FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Love for pets doesn't come cheap

Carole Townsend

Carole Townsend

EDITOR'S NOTE: Carole Townsend, a correspondent for the Daily Post, is beginning a new blog called Food For Thought. It is available online at www.gwinnettdailypost.com/townsend.

It's a dog's life, and it's a good one.

Our family just ended a week-long, much-needed stay at the beach. We returned home this past weekend, and part of our settling-back-in ritual always includes picking up our two dogs from their stay at the kennel. Now our dogs are rescues, big 85-pound babies that are very much a part of our family. In truth, with all of our children practically grown, I tend to treat them like actual babies. Still, I brace myself for the sticker shock that inevitably comes with our joyful reunion at the kennel after a week of separation.

I expected that this year would be particularly pricey, as I was told that both of the dogs needed flu shots at $22 a pop in order to be boarded. What? Flu shots for dogs? I thought, and then I remembered that we had actually been required to pay for those three months earlier when they were groomed at the same facility. Yes, they had to get flu shots to get haircuts.

"Well, they didn't get their boosters, so you need to start over with the shots," said the sweet little tech on the other end of the phone as I made boarding arrangements. I pointed out that no one ever told me that the dogs needed boosters after the original flu shots, and she sweetly apologized for that little oversight. However, she also sweetly pointed out that we'd still be on the hook for the shots.

I mentally tallied up $132 for a series of flu shots for two dogs that rarely leave the house and never leave the yard. I didn't even get a flu shot this year and as clearly as I can recall, MY hairdresser never required a flu vaccine before she'd do my hair.

Then, add $22 per night per dog, for 8 nights. And as careful as we are to keep them current with tests, vaccines and such, we still overlooked a couple in addition to the flu shots. Oh yes, and then I asked that they be groomed during their stay at the canine Ritz. Five-hundred-fifty dollars later, we marched out the door with our two beloved dogs, but not before the girl working the desk reminded me to return the plastic braided leashes they loaned us.

I must admit, this veterinarian's office is very nice -- clean, well-appointed and staffed with professionals. The walls are covered with colorful, friendly pet merchandise just begging to be purchased. They even offer snacks to their patients' people while they wait. In fact, the thought crossed my mind, just briefly mind you, to open up my purse and rake all the packaged snacks and bottled and canned drinks into it while no one was looking. This was after I paid the bill, of course. I thought that it might make me feel better, somehow even the score. I did not do it, in case you're wondering.

As I write this, I am looking at my two precious canine children sprawled across the rug, exhausted by a morning of bird-watching, bone-chewing and eating. Are they worth the expense and care to keep them clean, happy and healthy? Of course they are. They bring us happiness and at times, peace. They are always sad to see us leave and thrilled when we return home. They love us no matter what mood we're in or what kind of day we've had. There aren't many creatures like that on this planet, in my experience.

I have not yet returned the two plastic leashes. I will. I'm just wired that way.

I'm curious; any pet lovers out there? Any pet care sticker-shock stories? Any good money-saving tips?

Carole Townsend is a freelance writer and a 25-year resident of Gwinnett County. As a mom, a wife, a former corporate executive, stay-at-home mom and correspondent for the Daily Post, she brings a unique perspective to life and living it in Gwinnett. "Food for Thought" gives Gwinnettians a forum where they can share perspectives, opinions, advice and solutions, as well as enjoy a few chuckles.