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Pets

Bark, meow, chirp, splash. Apparently kids aren't enough of a resources drain


Man and dogs

You might already have some, you might have had one that you ‘lost’ in the separation or you might be thinking of getting one. But remember as some cultures say: ‘A dog is not just for Christmas…with any luck there’ll be some left for Boxing Day’.


In my own story, we had a family dog and a cat. As we started going through the separation at that horrible time where you know you’re selling the house and going your separate ways, but for the time being you still have to share the house, our dog was run over and killed. As totally heartbreaking as this was, he was 16 years old, had a great life but was going deaf and was going downhill. The year ahead probably would have been too unpleasant, so I was relieved it was ‘bang’ hit, instantly gone.


Once we separated, my ex took the cat, I didn’t put up a fight for that, as I’m more of a dog person, though it was still sad to not have it around anymore.


children in snow with corgi dogs

Dogs

So now I was single/co-parenting I found myself missing having a dog around even more so. It was 3 months since my last dog died and the kids were starting to ask for another, so I decided to bite the bullet and go adopt a new fur child. And that’s the thing, it’s a fur ‘child’. A puppy is like having a new toddler in the house and this goes on for a few years. You need to bear that in mind when deciding to get a dog. There’s a few things you want to consider right from the get go:


Breed

Choosing the right breed for your living style. Having a great Dane in a small apartment is just as inappropriate as getting a chihuahua to go for a morning 5km run with. Do you have a yard and is your house a suitable size or will you have to keep taking it out every couple of hours for toileting and exercise?


You also want to choose a breed with a good temperament and safe for children as not all are. Is your house set up suitably with a yard. If getting an older or rescue dog, check it’s history first. The RSPCA does behavioural checks before they adopt dogs out.


The cost of breeds varies greatly and if you’re going pedigree check its a reputable breeder who knows about the breed and can provide references from other customers.


female vet with dog

Basics

The basics of owning a pet firstly include picking up poo. It isn't pleasant (just like a nappy but worse) especially if you’re out walking a dog and don’t have a poo bag. Cats use litter trays and I think these actually smell worse. Be mindful of animal excrement if you have small children. Your toddler paddling in the cat litter tray or stepping in dog shit is not something you or they want to deal with. I remember my son as a toddler walking around the garden holding a dry, white crusty dog turd in his hand. Funny? extremely. Disguting? moreso.


With dogs there's a lot of time involved in training, walking, exercising, playing etc. Other pets will have similar needs although I’d say dogs are probably the most labour intensive.


Costs to consider when getting a pet:

  • Food - another mouth to feed

  • Vet bills - vaccinations, desexing, routine check ups or when it’s injured or sick

  • Monthly flea and tick treatment

  • Toys and other accessories

  • Pet insurance

  • Travel costs if kennelling

dog training class

Wellbeing

Now assuming you’re willing to put up with the extra cost and the other aspects then you might be ready to welcome a new member into the fold. It’s great for the kids and wonderful for you. The extra company if your kids are not with you full time is great for your wellbeing. You’ll probably find yourself talking him/her easing that sense of loneliness that can hit at times, and it forces you to get out for fresh air and exercise (if it's a dog).


Travelling Considerations

One of the down sides and probably the biggest factor against getting a any pet is traveling. In a co-parenting situation, with extra time on your own and the freedom that comes with it, there are more opportunities for time away from home. This might be weekends away or staying over at someone’s house if your dating life is going successfully. Having a dog is very restrictive in that sense.


There are pet resorts, kennels, dog sitters around but you’re looking at around $50 per night. This might be ok if it’s an occasional holiday, but when you find yourself on impromptu nights away the whole thing gets tricky. I had a couple of failed potential relationships because if I wanted to stay overnight I couldn’t take my dog with me.


Ultimately this means being stuck between choosing the dog and a relationship. It means when you start dating you need to find someone who’s willing to take you and your dog if you stay over. For some this isn’t a problem and they’ll find their dog is ok being left alone overnight, but nevertheless it’s a factor to consider.


When you have children a dog is fantastic playmate, especially if you have an only child. It’s also great to have time walking together with your kids and dog. It really does get you out of the house more which is great for you and your children’s wellbeing anyway you look at it.


When kids are younger, the burden of caring for a dog falls solely on you, however, with older kids they can help with the daily caring of feeding, playing and walking. At least that’s what they say they’ll do but I find this isn’t always the case.


young girl with kitten

Of Course It’s Not Just Dogs

Cats

Cats are also another popular option for family pets, and much of what is true for dogs can be applied here, with an added bonus that cats are much more independent. You don’t need to exercise cats or take them for walks and they are easier to leave alone when staying out overnight. So they’re better if you’re a bit more time poor but still like something fluffy for company.


Fish

A nice easy pet for a child if a dog or a cat aren’t options for your household. Even a small goldfish bowl, can sit on a bedside table in a kid’s room and provide another living thing to bond with. They’re usually low maintenance unless you’re going for a full on marine tank, but let’s not go down that money pit right now.


Birds

I guess budgies and other birds are an option for some. Personally I don’t agree with keeping a bird in a cage, purely for the fact, that if I had wings and could fly but never had the opportunity to use them I’d be pi**ed off big time.


goldfish in a bowl

The Others

Rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, lizards, even an ant farm are options for your child to experience the joys and responsibilities of caring for another living thing. It can teach them about life and death as most people outlive their pets, another thing to consider. You’ll have to base your decision on such factors as ongoing costs, care difficulty levels, age of your kids and travel commitments before choosing a pet, but whatever you decide the rewards and bonding that comes with a pet far outweigh the negatives.


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