Part 1 – The Price of the Dog
I love dogs! The first one is a border terrier like my dog Leia. The second is a doodle, the kind of dog I’d love to have. I’ve never thought of the price, beyond the fee you pay the breeder or the adoption fee, but there’s more. Much, much more.
I didn’t realize until I got an email from Abby at Bankrate.com. It was all about how to buy a service dog. Abby asked if I’d add her link to a post I did about working dogs. I said I could do even better . . . I’d share her information with my audience, with Abby’s permission, of course! Here’s her link: https://www.bankrate.com/personal-finance/how-to-afford-a-service-dog/
Meet a real service dog! How do I know for sure? From its vest!
Service dogs don’t come cheap! The average price – from 20,000 - $60,000. Why so much? Because of all the training they need. A service dog needs to know what to do, whether it’s assisting someone who’s blind or someone who has seizures. The dog has to perform every single time. He has to do his job.
Imagine if you’re blind and your dog stops guiding you in the middle of a street. If you have seizures, a dog can warn you ahead of time so that you can get yourself into a safe position. Can you imagine how much better a dog could make your life? It’d be miraculous! But there are more costs involved, and you need to make sure you can take care of your dog and keep it safe and healthy!
1. Dog Food – The cost per year – about $400, depending on the brand you buy. My Leia only got dry dog food, but we were an Iams family, because that’s what our breeder recommended. When she got older, and pickier, we probably paid more for her dogfood, but we never bought the canned or refrigerated stuff. That was too expensive!
2. The Veterinarian – Average vet care per year is about $260. That’s for both regular and emergency cases. Our dog had yearly checkups, shots, and medicine. We did have one emergency – she dragged some chicken bones out of the trash and tried to eat them. Oh my! I have never seen anyone or anything in so much pain! We took her into a doggy emergency room. I didn’t know there was one! They gave her something to help her pass the chips. She was better than ever! She lived to be 15, which is a really old age for a dog.
3. Health Insurance – If I had a dog worth $20,000, I would definitely get it health insurance. My granddog has it. My daughter says it’s a lot like human insurance.
I also wondered if it worked like cars do – if your dog died, would it help you buy another service dog? I don’t know! I couldn’t google the answer.
4. Heartworm protection – I did this for my dog. I don’t remember how often, but the link price was about $120 a year. Cheap compared to having your dog die because of worms. Yuck! What an awful way to go!
5. Flea and Tick protection – I did this for my Leia. $200 or whatever I paid was a small price to keep her safe. Fleas are insects that live on dogs. They bite and make them itch. Ticks bite dogs too, but they stay attached so they can live off the dog’s blood. Yuck!
Even worse, fleas and ticks can also leave pets to come live on you. They carry diseases that can make you or your pet sick. That’s another reason it’s important to protect your pet from these tiny insects!
6. Toys and Treats – Dogs need to have fun, just like you and me. $75 is a small price to pay to keep you and your service dog safe and happy.
The grand total, to take care of your service dog, is $1280 per year. No wonder my husband doesn’t want me to have a dog. That’s half the reason why. The other half - a pet’s like having a kid. You have to take care of it. You don’t just leave it home alone.
Part 2 – The Steps to Finding Your Dog – Now that you’ve decided a Service Dog is in your future, there are a couple steps to take ahead of time before you pick your dog.
Step 1 – Find the Program that Matches You: One kind of program helps veterans who served our country. They train dogs to meet the needs of soldiers whose service left them scarred.
Another program is for people with autism. They have trouble with social, emotional, and communication skills. Dogs help them too.
There are still other programs for people with physical disabilities. Moving, seeing, or certain health problems are difficult. There are dogs for them too.
Children can have autism or physical disabilities too, and there are dogs who are trained just for them, not for grown-ups.Bankrate.com has links for each program.
Theirs again: https://www.bankrate.com/personal-finance/how-to-afford-a-service-dog/
Step 2 – Determine Your Eligibility: Did you know you have to qualify for a program? Your level of severity (difficulty) has to be high enough. Did you know some breeds fit some medical conditions better than others? People who train service dogs want to make sure they find the best match for you, and for their dog.
Knowing your program can help you decide if you’re a good fit. Your doctor can help you and answer questions along the way.
When you’re doing your search, make sure that the program fits ADI standards (Assistance Dogs International). You want to make sure you get a dog who has the skills you need, not a fake.
Step 3 – Gather Supplies: Not sure what to get? Ask the people who are training your dog. They should have a supply list. My breeder did. She wanted to make sure her dog went to a good home.
Don’t wait until your dog arrives! Doing a little bit at a time spreads the cost, and the joy. You’ll need things like toys and bowls and medication. Some things like dog food can wait until the very end.
Another question to think about – do you want a service dog certificate, and can they get you one? If you travel, a paper might offer proof, and make your trip easier.
Part 3 – Financial Considerations – This is where the rubber meets the road. You know what your dog will cost. Now – to find the money! How? Here are some options for you.
1. Grants – This is like free money, sort of. You don’t have to pay it back, like you do with a loan, but there’s a catch . . . You have to fill out an application, and you might get the money . . . you might not. If it’s basic information, that’s easy. But it could be a lot more work, with no promise of a payday. Just hope!
I wrote a couple grants to get money for science equipment for my second graders when I was still teaching. It was WORK! I researched my topic, the equipment I wanted, and the experiments the kids would do. It was a LOT of work! And I didn’t know until a month later if it would pay off. It did! Twice!
Click on the Bankrate.com link again to find their grant information. https://www.bankrate.com/personal-finance/how-to-afford-a-service-dog/
2. Fundraising – Look for ways to raise money in your community and beyond. I saw an author put out a call to the kidlit community. She needed help buying a service dog. I donated money, and so did a lot of other people. She didn’t have to pay me, or anyone else back, and I felt good because I helped her.
There are places online like GoFundMe where you can find help. There are also groups in your community who might help. It never hurts to ask! People love to help good causes. I do!
3. FSA Accounts – Huh? What’s that? I had to look it up. FSA stands for Flexible Spending Account. A lot of people have this as part of their regular insurance coverage. That means X dollars come out of your check every time you’re paid, and it goes into a special account. It’s still your money, but it can only be spent on medical care.
The big advantage – you can’t be taxed on that money. If the government takes out 10% from your paycheck, you get to save that money in your account. If you have $100, you save $10. You’ll get a little interest, but the big advantage is that you get $100 in your account, not $90. Over a year, that’s an extra $120 for your medical care. That’s a great thing!
4. Personal Loans – Yes, you can borrow money. As long as you meet the bank’s loan requirements, you’ll get the money you need. The catch – you’ll have to pay the bank back, with interest. If you borrow $100, and they charge you 10% interest on that loan, each month you’ll pay money on your loan, and on the interest.
At first you pay mostly interest. The longer you pay, the more you pay towards principal. That’s the money you originally borrowed. You’ll also pay the bank back more money than you borrowed. If you pay $20 a month, your loan would be paid off in 5 months, but you’d owe $50 in interest. Pay $50 a month, and you’d only owe $20 in interest. The lesson – pay back your loan as quickly as possible!
5. Other Financial Considerations – Bankrate.com had 8 tips to consider, but I picked out three. #1. If you can’t get full assistance, buy your own dog, and find an independent trainer who’s certified. It’s a lot cheaper! #2. Some dog food and vets will give you a discount if you have a service dog. #3. If you need financial aid, try places like the Humane Society. They might be able to help.
Want to read the other five? Click on bankrate.com!
6. The Bottom Line – Service dogs are expensive, BUT you’ll get a lot out of them. You’ll have a friend for life, and that life will be easier and better. Close your eyes and imagine trying to get around your house without help. No peeking! Then imagine having a dog to guide you. A dog would be priceless!
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!