Is owning a dog in North America going to isolate you

I was reading somewhere that this person was looking to get a dog and asking her friends about advice, ideas and whether they thought she should get a dog. Here’s how she describes it:

First off I would like to say that I work in the veterinary industry, have 2 cats, and have been researching dog ownership for a year now. I’ve had dogs as a kid, but this would be my first dog of my own.

I’m going to visit a dog at the shelter tomorrow, and obviously I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. Because of my line of work, I know everything that comes along with dog ownership.

Everyone I know who I’ve asked about dog ownership treats me like I’m some dumb kid who wants a puppy (I do not want a puppy, lol) or they say “I love my dog, but don’t get one.” I just don’t understand. I’ve done my budget, I know my stuff when it comes to animal care, and I’ve got everything set up with my landlord. I have experience integrating cats and dogs.

I guess I’m mostly making this as a vent post. I feel like everybody I know adopted a dog somewhat impulsively, whereas I’m putting a lot of thought into it. I know, of course, that adopting a dog is a big deal. But it’s not like it’s some big stupid decision like buying a timeshare or something? I dunno. It’s kind of made me feel glum about the whole process.

I would love to hear some positive stories!!”  You can find the story and answers here.

This go me thinking.  When our lab died of old age, her name was Ornella, my wife and me, after a few months, got into a discussion about getting a new dog.  We were of course, having had dogs for the last 19 years together, very conscious of the repercussions on our life.  I’ve never had kids and I suppose the level of commitment and investment both in time and money are not the same but I would say responsibly owning a dog comes a close second.

There’s of course the time you’re going to have to commit to dog care, most of it, if you don’t have a yard, being walking outside no matter how hot or cold, dry or wet and no matter whether you feel like it or not, at least 3 times a day the pooch needs to go out.  In fact even if you do own a yard, that’s not going to be enough by a far cry, the dog still needs to get out there regularly to meet other dogs, stretch it’s legs and run around.

Don’t forget it’s not only the, in our case, at least 3 hours per day that you go out, it’s also the regularity.  I would say that reasonably the longest a dog can go without going out is 10 hours, and that only in rare cases of exception.  The longest as a rule should be 8 hours.

So this means that every at least 8 hours you or someone else you trust has to be there to take the dog out, 365 days a year, no breaks, owner sick or not, dog sick or not, doggy needs to go out.

Then there are the financial consequences.  Food, gear, bedding, toys, and last but not least the vet.  Just to give you an example our Lego costs us around $50/week for treats, $25/week for food and since it’s a rescue and is often sick (hot spots, diarrhea) he averages about $15/week for the vet.  That’s not counting exceptional cases that experience teaches me can easily go into thousands.  So you put that altogether it’s about $100/week or $400/month.  That’s not cheap!

All that’s fine but why did I mention isolation in the title?

Just to give you a quick example, and maybe I’m getting old and sentimental, but before deciding to go out at night with friends for dinner or to attend a show I have to consider it I’m willing to let Lego alone at home for 4 to 6 hours.  As mentioned he’s a rescue and has severe separation anxiety.  I know he’s going to survive it but I also know that I’m going to feel guilty all evening not fully enjoying my time with friends.  And from what I read and hear I’m not alone in that case.

The same is true for going out during the day to places, even outside, where it’s not appropriate to have your dog with you, for instance trails where there are numerous cliffs.

I’m married but have friends who have dogs, and when they’re dating, sleepovers at the other’s place are a problem.  Either the dog remains alone for the night and my friends have to get up at 4 in the morning to rush back home or usually there’s no sleepover at the other place, it all happens at the place of the dog owner.

And think about traveling.  What with the dog?  Boarding?  Taking him with us to Europe?  We’ve done both and to tell you the truth neither is really a good solution.  Boarding is usually (there are exceptions) putting him in a cage for 3 or 4 weeks which is a long time for our companion to spend alone and sad.  Flying a dog is always a risk, the pooch being considered cargo by the airline.  I know that statistically most pets make it OK to the other side (and mine have a few times) but again it’s not something I do with a light heart.

To add to that, especially in North America, while society is organized around children and you can take them anywhere, the same is definitively not true for dogs.  Apart from parks and sidewalks, it’s like you allowed to own a dog but forbidden to take him anywhere.

In Europe it’s not like that.  For instance in most European countries it’s illegal for the owner to ask you if you have a pet before renting.  I live in the Vancouver region and here if you’re renting and have a dog, you might as well tell them that you have the plague, AIDS, are jobless and a smoker, you’d have better chances of getting to rent than mentioning you have a dog.

I lived in Paris, France before coming to Vancouver and I could take my pooch practically everywhere.  That was 20 years ago and apparently things have changed a bit, but back then I took him to the restaurant (you can still do that) where he quietly laid under the table, I took him on buses and the subway, in department stores.  In fact almost everywhere except, for obvious reasons, the supermarket.

So in conclusion for me, at 64, owning a dog is not a sacrifice save for exceptional cases, I can understand that younger people tend to be cautious when asked “what is it like to own a dog?”  And on top of the time and financial factors you might have to consider that it’s also an isolation factor.

I’ve already said in another article that owning a dog is a one sided lifetime contract.  Once you get the dog, no matter how difficult or sick or fastidious the animal turns out to be, you’re in it for the rest of the pooch’s life, or yours.  So before you take the decision, think long and hard, once made there’s no going back, a dog is a living being that depends totally on you and the care and love you give it.

About franv

born there went here

View all posts by franv →