My need to own a dog came over me like a fever. I imagine it's what some people feel when they really, really want a baby. (Funny enough, I didn't experience this when I actually did decide to have a kid.) I spent hours every day researching breeds, sifting through pet adoption sites, watching dog shows, staring longingly at every canine I passed in the street.
I knew I wanted a rescue pup, and I knew it had to be a good "apartment" size, but beyond that, I wasn't too picky, as long as I got me that unconditional doggy love. My husband and I picked up India from a cargo hangar at JFK in March 2005. She was a nearly-2-year-old, 16-pound Chihuahua-terrier mix who'd just had puppies in the streets of Puerto Rico. Somehow, her rough beginnings made her a cuddly, affectionate lap dog who also loves to run in the park and hike in the mountains. In short, perfect.
Despite the fact that India's no posh show dog, taking care of her is no bargain. I was blissfully unaware of how much the costs of a pet can add up, especially now that she's a "senior" dog. In 11 years, she's cost me about $49,000* — that's twice the national average (this didn't take into account dog-walking or pet-sitting). Of course, when I look into her warm chocolate eyes, I know I'd pay another fortune for her all over again. Perhaps if I break it down, though, future dog owners won't suffer such sticker shock.
*Many of the numbers in this piece are estimates, since prices have changed and my memory is faulty.