The Price of Priceless

Nobody and I do mean nobody, loves their pets more than I do. I have three. A unceasingly annoyed cat that I inherited from one of my daughter’s more militant rescue missions and two dogs. Sophia Elenora, a now mature and wise eight year old Staffordshire bull terrier and precious little goofy Annabelle Leigh, our 90 pound, 10 month old pit bull pup.

Here’s the thing. When you bring an animal into your family, be sure you can afford said animal and not only when they are young and cute. Pets cost more when they get older because they can require costly medical care and special diets. Pets can get hurt, need surgery and there are few options for pet insurance (went that route once and found out it basically covered absolutely nothing). So, have a care when you adopt a pet. Be sure you can afford said pet because that animal is about to become a part of your family. For life.

When Bob retired, we had just lost his two elderly bull terriers to old age. One was 15 and the other nearly an astonishing 18 years old and yet? The loss was utterly heartbreaking. I died a little when we lost Pitney and Shea, I always die a little when I lose a pet. And yet, Bob, when he moved to California to live with me, wanted a second puppy, another dog. Sophia was/is a mellow, sweet natured dog and a credit to her breed so sure, a second dog was entirely possible but I hesitated. It wasn’t finances, it was knowing that someday I’d lose that dog and again, a part of me would die with that beloved pet.

Then Bob sent me a picture. I know, right? Talk about fighting dirty. His cousin’s son’s girlfriend (stay with me on this) had a friend who happens to be a very well known pit bull breeder of some renown. The type of responsible breeder that brings pride and respect to a breed that has often been unfairly portrayed as an aggressive killer. And her dogs were well known to be champions AND entirely unaggressive. Since I’d seen more aggression in a five pound Chihuahua than I had in any large dog breed, I was not worried about owning a very large dog. Besides, the dog in the picture was a pitiful little thing, maybe 12 pounds and seemingly sad. I found out that she was 11th smallest of a litter of 12 and instantly if not somewhat irrationally, decided she had been bullied by her doggy siblings and thus we needed to rescue her.

This is where financial sense can fly right out the doggy door. There was never a question that we would fly across country, all the way to the bowels of Georgia, to get our dog. We would never risk shipping a dog across country. The breeder lived too far away from a major airport to fly her out. There was no choice but to fly all the way from California to Georgia to get her.


Added to the cost of purchasing our pet, we were thousands of dollars in the hole before we never met her. But having a pet is important to both of us and rescuing Annabelle Leigh (we named her before we bought her) was tantamount to a giant extra fat dose of pure unadulterated happiness with a massive dollop of cherry joy on top. I started writing checks and ordering puppy gear. Now, I know we could have strolled down to the local pet shelter and saved another life but once I saw her, I had to have her. Dogs are to me what jewelry is to other women. We had saved Sophia from a shelter (actually Bob intercepted the dog catcher where he lived and worked as a fire chief and got her before she ever hit the shelter, the privileges of rank I suppose) so I did not feel guilty about buying a pure breed.

When we got her, Annabelle was a tiny, terrified thing, no more than 14 pounds.


She had clearly been fighting her many siblings for nourishment her entire life. We even met her much larger brother, Timber, who promptly launched himself at Bob, running full tilt down a long hallway, nearly knocking him to the ground in joyous puppy greeting.  Hilarious to say the least and yet, not the least bit aggressive in nature. Big Boy Timer simply wanted to play as he strongly indicated by continuing to try and knock my bemused partner to the ground, in-between chewing on his pant leg and shoe laces. I could almost see Annabelle Leigh rolling her young eyes in disapproval. Timber, her expression seemed to say, was a total jerk. Even so, had Timber been available (he was owned by the breeder’s parents) I would have found myself writing another check but we would have had to drive him across country as he was far too big to take on a plane in a carrier. Baby Timber was already tipping the scales of 35 pounds. They were both just three months old.

You can probably see where I am going with all this. Emotions take over and financial sense flies out the back door, across the porch and into the humid darkness that was Bainbridge, Georgia where I could swear I could hear strains and echoes, whisperings from the song Dueling Banjos as the notes went twanging, threading their way through blackness that hid thickets leisurely winding their way down to the crick. You get the picture.

The size of Timber should have been a hint and a half for us but Bob blithefully declared Annabelle would never weigh more than 60 pounds, she was such a tiny thing after all. This despite the breeders’ warnings that Annabelle could easily reach 90 pounds. Amber, you did warn us after all.

Heedless as we were delirious in only the way that new puppy owners can get, we took Annabelle home and started supplementing her high-end diet with goat’s milk to help her bulk up. Again, we could afford it.

Fast forward just mere months and Annabelle is now a strapping 90 pounds at only ten months old.

To say she made up for lost time growth wise would be an understatement. It just cost $700 to have her fixed and she deals with on-going skin rashes and persistent ear infections.


Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching.

The moral of this tale (tail?) is that you have to be ready, financially speaking, to support your pet, very much the same way you should be financially ready to support a child.
We were ready, I regret nothing, not even the mounting food bills we face in feeding our growing baby.

As with any major change in life, do the math, then double the estimate and be prepared financially. I confess we didn’t factor in the cost of buying a king-sized bed which is a purchase that is fast approaching because Annabelle sleeps pretty much right on top of us. Maybe she misses being part of such a large pack. But other than that, we were fully financially prepared for our sweet, lumbering lap dog, a pup who has shown not an ounce of aggression and gives us more love and joy than I ever thought possible which is, of course, priceless.




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