by day and dog-slave by night, all the while nursing her pipe dream of living on an island (that’s not actually a city), writing occasionally and surfing regularly, with good enough wi-fi to stay connected to friends and family in Singapore. Half city-girl and half hippie, with a voracious appetite for adrenalin rushes, she has since hung up her boots as a competition wakeboarder, and now grabs whatever opportunity she has to go surfing, flow-boarding or just cruising on her long-board around the city with a bunch of similarly overgrown kids.
As we all know, there are hundreds of puppies in Singapore, both stray and abandoned, looking for forever homes. Yes, they tug on your heartstrings, send your compassion into overdrive, and you find yourself developing serious amounts of respect for the volunteers who rescue and rehome these homeless animals. The next thing you know, you’re asking yourself the all-important question: Should I do my part and adopt one of them?
The truth is, you’ll be doing a universe of good by doing so, and the rewards are priceless. We’ve adopted 2 dogs in the last decade, and I’ve never once regretted it. However, there have been (and still are!) challenging times, which I believe every potential adopter should know about before they succumb to their emotions. Plus, it’s only fair to your furry friend that you’re prepared for it, just in case you succumb to your frustrations later in the game.
Like you, they grow old
And with old age, comes greater dependence. They develop geriatric behaviour just like we do, and canine senility is a very real issue. Tyson, our 14-year old mini bull terrier, who never used to urinate or defecate in the house, started to do so randomly, and it has since become a regular habit. Either that, or he wakes me up at 3am wanting to go for a walk (read: to pee and poop). It’s not easy to toilet train a dog at such a stage, and more often than not it’ll just become extra work for you and your family.
Old dogs also tend to sleep a lot, which means they may be less engaging than when they were young. Gone is the happy, cheerful dog who is always excited to see you walk through the door, and in its place is a sedentary dog who sleeps through everything other than dinner and walkies. Some people feel a sense of disconnect, especially if this happens for years on end.
It’s a good sign if you feel indignant about all these – because you should. It’s important for dog owners to understand and expect the natural progression of life, instead of taking the easy way out and abandoning them. That, to me, is the most shameful and cowardly thing to do after the years of love and companionship.
Training and exercise
As with all new relationships, you need to build a foundation. If there’s anything that watching tons of Dog Whisperer episodes has taught you, it should be the fact that every dog needs discipline and exercise, on top of love. Whether you choose to follow his instructions or do it your way, the fact remains that you have to spend time training your dog and exercising it, rather than just giving it lots of love and cuddles.
Dog owners who don’t train their dogs (or perhaps don’t know how to) end up with unruly dogs that tear up their home, which eventually leads to frustration, resentment and loss of interest. It’s really sad because the problem started with the human in the first place. So whether you hire a professional, or read up on your own training methods, make sure you are willing to spend the time and effort doing it.
How much you spend on your dog really depends on what you can afford. Don’t be pressured into believing that you have to pamper it with treats, toys, supplements, etc. You can even get creative and make your own toys from recycled items, or bake your own treats.
The main expenses you’ll need to consider are food, medical and grooming essentials. There is a huge range of food choices available in every pet shop, so you may want do your research and find out about prices. I spend about $100 on a 30lb pack of kibbles for my 2 dogs (both medium-sized, weighing around 20kg each) and it lasts me about 5 weeks. If you do the math, it’s not a lot of dough on one dog.
The real cost comes from vet bills, which unfortunately can get more expensive than our own medical bills. If budget is a concern, just make sure you don’t adopt a dog with an existing medical condition. Generally, dogs don’t fall sick very often, but be prepared to shell out more money on medical bills when they get older.
Grooming doesn’t actually cost much, unless you want it done regularly by a professional. If you must have a long-haired breed, be prepared to pay for haircuts and stuff that will set you back about $70 – $100 a month. Otherwise, shampoos, ear-cleaning liquids and nail clippers are really minimal costs if you learn to do the grooming yourself.
Travel & Relocation
As much as I would give anything in the world to have my dogs travel with me, I know that’s never gonna happen. And so it has become a part of my travel planning to find a dog-sitter, pet-hotel or boarder for my two rascals every time I go on a holiday. Costs aside, it may take some time to find a solution that puts both you and your dog at ease. I’ve heard (and personally encountered) horror stories that result in panic and heartbreak. So if you travel a fair bit, you may want to think about a reliable arrangement before you make your decision to adopt.
If you even think that there is a possibility of relocation within the lifespan of your dog, bear in mind that the costs are high and the process can be very tricky depending on dog’s breed and your destination. Most major airlines have breed restrictions, and some have completely banned animals on their flights. Flat-nosed dogs and scheduled breeds (classified as aggressive) face the most problems, and sadly, no amount of negotiation will get them through. It’s not always impossible, but you may have to do months of research and call dozens of airlines and pet movers. Add that to your own relocation stress and you’ll understand why some owners decide to leave their dogs behind. I’m not saying that it’s okay to do that, but I’ve done the research and I understand the difficulties so it’s good to have some foresight when it comes to this issue, especially when it comes to choosing a breed.
My final word is, if you have any doubt at all, don’t do it. You may end up hurting the poor soul with a second abandonment, or living together in constant frustration. And trust me, dogs feel every iota of your emotions, words and actions. Having a dog is 50% work and 50% love, and most of the time what you get is what you sow – like any relationship really!