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The Dogs’ November Expense Report

This is the month I have been dreaming about – minimal expenses for our three dogs!

Shira and the three NYC House Whippets in their ultimate milieu of Central Park.

And we’ll need it, because we’re practically scraping the bottom of the food bag just trying to get to tomorrow to reorder the big bags of dog food (that’s cheating a little on the budget accounting, I realize), and next month we also need to get more Interceptor and take Sesame for his annual vet visit. But, as my hero Scarlet says, I’ll think about that later.

Picchu sunning in Central Park: Priceless

The Real House Whippets’ November Expenses:

  • Food: $28
  • Toy: $8

Total:         $36

Food: Mostly for some canned food to liven up the dogs’ dinner dishes. We combine 2 kinds of dry food (our new favorite is Natural Planet Organics, made from organic, free-range chicken and other organic grains and produce and costs around $2 per pound at National Pet Pharmacy) and then add a couple tablespoons per dish of canned food (our whippets like Wellness Core, which is grain-free, or Newman’s Own Organics), all mixed with hot water to make a gravy. In the morning, they challenge themselves getting dry food out of Kong toys. I don’t mush it and freeze it like Patricia McConnell does, but they might graduate to that some day.

Picchu, Sesame and C-Biscuit chose mud treatments at the Country Dog Spa

Toy: I gave in to a cute, whippet-thin (no stuffing) bunny toy, partly to support a pet boutique we came across in a small, not so well-to-do town in upstate New York. Otherwise, the dogs’ favorite toy remains a firmly-taped cardboard box – especially announced with a doorbell ding from the UPS man – or a paper towel roll with treats trapped inside, or a cracker box they get to “steal” from the wood pile, etc.

Overall, a gloriously low-cost month!

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Surprising Dog Expenses

A friend who is getting a dachshund (excellent choice!) is working out her budget and asked me what have been the most surprising dog expenses. An excellent topic for prospective dog owners! Before we brought home C-Biscuit, we bought a toy, a bed, a leash, a crate, a training book and some food. Here are some unexpected expenses that followed:

three in motion on dock

Bare Naked Bitches, C-Biscuit and Picchu, followed by Gentledog Sesame

Collateral Damage: I expected a young dog to chew a thing or two, but I didn’t know this undefined category would cost hundreds of dollars. C-Biscuit alone has destroyed:

  • Cordless phone (and the replacements also have their antennae chewed off)
  • Two $300 cell phones (I could go cheaper if I didn’t need the full keyboard to text my sister every few minutes…)
  • Two $20 pedometers 
  • Two $80 laptop cords
  • Two pairs of leather boots (one cheap pair, and one Via Spiga pair I paid full price for at Bloomingdales, reasoning I’d “have them forever” – UG!)
  • Three pairs of flip-flops
  • Much lingerie, previously something I splurged on before I got a dog and had to switch to the bargain bin at Filene’s Basement
  • Books, magazines, newspapers
  • Firewood, especially kindling – shredded, but still burnable
  • Miscellaneous household items: wooden spoon, hairbrush, hair clips, blanket…

 

Chad, Bob, Whippets

Bob with our friend Chad (left) and the House Whippets in Central Park

 

Vet visits: Sure, I expected an annual office visit and some vaccinations. What I wasn’t prepared for is a dog needing to see the veterinarian a lot more than a cat does (in my experience), and each and every visit, even for 5 minutes, rings up at $85, plus any medications or tests. As soon as we got C-Biscuit we paid $245 for a check-up and shots. Two weeks later she sprained a toe ($118) and then got an an eye infection ($101.50). 

Pick-up bags: Not such a big expense with one dog, but definitely adds up with three. We use biodegradable Dogipot bags, billed as an “economical, no-frills bag,” 200 for $12. We go through about 12 a day – the other day I used 7 on the morning walk alone – at 6 cents each, making about $260 per year…that’s half what my house insurance costs. 

Chew treats: A pet parent needs to use chew treats like a “real” parent needs to use videos. To keep your sanity, you need a no-fail “occupy yourself!” weapon. For us, this is the beloved bully stick.

Moo Bully Stick

Free Range Moo! Bully Sticks: A Pet Parent's Lifesaver!

Our breeder did say no rawhide, real bones, pigs ears… but he did not forbid bully sticks! For the uninitiated, that means dried bull penis. The girls love nothing better (and even Sesame warmed up to them, after initially showing some male solidarity). We buy Free Range Dog Treats’ Moo! variety, which don’t smell (believe me when I say this can be a problem!).

Here’s the scenario: I need to work, the dogs are incessantly rough-housing. Wave around the magic wands, and they obsessively chew them for a good 30-40 minutes. The cost? At least $2 per penis. With three dogs, that means $6 per “episode.” Expensive, but indispensable. 

 

C-Biscuit in Butterfly Sweater

C-Biscuit in a sweater gift from her chic whippet friend Algernon.

 

Dog Wardrobe: Both our Whippet book and the breeder said that a whippet needs “a sweater or a coat.” That turned out to be quite an understatement.

We started with a sweater ($80) and a raincoat ($90). Then realized C-Biscuit needed something much beefier for winter, so we got a puffy coat ($128). The puffy coat wasn’t enough, so we layered it with a bodysuit (fortunately, a hand-me-down from our whippet friends). In the spring, we added a fleece ($49), and a waterproof mid-weight coat ($90).

Now multiply all that by 3 to clothe Picchu and Sesame. I won’t add up what all that cost, but I’m sure it’s more than Bob and I have spent on clothing for ourselves.

Biski & Picchu in fall leaves

C-Biscuit: Autumn in New York

I could go on, but that should give some idea of how expensive dogs get, beyond what you usually see broken down in budgets. And to my dachshund friend, hope this doesn’t scare you off; they’re worth it!

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Dog Voodoo?

 

Oh, Picchu

Oh, Picchu

Am I a victim of dog voodoo? At the very least, I am a victim of dog doo. (And I hope that my ex-husband, who doesn’t like dogs because “they are dirty and don’t belong in the house,” does not read this.)

This morning, moments before taking her out, Picchu soiled the entire living room rug. This was way worse than just “an accident.” I’ve never seen such a mess, even on the street, where, fortunately, almost all clean-ups occur.

Doo, or voodoo?

Doo, or voodoo?

These things happen, pets will be pets, so after taking the dogs out and then gating them in the bedroom, I spent a half-hour scrubbing the rug with vinegar. Finally I sat down for a first sip of tea, turned my head, and what did I see, on the WALL? On. The. WALL. Three or more feet off the ground. How is that even possible? Is no surface safe?

Bob and I have cleaned up a lot of messes in the past year and a half, and not once have we had to scrape off anyone’s car, or the side of a building, or for pete’s sake a passing pedestrian. No vertical surfaces at all. For which I am now, I suppose, feeling quite grateful. 

I’m all for pet parenting, whole hog, challenges and all. I’m just not sure what the lesson – or message – is in this case. All I know is, I don’t want to hear again that the dogs are “just dogs.” If I am being tested for “real” parenthood, I consider myself passed. And Picchu, if you’re trying to communicate something, please use alternative methods. 

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The Dogs’ September Expense Report

Our three dogs were only slightly less expensive this month than last. Here’s the breakdown:

The Real House Whippets’ September Expenses

  • Food/Treats:                   $257

    Play-doh Piggy by Shira

    Play-doh Piggy by Shira

  • Supplies:                             $10
  • Clothing:                           $175
  • Books/Video/Mags:       $106
  • Toys:                                     $48
  • Interceptor/Frontline       $97

Total expenses:                          $693

 

Shira and the House Whippet Packette taking a breather in upstate NY

Less expensive than Disney World: Shira and the House Whippets at a "dog amusement park." upstate NY

Food/Treats: 

We stocked up on Dogswell chicken strips, which were on a great sale for about half-price this month. It was time to reorder the big bags of dry food (our current mix is Wellness, Orijen, and Taste of the Wild). We also buy 10 cans of food a month – the dogs split 1/3rd of a can each night for a gravy.

 Clothing:

Picchu, Biski, Sesame: What do you expect us to do, get jobs? We are Real House Whippets, not working dogs.

Picchu, Biski, Sesame: "We are Real House Whippets. What do you expect us to do, get jobs?"

I feel like I’m back in Catholic school: To confess, or not? Granted, the dogs had all the coats they needed to get through the fall, winter, cruisewear season (I think they call it in the fashion industry…at least they did on “The Bold and the Beautiful”), spring monsoons and any other season that will ever come upon us again. So this month’s clothing expenditure is a total splurge. I did get a discount for ordering coats for the three together, but admit it was still a lot more practical to splurge when we just had the one dog!

A dog who insists on riding shotgun, from the back seat: Priceless

A dog (Sesame) who insists on riding shotgun, from the back seat: Priceless

This month’s lesson: I might have splurged on unnecessary clothing, but… since I’m out walking the dogs half the day, I don’t pay for a gym membership anymore, so really it works out. We work out, all together.

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More Cow Pajamas!

 

Sesame dons the communal dog pajamas

Snuggly Whippet: Sesame dons cow-print dog pajamas by Decotogs

If you want to see a grown, outdoorsy man melt, put a dog in cow-print pajamas.

I am the midwesterner and Bob is third-generation Manhattan, but somehow he is the one in love with our dogs’ cow pajamas.

He has little to say on the topic of dog clothes, except, “More cow pajamas!”

He is the Christopher Walken to our dogs’ Will Ferrell (watch the classic SNL skit “More Cowbell!” here).

Bob walking our whippet in cow pajamas, trying to blend into Northern Michigan

Passing for normal in Michigan: Bob walks C-Biscuit in her cow pajamas

When we got a second whippet, we decided we had to go minimalist on the dog clothing. I was deciding on the basics for a dog’s wardrobe: raincoat, fleece, winter coat.

Bob added, “And cow pajamas!”

C-Biscuit wears her pajamas very rarely, such as when we visited my dad in northern Michigan and the thermostat was set just high enough so you couldn’t see your breath. 

Yet, Bob insists they are a dog wardrobe essential. He has practically been pestering me to order cow pajamas for Sesame and Picchu. His idea for halloween? All three whippets in cow pajamas!

I wouldn’t deny him, except – horror – Decotogs, the Missouri company that makes the dog pajamas, doesn’t have the cow print anymore! All we can do is wait, and hope that there will be… more cow pajamas!

Bob admiring Sesame in the cow pajamas

Sesame: "I am a show dog, not a barnyard animal."

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Sighthounds Don’t Sit

 

Fact, or Fiction? The Simpsons' greyhound sits

The Simpsons' greyhound sits: Fact, or Fiction?

The main problem we’ve had with dog training is that so much of it starts with “Sit.”

  • Want your dog to learn “stay”? Have them sit. 
  • Want your dog to be calm at the door? “Sit.” 
  • Teaching your dog to pause before crossing the street? “Sit.”
C-Biscuit crashes the Greyhound Meet-up in Central Park. Do you see any sighthounds sitting?

C-Biscuit (top left) crashes the Greyhound Meet-up in Central Park. Do you see any sighthounds sitting?

“Sit” is so easy for most dogs, it was taught on the first day of C-Biscuit’s obedience class. All of the fluffy puppies threw their behinds on the floor (Comfy!) while our sleek whippet stood and looked at us confused. When we enticed her by moving a treat over her head so she had to scrunch down to get it, she just moved away from us – Get that thing out of my face, you crazy people!

Even the very experienced trainer had no luck getting Biski’s athletic bottom onto the hard gymnasium floor. Her diagnosis? “That’s okay. Sighthounds don’t sit.”

Her recommendation was to use “lie down” instead. That makes much more sense for low-fat sighthounds, who do lie down naturally. Of course, they lie down on something padded, not a bare floor. The trainer advised us to bring a towel or mat to class.

Want your sighthound to settle? Better bring padding - even to the top of a mountain. (Shira and C-Biscuit last summer on Giant Ledge.)

Got whippet? Bring padding - even to the top of a mountain. (Shira and C-Biscuit last summer atop Giant Ledge.)

The next week, while all of the other puppies sat eagerly on command, Bob and I rolled out Biski’s giraffe-print dog cushion for her to recline on. This is more like it, Biski thought as she lay down. The other dogs’ owners glanced over at us with disdain, Spoiled yuppy puppy! Hadn’t they heard? Sighthounds don’t sit!

“Lie down” is not nearly as versatile as “sit.” Because of the padding issue, it’ll work on the living room rug, but not next to my desk (wood floor), at the front door (wood floor), in the kitchen (ceramic tiles), on the street (please…), etc.

Mission Not Impossible, Just Unlikely: C-Biscuit (far right) will sit for treats.

Mission Not Impossible, Just Unlikely: C-Biscuit (far right) will sit for treats.

So we use “lie down” when we can, to settle the dogs and teach them patience, for example, but more or less we’ve just moved on without it.

Biski did eventually start sitting, once she saw it as “lying down half-way and getting the treat even sooner.” Our other two whippets? Forget it. But I find they will “stay” and “wait” while standing. That’s good enough.

As long as you’re communicating with your dogs, they know what’s expected and are under control, there’s no reason to get stuck on “Sit.” 

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