Because “Free” Isn’t Always “Free” (the story of how we almost got a dog!)

posted by Andrea | 09/21/2015
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nora and a dog

TRUE STORY: we almost got a dog… 4 days before James was born! (Not the dog in the photo — that’s just a cute picture of Nora from a couple years ago.)

Right now, I have a feeling that anyone who knows me is thinking, “how on earth could Dave ever convince Andrea to get a dog?” and those of you who don’t know me that well are probably thinking, “who in their right mind would get a dog right before having their 3rd baby?”

I promise, I wasn’t totally delusional.

Here’s the whole story…

I’ve always said that I would never get a dog unless we found one that met all of the following criteria:

  • it was non-shedding
  • it was a small-medium size indoor dog
  • it was completely “potty trained”
  • it had all it’s shots and was in good health
  • it was spayed or neutered
  • it was well behaved and good around kids
  • it was FREE 🙂

I’m certainly open to the idea of getting a dog once our kids are old enough to play with it, take it for walks, etc. but right now, there is no way on the face of the earth I’m getting a dog… because what was the likelihood that we’d find a dog that met my ridiculous list of criteria. Right?

Plus, all of Dave and my siblings have dogs so our kids can just play with their dogs for now!

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Well, about a week before James was born (I was already 1 week overdue) my sister emailed me a picture of a 5-year-old labradoodle, and said it was “free to a good home”.

I figured something must be wrong… but I emailed her back anyway.

Well, she had done it — she had found a free dog that met every single thing on my list.

  • it was non-shedding
  • it was a “bread” dog and the owner had all the paperwork
  • it was smallish and an indoor dog
  • it had all it’s shots and was in really good health
  • it was spayed
  • it was great with kids and really well behaved
  • and it was free!

On top of all that, the current owners were going to give us the kennel, the collar, the leash, the toys, the extra food, etc. and get it groomed one more time before they gave it to us.

And, just to sweeten the deal, they said they would keep the dog until we had the baby and life settled down a bit.

.

Dave and I talked about it and thought that aside from the horrible timing, this sounded like the perfect situation and the perfect dog for our family. We even took Nora and Simon to go play with the dog (Abbey) and they seemed to hit it off.

We asked the owners to give us a couple days to think about it… but Dave and I were actually pretty excited and planning to say “yes”.

However, then I remembered the post I wrote several months ago about The True Cost of Our Stuff.

I went back and re-read that blog post, and the following message really hit home:

I’m sure some of you might be thinking how boring, or un-fun, or super cheap I sound right now — but the fact of the matter is that even inexpensive (or free) items usually come with hidden costs that might end up being a burden later on.

For example, when you bring something into your home, you’ll eventually need to:

  • Find a spot to put it
  • Clean it (or around it)
  • Organize it (or around it)
  • Maintain it
  • Feed it (think of those “free pets” you see on Craigslist)
  • Water it (plants)
  • Put batteries in it or pay for electricity to run it
  • Buy accessories to go with it
  • Fix it if/when it breaks
  • Move it (if you move or change locations)
  • etc. etc.

So even getting a fabulous deal or an awesome freebie almost always ends up using many MANY resources over it’s lifetime in your home.

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After reading that post, I told Dave I didn’t think it was great timing for a dog — and believe it or not, he actually agreed with me. He said he had been second-guessing it as well, so we both willingly put the kibosh on our free dog.

The fact of the matter was that even before having James, I was fully aware of how crazy and tiring and unstructured life would be in the months following his birth. I had already brought 2 babies home from the hospital and I knew how busy it was going to be. I couldn’t possibly fathom adding a new dog to our family right in the middle of that crazy time!

I ended up going into labor that night and called the dog owners from the hospital the next day to let them know that we would not be able to take the dog.

They completely understood and I’m sure they had no trouble finding new owners for their freebie dog.

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Now, 2 months later, I honestly can not even imagine making the time to care for a dog — feeding, walking, playing, picking up poop, washing her, cleaning up the house after her, etc.

I’m sure our kids would have thought the dog was cool for the first 2 weeks, but then it would have been ME doing everything for the dog while the kids ignored her.

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We will probably get a dog someday… just not right now! 

Our kids have enough fun with their stuffed dogs and their “cousin dogs” 🙂

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The moral of the story: Free isn’t always free.

Even if you get something for free (or very inexpensively) there are still so many “costs” of maintaining that thing, caring for it, cleaning up after it, making a space for it in your home, etc. etc.

So while I’m certainly not trying to sway you from finding a great deal (or getting a dog), I would encourage you to really stop and think about any hidden costs (financial costs, time costs, energy costs, and space costs) before you bring something into your home.

In my opinion, we would all have a lot less clutter, a lot more time, and a lot more energy if we thought about the true cost of our stuff a little bit more!

Also, if you haven’t read my post about The True Cost of Our Stuff, you can read it here

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19 comments

  1. Debbie

    09/22/2015

    This is really perfect timing for me. I’m one who definitely leans towards the emotional and physical needs of a dog. I’ve never owned a dog and my husband on the other hand has owned 2 in the past and knows how to train, care, and love them well. I was convinced this weekend that we should get a frise bishon breed. My husb is un-budgeable to his resolve that a dog is not something we want or need because there’s more to them than just cuteness.

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    Andrea Reply:

    A LOT more than “cuteness”! I think that’s why there are so many “free cats” because they are only cute as kittens (at least from my non-cat-loving perspective!)

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  2. Mary in Maryland

    09/22/2015

    My five sibs and I spent a lot of time pitching free dogs at my Dad. He always responded “There is no such thing as a free dog.” As a retired adult I took in an adorable stray. Just for fun I kept track of the first year’s expenses–$850. I’m now quite active in cocker spaniel rescue. We advise families not to get a dog until the youngest child is eight. Dogs add so much to the general chaos–it’s another body with hair to brush, nails to trim, bedding to wash, and preventive meds to remember. Life is long–I’m happy to have saved some experiences for a time when I can savor them.

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  3. Kim in ID

    09/22/2015

    You are right! The dog we paid $250 for has been much less expensive than the “free” dog and “free” cat we have. I love my animals, though, so they are worth the expense to me.

    I think you made the right decision! Dogs are fun, but they are work. When I had three very young kids at home, the last thing I needed to complicate my life was a dog. We didn’t start getting dogs until the kids were a bit older. I’m sure some people can handle pets and small kids just fine; I wasn’t one of them. 🙂

    And…you are wise for really thinking it through. I have seen so many pets for giveaway on Craigslist in which the ad starts something like, “Sweet dog, but we had a baby and can’t give the dog the attention it needs…”

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  4. Janice

    09/21/2015

    Glad you didn’t succumb to the “Isn’t it cute and it’s FREE.” pressure. Getting a pet is definitely like having another baby or toddler even if the pet is adult age. My questions are, “Why are the owners getting rid of the pet and why is it free?”

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  5. Jacquie

    09/21/2015

    So true!! My litmus test – even if it is free, I have to be willing to pay for it to accept it. It forces me to think about whether I really want something.

    Also, timing is everything. My sent my two dogs to live with my parents after #2 was born. There is enough chaos in the house without having to worry about feeding and walking another family member.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    That’s a good test… because there are A LOT of things I wouldn’t be willing to pay for, but could potentially be talked into if they are free 🙂

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  6. Janine

    09/21/2015

    Love your posts, Andrea. I made the mistake of not thinking through the process as well as you did. We got a dog with a 6 month old. One of the dumbest things I ever did. I now had TWO babies to take care of–one of them supposedly “free”. If only I would’ve had your blog back then… 🙂

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  7. Allison

    09/21/2015

    This is so true. We live in the country and someone dumped a kitten on our property. The kitten was hungry and skinny so we fed her. Then my daughter named her. Well, it is now three months later and she was still around so I took her to the vet. In the blink of an eye, we spent over $500 at the vet for tests, meds, and spaying. Now, Winter is coming and our indoor cat just tries to attack the kitten so we have to make accommodations so the kitten has a warm place to stay that our indoor cat cannot get too. I has been way more than we ever imagined but the kitten is so loving and my daughter loves her. If you have a choice, it is better not to get started; once you do, there are huge responsibilities and expenses with a pet.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh wow — that’s a big chunk of change for a stray cat! I do think we will get a dog eventually, but Dave and I are both happy we passed on this seemingly good opportunity!

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  8. DPen

    09/21/2015

    I applaud you for taking the responsibility of pet ownership seriously. So many people get pets as a cute friend for their kids not thinking about the expense, time and the emotional and physical needs of the pet into account. I believe you are. Our family had an elderly dog we lost right after our son was born. My husband and older daughter were pressuring me to get another dog but I knew with a new baby I just wasn’t up for it. Having a dog is like a perpetual toddler..you love them but there is certainly a good amount of work and expense required. I had a(n eerily) similar list to yours and I was patient and stood my ground until I knew our family was ready. We have had a wonderful Schnauzer/Carin Terrier mix for the past 5 years and she is just the sweetest, most perfect dog for us. An acquaintance was giving her up and she was spayed, up-to-date on vaccinations, trained, etc, etc.. I think another thing to think about in the meantime is what type of dog fits your family..really pay attention to the natural inclinations of the breeds. Our dog doesn’t particularly like cats or other small animals but that suits us fine. Some people end up with a ‘bad dog’ when in reality they didn’t think about the activity level or neediness of a particular breed and when it does something instinctive to its breed or nature people become upset at the dog. Thanks for being honest and for an interesting post!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I love this comment… and honestly, I think we could say the same thing about children. So often, we punish our children for being “bad” when in reality, we just aren’t thinking about their needs. I know my kids often act up more on days when we are busier, gone for long periods, or in places where they can’t just be kids (like church, restaurants, etc.)

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  9. Anne

    09/21/2015

    Great post and good reminder about anything “free.”

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  10. Christie

    09/21/2015

    Love all your posts Andrea! They are always so insightful! We got a puppy with a 1 year old…wouldn’t recommend it!

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  11. Amber Woods

    09/21/2015

    You are totally right on about this. We got a free dog in June. The vet bill last month was almost $200 with all his meds for the year, his food is about $30 a month. Now we also have to add in boarding the dog to the cost of our vacations. We love the dog and are glad to have him, but there are definitely lots of maintenance costs.

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    Andrea Reply:

    glad you love your pup! We had a cute little dog growing up too, but I know he was expensive. He had to be groomed every month, have meds, vet bills, etc. My parents didn’t get him until my sisters and I were older, so we could actually help to take care of him.

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  12. Evie

    09/21/2015

    No offense, Andrea, but until you can give credence to the emotional and physical needs of the dog, you should not get a dog.

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    Jacquie Reply:

    I think she was considering those needs, which is why she turned down the dog.

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    Brooks Reply:

    Eye roll.

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