What You Need To Know Before You Get A Pet

As all of you probably know, for about two and a half years now I’ve had the distinct pleasure of being a Dog Mom to a wonderful, small ball of fuzzy joy named Mona. She is the perfect dog for me: incredibly loving, playful, good with new people, independent, and a great traveler. I lived in New York for about a year and a half before I decided to get a dog, despite wanting one since the day I left my parents’ home (and therefore my family dog). I’ve always had them growing up, and cannot overstate the degree to which they have always enriched and warmed my life. But one must be very settled in their life, and certain of their capacity to give to an animal, before they get one.

It’s a personal choice (animals are not gifts), and must be based on an intimate understanding about one’s own life, finances, and habits. Pets, particularly dogs, are not cheap on a day-to-day basis, and even adopting them (the only way you should get them!) is by no means free. We got Mona from a family in Queens whose family Havanese-Maltese mix was accidentally knocked up by their neighbor’s dog. Because of all the unexpected medical expenses and the complicated birth that required surgery on the mom, just to recoup costs each dog had to be sold for several hundred dollars — and that is far from an uncommon experience.

And while I do not for a minute regret our decision to get her, we are also fairly uniquely equipped to raise her, and she is a type of dog particularly well-suited to city life. She’s eight pounds and very happy with one walk a day, and is trained to use an indoor pad or go outside, depending on timing and weather. And I have a home office, and while Marc travels several days a week, the other days he works from home. We have never had to have a dog walker or day care because we’re almost always around to take care of her, and we are luckily surrounded by people who are happy to take her if we cannot take her somewhere when we travel. (But when we can travel, she’s great in her little carrier.) The point is, not everyone has this kind of situation when they get a dog (especially in a city), and not being ready for an animal can easily mean an anxious or depressed animal who acts out, as well as a constant feeling of guilt about not giving them exactly what we need. New York City, for example, is a city full of dogs who are way too big and energetic for the apartments that contain them, and are constantly stressed from being separated from 9 to 6 every workday from their owner.

If you are thinking of getting an animal, there is a lot to consider, not the least of which that a dog is far from your only option. So in this week’s video, Lauren sat down with Jessi Knudsen, founder of Animal Wonders, to talk about everything one should know before getting a pet, from the finances to the logistics to the day-to-day love.

Image via Pexels

  • Mio

    A person who doesn’t spay/neuter their dog, and gets rewarded by selling the puppies for several hundred dollars.
    If you don’t take care of your dog, including preventing pregnancy, you have to deal with the results. And the medical cost that comes with it. Not doing it, and then complaining about birth-related cost, is plain irresponsible.

    • Wendi

      And it’s self-serving to justify buying a dog while a few sentence above stating the only way to “get” a dog is to adopt.

  • Tulsaloosa214

    Can we not with the “only” way to get a dog is to adopt? I’ve heard so many times that my family were terrible people because we got our dog from a breeder- after adopting a dog from a shelter who died 2 weeks after we brought him home. It was hard on all of us (my siblings and I were kids at the time) so yeah we got a dog who was healthy. There could be any number of reasons why someone chooses their dog.

    • Wendi

      If you knew anything about breeders and breeding, you would not be claiming breeder dogs are healthy. Breeder dogs are inbred and the list of breed specific medical problems is endless. I am very sorry you had a traumatic experience with a rescue dog when you were a child but, depending on location, the majority of shelters do an amazing job rehabbing sick animals and adopting them to responsible families. The #1 reason there is a need for shelters is breeding “pure bred” dogs (no such thing!) to satisfy human whims. Check. It’s selfish, cruel and misinformed.

      • Tulsaloosa214

        Yeah not really. There can be health problems in ALL dogs like ALL humans. And actually a lot of shelters do really crappy jobs of keeping puppies and dogs healthy. They just want them adopted so that someone else has to take care of the dogs. And I totally get that its a hard job. But its not okay to lie to families about the health of the pets they are adopting. Its just not.

        • Wendi

          Actually, no. I’m a vet nurse with a BS and I’m in graduate school now. I worked with shelter dogs all the time (in several different states). Some shelters are dirty and under funded, but many are first rate and wouldn’t dream of adopting out a sick animal. Again, sorry for your experience, but you are way off base. The genetic problems of breed specifics out number the random sick shelter dog by miles. Take a real look at a puppy mill and tell me it’s ethical or healthy.

        • Wendi
        • Jac

          That sounds like a truly horrific experience to have had as a child. I recently adopted a dog from a county kill shelter, and it seems the policies may have changed since then — they required that I bring her to an outside vet within 3 days of adopting, send proof that I had done so, and they told me if the vet discovered any health issues they didn’t tell me about I could bring her back and either get a refund or pick a new dog (she was fine, btw).

          As adopting has become a more popular option over the past 10 years especially, these shelters have a lot more resources than they used to and are able to provide better care. I get that it may be too traumatic for you to go back to adopting from a shelter, but I don’t think it’s fair to suggest shelters are intentionally doing a bad job or that no one should adopt from them. Tens of thousands of breeder-bought pets are abandoned every year, and shelters are the last stop in saving their lives.

          • Tulsaloosa214

            Its not that I”m too traumatized to adopt from a shelter- most shelters do great work and I love animals and would like to adopt a shelter dog. I’m pushing back on the idea that there’s only one way to adopt an animal and that people who buy from breeders are stupid and mean. People probably have very valid reasons for the decisions they make concerning their money and families and its not one-size-fits-all.

      • Caitlin K

        Maybe I’m misreading this whole thing, but I think there is a HUGE difference between backyard breeders, breeders, and “buying from a litter”. I’m all for rescuing and some of the best dogs myself and my family have ever had were rescues, but I do think it’s ignorant to claim that buying from any litter is unethical.
        I know a family that raises bird dogs and breeds them to sell to hunters and showmen. Those dogs live a more luxurious life than any person I know. Their health and happiness is absolute and those puppies go for mucho monies BECAUSE they control pregnancies and are raising such healthy, performance ready dogs.
        Additionally, we bought our own little heeler from a litter by a local rancher. Who had two sweet-tempered, working dogs that produced my wonderful little guy. He’s healthy and beautiful and has all the talents of a heeler bred right in.
        None of this negates the fact that puppy mills exists and I encourage everyone to look into where a potential pet comes from (like shopping for a conflict-free diamond). I also encourage rescue and adoption as often as possible, but I don’t think it’s fair to assume and assert that every pedigreed dog/dog bought from a litter is an unethical purchase.

        • Wendi

          It IS unethical to BUY dogs period regardless of the “reason”. Supply and demand 101. If you’re willing to buy it, someone is willing to do whatever it takes to breed them/get them to market, which leads to all kinds of offenses, including the need for ‘shelters’ and rescues. The breeding of dogs is the number one reason we have shelters and rescues dogs to begin with. Pure bred dogs (which if you know anything about genetics, you know do NOT exist) were brought into the mainstream in the Victorian age when the middles classes were expanding. Middle class people wanted to emulate the upper classes (and still do), so they copied their dogs. Take a look at the breed specific traits from old breeding books. The dogs today look nothing like the first pure bred dogs, who were bred for work tasks/health, not looks. Purebred dogs today are DEFORMED with countless genetic problems. Everything we think we know about the superiority of purebred dogs is a marketing ploy by a multi-billion dollar a year business whose job it is to sell you on the superiority of purebred dogs and sell you all the stuff that goes with it. You’ve bought into bunch of marketing crap and personally contributed to the suffering of countless animals. I’m sure you’ll protest how your one purebred from Joe farmer isn’t responsible for all the homeless dogs in the world, but every single dog is part of a system of supply and demand, and purchasing even one dog feeds that system and perpetuates the myth that purebred dogs are something to aspire to (like wearing diamonds, blood or not, as most people who see a diamond see it as a status symbol– wearing diamonds perpetuates the desire for them, which keeps the blood flowing).

          • Caitlin K

            I’ve taken a business class too. I know how supply and demand works. I think I make it clear in my original comment, but I will say again that I do recognize that there is an over-population of dogs being bred and that many people do adopt horrible practices to make a buck. But this is not the case of all breeders. That’s all I’m getting at. Fast fashion brands rely on child labor in other countries to provide cheaper clothes. This doesn’t mean I’m gonna blackball a person who does the research and choose to purchase from another brand, just because it all falls under the category of “fast fashion”.
            I also am aware of the history of breeding dogs and how aesthetic has shaped and harmed many breeds. But, I would also allege that you have never had experience with working dogs and livestock. I do have that experience. I grew up in a community where herding dogs were a THING. And, yes, some people had a trained mutt but there is something to be said for genetics. I’ll provide an example. We have owned labs and heelers. We keep horses and cows. The heelers, in true fashion to their breeding, would chase and nip the heels of anything that ran. It was a pattern that repeated itself in many dogs, who received no instruction or training on this. The labs, brought up in the same circumstances alongside the same heelers, did not take an interest in running horses and on the rare occasion they chose to bark at a cow, they did not manifest those same behaviors. Just as genetic issues and mutations and features travel down a pedigree, so does certain skills and aptitude. It’s why dogs like the Australian Cattle Dog are still in use as actual workings dogs.
            Anyway, I defer to my point from the start. It is true that any industry has a dark side built on greed and it is true that any participation in that industry may spur the actions of others. But, that is true for anything. The clothes on your back, the food you purchase, the pet you own. Unless you produce it all yourself and of your own raw materials, you are just as much contributing to these problems as anyone else.
            I prefer to take the approach of knowing where MY things come from. So, I’ll take my intelligent, beautiful, and capable heeler from my neighbor’s sweet litter. Because, he hasn’t done anything wrong and neither have I.

          • Wendi

            Did you not read my post? I’m a vet nurse with a BS and I’m in currently in graduate school. I’m the former Executive Director of a large state animal advocacy organization and I have worked with all the major national animal advocacy groups and some international groups too. I have worked directly with domestic, exotic and farm animals for more than 40 years. You’re doing nothing but justifying your actions in the name of “tradition”. Hardly critical thinking.

          • Wendi

            Oh and PS. I don’t “own” my pets.

        • Wendi

          Purebred dogs represent to many commentators[who?] the attitudes of the late Victorian era, when dog breeding first became popular, and when most modern breeds originated. Purebred dogs were bred from a narrow set of ancestors, and an idea developed that this made them superior in appearance. Englishman Francis Galton used the term eugenics to refer to his ideas for applying domestic animal breeding techniques to humans, to produce a ‘pure’ and ‘good’ elite; the idea became an intellectual fad, promoted by people such as dog writer Leon Fradley Whitney.[18] Purebred dog breeders of today have therefore been accused of following “a breeding paradigm that is anachronistic in the light of modern genetic knowledge, and that first arose out of a misinterpretation of Darwin and an enthusiasm for social theories that have long been discredited as scientifically insupportable and morally questionable”.[18]

    • violet

      Sorry Tulsaloosa, but Wendi is right. Animal health problems are far more common with breeders than at animal shelters/adoption agencies. Basing your opinion on an childhood experience hardly makes it fact. There are thousands of articles — rom veterinary colleges, veterinary associations and news agencies, etc. — that debunk your claim with science.

    • Summer

      There is no real reason to acquire a dog from a breeder unless you show dogs competitively and take the time to get to know breeders who breed ONLY for the purpose of achieving the breed standard. Very good breeders who are genuinely committed to the quality of their dogs do not do this for money. They do not churn out litters to turn a profit just by being able to say “we sell Beagles!” They may have one litter per year from very a deliberately chosen pairing of dogs, and in many cases those puppies will be spoken for (if they’re to be sold at all in the the first place) before they’re even conceived.

      Popular dogs (Labradors, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Pugs, Shih Tzu, etc) unfortunately tend to become the most common victims of so-called “backyard breeders,” where a neighbor with an unspayed female Lab might realize a neighbor a few streets over has an intact male Lab and think to themselves “let’s breed ’em and make hundreds off the pups!” These people suck and unfortunately are all too common, either thinking they can make a quick buck or teach their children about the “miracle of life” or other such nonsense.

      While there’s nothing wrong with wanting a particular breed of dog, try seeking out breed rescue groups rather than purchasing from a for-profit breeder. Just about whatever breed you can think of almost certainly has a dedicated rescue group; a network of people committed to this breed and rescuing those who are unwanted or whose owners are unable to care for them. Usually the dogs will be fostered by people within the group who will also work together to transport them to new homes across state lines, and sometimes even internationally.

    • Ros

      Also, the 3 shelters within 100 km of my house will not adopt dogs to any families with children under 12. One woman said that children created an “unsuitable environment” for dogs (??!).

      I’m willing to chalk it up to her being off her rocker, but literally: for people in my (fairly rural, ok) area, as soon as you have kids, you can’t GET a rescue.

      • Tulsaloosa214

        yeah, having kids often totally changes the game with pets