Friday, April 29, 2011


"Scratch a dog and you'll find a permanent job."--Franklin P. Jones

I keep a spreadsheet of Mike's and my daily spending and I recently added up how much we had spent on pets in the last five months. Over $2,000. We also own two cats, but apart from yearly vet exams at their kitties-only clinic, and the occasional feather-on-a-stick, they don't need very much to keep them somewhat content.

That leaves the puppy. So if I take the $400 we spent on the adoption fees, and add another $200 for the spay, $500 for various shots, chips, and stool tests, another $400 for that ultrasound they recommended because of a heart murmur, and that tiny winter parka that cost $60 and that she wore exactly twice...yup, that's $2,000 all right.

Who would have thought that a rescue mutt from Arkansas would cost as much in the first six months as a used car?

My love for Carmelita has already been challenged many times, and yet she remains a member of our household.

The problem is when you have ACTUAL PUPPY DOG eyes staring up at you, it's hard to be the no-nonsense disciplinarian you need to be with dogs. I have to remind myself of what Mike said about not wanting to own a yippy, out-of-control little toy who poos wherever is most convenient (Check), steals your new pink suede sandals (Check), and refuses to give up the dead mouse carcass it's carrying like the crown jewels through your neighborhood (check, check, check).

Having a puppy in my life has been a drain on the bank account and on our social life. We've gone through at least four containers of heavy-duty Lysol wipes. And she's chewed through the cushions on our kitchen chairs with the ferocity of a wild animal disemboweling its prey, leaving fuzzy guts all over the ceramic tile.

She's also made me less vain. It used to be that I wouldn't leave the house unless I was showered and dressed and wearing lipstick. I worried about what people would say if they saw me in my natural state--hair that hangs limp if it's not washed for a day, dark circles under my eyes, a bloated tummy.

But walking Carmelita at 6:00 AM precludes my usual primping. I'm out there with my hair mussed up, my trench coat half-concealing a pair of red fuzzy sleeping pants, shoes without socks. I must look deranged, a Miss Hannigan walking Sandy down a busy street. I used to don a pair of sunglasses even when I was up and out before sunrise. I'd be so blind I'd trip over Carmelita's leash and I'd lose sight of the pile of dog poop I was supposed to be considerately bagging.

Now I go out without sunglasses because who has time to put them on? When Carmelita has to go, she has to GO. And I hate to see her shivering in the doorway, waiting for me to coordinate my umbrella to my coat. Half the time I don't even put in my contacts, which is helpful when I want to play the "if I can't see how I look, then I don't look bad" game.

Carmelita has also made me less selfish. Sure, when I get home from work I'd love to immediately flop on the couch and leaf through the latest Anthropologie catalog, dog-earing pages of bohemian fluff and shiny things that I can't afford. But Carmelita has been alone all day, and even after I walk and feed her, she's looking for extended bouts of play time. It can be awfully boring tossing a dog-spit-soaked furry toy over and over, but then I think of that commercial for that anti-depressant I can't remember the name of. You know--the one where the voice-over warns, "Depression hurts everyone" and the camera pans to a dog dejectedly holding a ball in it's mouth because he has an owner who is too depressed to throw anything. What a self-involved, uncaring human! You can be depressed and still play with your dog. Trust me.

So in the balance sheet of life with a dog, Carmelita ultimately comes out on top. Who needs sleep, evenings out, extra money in the bank, when you have that excited little dog greeting you at the puppy gate, flinging herself in the air like like a flying fish leaps out of the water, just because you're home? That's priceless.


MJ in MA said...

What a timely piece this was for me today. At 6:00am this morning our five month old (housebroken, I thought) pup jumped on the spare bed and peed, right in front me. Obviously I was to slow getting her out for her morning constitutional, but on the bed, really? But at the end of the day, coming home to a creature that reacts like a rock star walked into the room is, as you say, priceless.

Unknown said...

the name Carmelita is the cutest!! More pictures please! I think dogs are good for the soul.
p.s. In my view, dogs are still easier than children, and cost less too! hehe