Niki Chimberg’s dog is a mutt. Seventy percent poodle mixed with yorkie, beagle and German shepherd, Alfie is the quintessential adoptee — a happy blend of not breed “A,” “B” or “C,” but “All of the Above.”
Since paying Alfie’s initial $275 adoption fee, Chimberg has paid hundreds more in additional costs — some she expected and some not so much.
Chimberg, who adopted Alfie here in Charlotte in June 2016, had been thorough, even strategic, in her search. Growing up, her family had pet allergies, so they owned hypoallergenic labradoodles. She knew she wanted a low-shedding breed and ended up using the search restrictions on the PetFinder app to connect with Carolina Poodle Rescue, who eventually helped her find Alfie.
Yet even with such careful planning — and lots of help and support from the South Carolina-based rescue service — she still couldn’t predict everything. She’s not alone.
“A lot of people come in knowing the basics,” said Emily Cook, marketing and communications manager for the Humane Society of Charlotte. She listed off general pet care needs including food, toys and shots. “But adopting an animal is a lot like other situations in life: You’re never going to have all the answers right away.”
The hidden costs many don’t consider are actually not so rare. Here are a few to budget for:
(1) Unforeseen illnesses can take a toll on the pocketbook
- Alfie got an infection when he got neutered, so that was a $400 expense Chimberg didn’t anticipate “I really should have gotten pet health insurance for him.”
(2) Your dog needs friends
- Chimberg was working in Huntersville at the time while living in Charlotte, and she worried about leaving Alfie alone for too long. “I ended up taking him to daycare a few times a week.” The cost was about $30 a day — $28 if she bought a multi-pack.
(3) When dogs go on diets, your wallet will join them
- A dog owner herself, Cook had similar troubles when she rescued her dog, Princess Leia, a shih tzu-Jack Russell mix. Shortly after going home with Cook, the 10-pound pup became ill. Three clinic visits later, and she was diagnosed with a sensitive stomach. The prescription? Low-fat gastrointestinal dog food that costs about $80 every three months. If her dog were large, it could cost her upwards of $80 a month — financially, she’s lucky Princess Leia doesn’t eat too much.
Other pet costs include rental fees at apartment complexes, booster shots and vaccinations for puppies, and heartworm medications. Budgeting for food based on the dog’s size is also important. Large breeds can eat up to 40 pounds of food a month, which will add about $75 to your grocery bill.
The Humane Society works hard to make sure pet parents know they’re not alone when circumstances like these come up, Cook said. “We always try to inform new owners that if anything happens, we’ll be there for you,” she said. It’s free to meet with the organization’s behavioral specialists, and low-cost resources like vaccines and a pet food bank help owners dealing with tough financial times.
They’ll even help you find a good dog trainer, which is often another unexpected investment. “The dog can’t tell you what happened in their past,” Chimberg said. It took Alfie three months to fully show his personality, and in that time, she learned he was “leash reactive” around other dogs. “It was really important for me to take him to a trainer,” she said. “Some dogs have never walked on a leash before you’ve had them.”
Overwhelmed? Both Chimberg and Cook offered the same sage advice: Do your research before you adopt, and let the rescue you’re working with help you along the way. Chimberg herself is part of a Facebook group of dog owners who’ve worked with Carolina Poodle Rescue, and Cook said it’s common for owners of Humane Society “alumni” to update them on their status. “We try to set them (new owners) up for success.” Cook said. “We’ll be in it as much as you want us to be.”