The problem with more.

Every time I see a meme that says something to the effect of “there’s always room for one more dog” or more dogs = better, I cringe. I’m here to tell you that more isn’t always better.

Last month, Bella’s eyelid mass (which had already been removed once), came back with a vengeance. It was in a terrible spot and surgical removal was the only option. Ok, no problem. I consider Bella a very “cheap” dog to own – her eye drops cost about $60/month) – so this little eyelid problem is really the only time she has cost me any serious dollars.

Thirty minutes after we return from Bella’s surgical consult, Sioux has a seizure. It’s big, it’s scary, and we end up at the local small animal ER. Thankfully everything checks out, there’s no lasting damage, and it appears to be a one-time thing. Total charges for the day: $600.

Fast forward a few weeks, and Bella has her surgery. I notice a second lump on her hip a few days before and request that be removed too. When the techs sedate her, they notice a giant lump under her tongue. Do I want that one removed too? Of course! After all is said and done, she has three lumps removed and biopsied. Total charges for the day: $1500.

The good news: the lumps weren’t cancer, just annoying. But three weeks after surgery, our little pug started looking really bad. Excessive drinking gave me reason to suspect a bladder infection, so off to the vet she went. Unfortunately, not only does Bella have a bladder infection, she is also diabetic. Her increased hunger, which we had assumed was related to having the lump removed from under her tongue, was really just another symptom of her underlying condition. The only consolation is that we know she wasn’t ill prior to surgery (we had pre-surgical bloodwork and tests done), so we managed to catch the diabetes quickly. Total charges for diabetes urine/blood/consult + insulin = $500.

Two dogs, two months, $2600. And I consider myself lucky. Two years ago I had just bought my young pitbull two new knees (TPLO surgeries), when my senior dachshund became gravely ill. Ultimately, we lost my sweet senior. When all was said and done, I had spent nearly $15,000 over the course of 4 months between the surgeries and care for both dogs.

Please don’t be fooled into thinking I’m an independently wealthy person. Many PB&Js and cases of Ramen were consumed, many things sacrificed over the year it took me to pay off my credit card bills after that devastatingly sad and expensive experience two years ago.

Here’s my point: dogs will get sick, emergencies will happen. If you’re lucky, it will happen to one dog at a time. But if you have several dogs, the likelihood that more than one dog will have something happen that requires expensive care at a time goes way up.

It’s fun have a whole pile of dogs to snuggle. Pack walks are THE BEST THINGS EVER. But owning multiple dogs can get very expensive very quickly, so before you take on another responsibility – another life – have a real, straight-up conversation with yourself about your limits.

Financial limits, emotional limits (because being a caregiver to lots of furry lives can be just as taxing as it is rewarding), and physical limits. When faced with a hard decision, at what dollar amount would you have to stop fighting for your furry friend?

You definitely don’t have to be rich to have a dog. But you do have to understand what it is to be responsible in every sense of the word. If you can only afford routine care for one dog, it’s unwise to get a second dog, period.

Back on the farm, Bella is slowly stabilizing. Slowly. There is more to canine diabetes management than I could have ever imagined, but I’m sifting through the information and putting a schedule in place that doesn’t rock the poor pug’s applecart too much. Like most seniors, she’s set in her ways and doesn’t like to be trifled with. Fingers crossed for a smooth, successful transition!

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