Pet Parenting 101: The Cost of Owning a Pet

  • Posted: June 3, 2014 
  • by Karen Ragusa   -  
  • Comments Off on Pet Parenting 101: The Cost of Owning a Pet


I received an email recently from a prospective adopter.

This man was inquiring about three particular dogs in our organization. I wanted more information from him, so I replied back to ask if he could call me to discuss those three dogs and his needs in more detail. His last email back to me said simply that all he wanted to know was “do they got along with others and what is their cost?”

I wish this was a simple answer, but NO – it’s not simple!

Getting Along

People want to make this matter simple. Why, I don’t know. The answer in the dog world is not at all unlike the answer in human world. How many people do you know that like and get along with all others in the universe?

If he wanted to know if they would get along with his other dog or dogs, that would be a pretty simple matter. An introduction handled properly would reveal his answer.  Do they get along with all other dogs? Well, then that becomes much more complex.  Few dogs of the bully persuasion get along with “all” others.  They always choose their favorite buddies, and when they are well matched it is wonderful! It’s just like pairing peas with carrots.  And then you have those who will tolerate some others.  Sometimes that toleration lasts just for a short time, and sometimes it is forever. For a select few cases, it’s possible that there could be a special hatred.  In which case, you don’t cross that boundary unless you are prepared for a bloody battle.

All three of the dogs get along with most. But there is ALWAYS more to consider.

  • Hoss has hated one small terrier type boy and another bully that was crippled and pitifully fear aggressive. Only two out of many he has hung out with. Not too bad.
  • Houston hates all other dogs (not people) while he has food offered. That’s an easy fix; just feed him separately. As for other encounters, that has been limited, given his fresh surgery. We did make a visit to the dog park where he was fine with many “stranger” dogs. He has been around five others in his building of residence and has been good with them.
  • Maui has been good with lots of dogs, even the annoying ones that so many others cannot tolerate because of their social awkwardness…BUT, she took every opportunity to pick on Georgia, a senior lab girl who was a dear. Go figure.

So for this young man, is that an acceptable answer to part 1 of his question?

The Cost

The cost is a MUCH tougher question to answer. Remember that these rescue pets have paid a much higher price by falling innocently into the hands of a humanity that sees them as disposable.

Adoption fees are simple. Through Caring 4 Creatures they run between $185 – $300, even for the dog that we have invested thousands and thousands of dollars into due to their unfortunate circumstances. We would gladly eat the cost to see them happy and healthy and ready for their new families.

But his real question, which I truly appreciate him bringing up was: What is their full cost?


One of the dogs of interest is a very special boy – beautiful and endearingly sweet and athletic and impetuous at the same time. While living with a short term foster two years ago, Hoss jumped off of a 6th floor balcony on to the concrete below, and he lived to talk about it. Later, he had a recurring infection on his front leg, which we spent hundreds on to determine finally that it wasn’t cancer. After many treatments (with a very expensive antibiotic), that condition has since been put in check.

The cost for Hoss? Well just today he chewed up the second leather couch in his tenure with me. It’s just the arm, nothing duct tape can’t cure. I’m not sure what the dollar amount might be for his possible long term anxiety issues. With the right family, destruction would be limited. That’s with the caveat that he never be left in a car unattended. Proof of that fact is the one broken windshield and two ripped door panels in two different cars of mine on two separate occasions. But I never give up on these guys, as they all, eventually, find their sweet spot with just the right person/family.

His cost is subjective. Is he worth it? ABSOLUTELY!


The second dog of interest is Houston. He came to us from a cruelty situation and when I got him he was literally skin hanging on bones. In less than 3 months in our care he has gained almost 20 pounds. This came only after we were able to eradicate the hooks and whipworms that he was plagued with (most likely for years prior). It was also a result of our choice to feed him only high quality/ high calorie (high cost) food.

The two things that are probably most costly were his heartworm positive condition (which is temporary) and his cancerous tumor removal. Dr. Joe believes that he was successful in getting it all out, but we can only be sure over the course of the next few months. In less than one month, the cavernous site has completely healed and he is a very happy boy. You can tell that he is just ecstatic to be thriving in a world that actually sees him as valuable.

His cost? I don’t know. To date we have spent almost $1,000 for his care and he was worth every penny. When his lanky 85 pounds climbs up in your lap and hugs you… well, at that point it’s clear that his hugs are PRICELESS!


And the third dog of interest, Maui… our miracle Maui. Two years ago this January some contractors entered the interior of my property through my driveway gate, unannounced and without permission. Maui tried desperately to notify me and tried to jump over the fence to reach them. When I heard the commotion, I ran around to that yard and to my horror I saw her lifeless body and dead eyes staring back at me, hanging in mid air by her collar on the picket fence gate!

I don’t know how I did it, but with God’s help I was able to lift her and pull her up and over to me. After what felt like a lifetime of giving her mouth to mouth and CPR (over five minutes), I heard Maui gasp for life. She WAS dead, and now she’s alive! I have never previously been able to revive an adult dog, but Maui was my glorious exception. Of course, there was still an emergency room vet visit and weeks of recuperation to get her back to her normal healthy self.

Cha Ching, you can’t count that in dollars!

In summation

  • All dogs (not just bully breeds) are dogs. they all have teeth and are capable of not liking and not trusting others. There is always a chance that they might bite. Don’t ever forget that.
  • The cost of truly committing to and loving these precious souls must be open-ended. You can only plan and budget to a certain extent. We don’t know what the future holds for us or our pets and a good pet owner is willing to accept that.
  • While these three are the extreme where cost and care is concerned (even on my scale); the real cost will always be the willingness on the part of the pet parent to sacrifice for the good of the pet. And it COULD BE extreme.

The Statistics

One survey shows that 90% of the dogs adopted from shelters do not stay in that particular home for life.


It’s true that many of these dogs do have issues that need to be addressed (health and otherwise). Adopt from a reputable and honest rescue organization who will tell you what you are getting into, and make sure that they have a full return policy.

The Truth

The first step to being a pet parent (and not a pet owner) is self understanding.  Do you have the courage and heart to love this valuable soul unconditionally and without limits? If you do, you can learn all of the other “stuff”.


Love you for loving them.


Written by Karen Ragusa

Karen has gracefully run this organization and watched it grow since 2008. She's seen it all over the years and loves to write about her adventures!

Comments are closed.