Four destroyed Mac laptop chargers, countless pairs of ripped socks and blankets, and a couch that’s been re-sewn three times. These are just some of casualties I’ve experienced from owning my 9-month old Australian shepherd puppy, Tucker.
The No. 1 question I’ve been asked is, “How did you know you wanted to get a puppy?” But everyone wants a puppy. What that question really means is, “Why would you get a puppy as a college student?”
That’s a much tougher question to answer.
I’ve known since junior year of college that I wanted to get a dog. I wasn’t sure what kind or whether I’d buy one or adopt, but I knew that I was a much happier person with a dog. I’ve grown up with dogs my whole life, and I care more about dogs than I do most people.
After countless dog quizzes research on different breeds and their size, temperaments, shedding and health problems, I decided I wanted to get an Australian shepherd. They’re very energetic, loyal and intelligent.
That was the easiest part of the process – then, I had to find a dog.
This part is when reality sets in. The idea of a puppy is appealing enough, but actually following through, being responsible enough to save money and caring for your dog, is exhausting.
This summer, I saved nearly all the money I made for Tucker, before I’d even named him. I made a spreadsheet for everything I could think of: the cost of buying him, pet insurance, vet appointments, food, dog beds, a crate, toys, treats, dog bowls. His food and insurance alone are $100 a month.
I thought I’d covered everything. But the thing about getting a puppy is that there are countless things you can’t factor in.
You don’t plan for your dog to eat a tiny piece of plastic and throw up five times, forcing you to take him to the 24-hour emergency vet at 2 a.m. As with most dog-related issues, he just pooped it out, but it was one costly poop.
For the first few months, I was overly cautious and carried Tucker around in a bag to protect him from the risk of parvovirus – a contagious disease among dogs that’s often deadly to puppies. His little bladder could only hold itself for a few hours, so I was up at 3 a.m. just about every night and again at 6 or 7 a.m.
That doesn’t include the dozens of times Tucker didn’t bother to whine and just peed in the house. If he was feeling extra impatient, sometimes he’d poop inside, too.
Since I couldn’t afford to send him to doggy daycare – roughly $30 a day – I had to plan out my schedule so Tucker would never be home for too long without me. When I’m gone, my roommate often spends time with him, but I have to make sure I put away anything he could eat while I’m gone.
These are not complaints, but they are the reality of owning a puppy. You have to spend time to train them, exercise them and make sure they’re not doing something that will kill themselves, because they try to do that a lot.
If you want to get a puppy, plan for the worst case scenario and overestimate your fears. Make sure you have enough money, and invest in health insurance, because if that worst case comes true, you’re going to need it.
And after you’ve done all that planning and stressing, enjoy the love of your puppy, because it’s the purest kind of love there is.