Dogs have lived alongside humans for thousands of years and they’ve generally had a specific function or job to do. Herding dogs, guard dogs, sled dogs and hunting dogs all served the purpose of performing a necessary task first and being a beloved companion second. But as people have evolved, our need for dogs for their work has declined, although there are still plenty of working dogs today. Now, our dogs are most commonly our companions first and performance partners second. In fact, more and more dog owners are not only emotionally attached to their dogs the way they would be to their children, they’re treating them like they would children.
Alexandra Suich of The Economist recently wrote about how much treating our dogs like children is actually costing us. Parents are very familiar with how expensive children are, but many dog owners don’t realize just how much money they’re spending on their canine companions. But Suich writes, “In America alone people spend a whopping $44 billion annually on pet food, supplies and toys, and that figure is growing. Last year they shelled out around $400 million for pet Halloween costumes, according to the National Retail Federation. In 2017 they will spend $593 million on Valentine’s Day gifts for their animals.”
When you think of it, it’s true. Owning a dog is not a cheap endeavor. There are food bills, dog walkers, routine veterinary visits, training, toys, treats, boarding for vacations and the unexpected emergency costs. Ester Bloom of CNBC Money considers this when calculating the extraordinary costs of pet ownership. “And, though America is the richest country in the world, we are also, famously, broke. Untold numbers of us cannot come up with $1000 for an emergency and have no retirement savings to speak of.”
But does this mean we should put our dogs in the backyard and stop loving them the way we do? We don’t think so. Although raising dogs and children are comparable monetarily speaking, they are two of the most rewarding experiences in the world. Bloom goes on to say that, “Having a pet is an especially ennobling experience, and aren’t we told day after day to prioritize experiences over things? Aren’t experiences what make life satisfying?” And we completely agree.
Our children are expected to help us through life as we grow old and become less able to care for ourselves, but our pets are going to do no such thing. In fact, our pets will likely pass on long before we do and all we’re left with is the experience we had sharing a moment of our lives with them. Something, to most of us, that is absolutely priceless. Pet ownership calls on us to become selfless, compassionate and dedicated. We can’t slack off on our dogs lest they begin to suffer. Our love for our pets is strong beyond words and this drives us to be the very best people we can be.
Caring for our dogs certainly has it’s benefits, but when compared to raising children, not nearly as many. Dog ownership relies almost solely on the goodness of our hearts and our desire to provide for an animal that cannot provide anything of value to us outside of experience. They will not grow up to be doctors, police officers, firefighters and teachers. But they will give us their undeniable devotion – and that’s worth all of the money in the world.