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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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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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Pack Mentality, and Problems

When we wanted to get a third dog, the breeder did warn us that a third “changes the dynamic – they become more of a pack.” We looked at little Picchu blinking her big, brown, homeless eyes at us and thought, “Pack problems? Naaahhh.”

Bob, Shira and the NYC Whippet Packette: Well-behaved, except when not

Bob, Shira and the NYC Whippet Packette: Well-behaved, except when not

Sure enough, with just C-Biscuit and Picchu, all was well. Biski has always been shy on the street, Picchu is much more social. We enjoyed going up to other dogs for a change, because Picchu made tons of friends. Even when a new dog lunges at Picchu and barks in her face – something that sends Biski flying backwards into our legs – she ignores it, sniffs, and miraculously the other dog turns friendly. Until we added Sesame.

Sesame, C-Biscuit and Picchu

Sesame, C-Biscuit and Picchu: the House Whippets hit the streets of Manhattan

Our boy Sesame isn’t the problem, exactly, because he’s the shyest of them all, and completely well-mannered. The problem is a pack mentality. Last week I came home and told Bob I’m done walking all three together. They’re too much of a handful, causing too many scenes.

Our social little Picchu is, unwittingly, the instigator. She sees another dog and thinks, “Playmate!” She perks up or jumps, or sometimes barks out of excitement, which Sesame reads as, “The pack is under attack!” Seemingly out of nowhere he lunges and WOOF-WOOFs. He’s not as delicate a little whippet as the girls, and his bark means business. That sets off Picchu, who goes from “I want to meet you!” to “I want to eat you!”

Shira and the NYC House Whippets on a field trip to Woodstock

Shira and the NYC House Whippets on a field trip to Woodstock

Even that would be manageable if it weren’t for wallflower Biski springing to life. Whereas alone she would avoid conflict at all costs, with Picchu and Sesame out front, she’s happy to provide back-up: rrrRRROOUROOUROOU!

Three well-behaved whippets turn into a barking, snarling, three-whip-power lunging machine, while other dog owners scurry away and I become that woman who doesn’t have any control over her rude dogs. I have been frustrated at those people for years – Control your dog! – so I know exactly how bad this is.

Bob and the Whippet Packette: Three is a handful, but not too many

Bob and the Whippet Packette: Three is a handful, but not too many

Bob and I started to anticipate trouble, took the dogs to the curb, and stood body blocking them from a passing dog. This worked – they wouldn’t bark or lunge – but you wouldn’t believe how bad some dog owners are at reading body language that unquestionably says, “Stay away. Our dogs do not want to say hi.” Several times, they let pooches on illegally long leashes prance right up to our Packette, setting them off. Then, of course, we’re the bad guys.

FF_cover09web200_306_However, no cause for alarm. I ordered the booklet Feisty Fido: Help for the Leash-Reactive Dog from trainer Patricia McConnell. We love her training resources, and have several of her books and videos. She says that leash-lunging is a very common problem and that it is not difficult to solve.

Our first training exercise is to work with each dog individually on the “watch” command, so the dogs look at us rather than an approaching dog. That means no more group walks for a while. But it’ll be worth it once our pack is back under control. Hopefully in time to model their matching fall outerwear.

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The Third Dog: Here Comes Sesame!

For over a year, I have been singing (to the tune of “Here Comes Santa Claus…”), “Here comes Sesame, Here comes Sesame…” and tomorrow he will be here! 

Sesame as a newborn whippet

Little Sesame Seed

I’m a little nervous because he’s a male (no experience there), somewhat skittish (welcome to NYC!) and will be our third dog.

A friend always told me about children, “Don’t get outnumbered!” Tomorrow Bob and I officially will be outnumbered. But I look at those dog walkers in a cloud of 15 dogs and leashes and I tell myself, “This will be fine.”

Bob’s mom left a message saying, “Three dogs. Wow. I hope you know what you’re doing!” In fact, we don’t. Who knows what they’re doing before they actually do it? 

Sesame in his trouble-making phase

Sesame in his trouble-making phase

A year ago, it freaked me out to walk a single dog in New York. I worried about C-Biscuit bolting out of her collar, about her getting bitten, about her inhaling rat poison. But it’s been fine…even though she sprained a toe, stole and ate a pound of dried chicken breast, and disemboweled her wool stingray. And, okay, recently she did throw up on my pillow.

This spring we got Picchu, an unexpected bonus dog. The first time I walked her with Biski, my legs got tangled in the leashes; Biski went this way and Picchu went that way. Picchu wanted to sniff every square inch of sidewalk; Biski got impatient. A few weeks later a woman commented, “Wow, your dogs must be twins. They look at the same thing at the same time, move together, and even go to the bathroom at the same time!” It’s true, they are often like synchronized swimmers – without the nose clips.

Sesame, all grown up and ready to come home!

Sesame, all grown up and ready to come home!

And now Sesame. Among the comments from friends and family:

“Are you moving?”

“I don’t think you can fit three dogs in here.”

(two family members, same reaction:) “Three dogs? hahahahaha!”

(e-mail:) “OH MY GOD IT’S WHIPPET CENTRAL – STOP BUYING WHIPPETS!” 

“Are you getting dogs instead of having kids?”

And from a whippet-owning friend (e-mail:) “It’s so clear that you want him. I’m sure that the dogs will get along, even if it requires a little adjustment. You’re both good parents so it’ll work.”

There is always a voice of reason in the madness of the crowd. And for us, there will always be whippets, too. Even three.

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New Dog Expenses: Budget vs. Actual

 

Play-doh Piggy, therapeutic sculpture by Shira

Play-doh Piggy, therapeutic sculpture by Shira

It’s accounting time!

I happen to love crunching numbers; I realize most people don’t. Still, with a little attention, you can rest easy with your new puppies rather than be stuck worrying about money.

Before we got our second whippet, we were aiming to save $2,000 to cover the expense of a new dog for the first 6 months. We’d only saved $1,500 when Machu Picchu came along, but since she came via Whippet Rescue she was free up front. 

We’ve had Picchu for 2 months and she was spayed this week, so it’s time to compare our estimated budget to the actual expenses:

                                                                        Estimated                  Actual

The Dog                                                              $600                                    $0

Initial vet, vaccinations, Interceptor        $250                                  $307

Spaying                                                               $400                                  $354

Pet health insurance                                        $300                                   $335

Food for 6 months at $1/day                        $200                                  $200 (est.)

Coats                                                                    $100                                   $206

Supplies*                                                             $100                                   $112

Misc.**                                                                 $50                                    $107

Dental work***                                                    $0                                     $185

                                                                           ————–                          ———

Total:                                                                   $2,000                          $1806

"You called for a piggy bank? (Don't say Real House Whippets don't help save money.)"

"You called for a piggy bank? Now don't say Real House Whippets don't participate in household budgeting."

As any good accountant will tell you, all the interesting stuff is in the footnotes:

*I didn’t include $79 for the second pita bed. Supplies expenses include $30 for Frontline, $44 for a Sighthound Gear leash & collar, and $23 for a Preventic tick collar that we then decided not to use because it’s too toxic.

**Misc. expenses includes $8.50 for the NYC dog license, and $98 for the microchip and registration.

***Dental work included a cleaning, one x-ray, and extraction of a dead tooth. 

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