Would it be irresponsible of me to get a dog?
January 19, 2016 5:28 AM   Subscribe

As my AskMeFi history shows, I have significant mental and physical health challenges, but I am consumed by the idea of getting my own dog. MeFi, please help me decide.

I am a mental and physical wreck and am on disability. I have no local friends/social life and no support system at all now that my parents have moved to Florida. For years now I have been playing with the idea of getting a dog, but my family has all repeatedly informed me that it would be a terrible idea for any number of reasons, and I am concerned that I am trying to band-aid my loneliness with potential animal companionship that might be detrimental to said dog due to my physical/emotional problems. Here are my thoughts on the pros/cons:

Pros:

1. I have years of experience with training dogs that belong to other people in obedience, agility, field, and Canine Good Citizen classes and have housebroken three puppies, so effectively handling anything from a pure-bred puppy to an adult rescue would be familiar ground.
2. I have reliably walked my cousin's dog twice a week for several years despite insane weather and a crazy sleeping schedule, so I can clearly be responsible when necessary.
3. I love dogs and find them to be good company and more interesting to be around than cats, which I have also had. I am extremely sad and lonely and just want a living thing that at least appears to care about me in my life on a daily basis, which seems like meeting a basic human need that has been unmet for me for well over a decade.
4. I currently allow my life to fall apart around me because I have no responsibility to anyone but myself and my cousin's dog. My apartment is always a wreck, I don't grocery shop, I rarely leave my house except to walk my cousin's dog, I eat delivery every other day at most, and my sleeping schedule is insane. I feel like a dog might motivate me to normalize these things because they are more schedule dependant than cats. However, this could also be a con because using external factors as motivation to improve my own life could be unsustainable, which would be unfair to the animal.

Cons:

1. My apartment complex charges an arm and a leg for monthly pet rent and the pet deposit is several hundred dollars. I am not a wealthy person, so I would have to sacrifice and save up (quit smoking e-cigs, shop at the grocery store instead of ordering delivery every other day) to meet these financial obligations.
2. Due to unexplained but extensive and painful nerve damage in my spine, arms, and legs, I am not as physically fit as I was when I was training dogs. I can't run or be "fun." I can basically walk a dog, throw a ball/play tug, and do obedience training.
3. Before a suicide attempt a few years ago I gave my cat (who is still living) away to my aunt. My family was horrified by my willingness to give up a pet and have used this in their ammunition to prevent me from acquiring another one. I actually wanted my cat back, but my aunt had become so attached to him in a short time that I wasn't willing to hurt her like that. I still pay for his medical care, both emergency and regular check-ups. I would have to continue this as well as pay for the care of a new pet.
4. Because I have no friends/support system, if something happened (illness/injury, emergency travel) I would find it difficult to get someone to watch my dog. My cousin lives nearby, but her dog hates most other dogs, so it would be a hardship for her to take care of it.

So tell me, MeFites, is getting my own dog the worst idea ever? I suspect that it is and that my family is right, but I wanted an outside perspective because I am being emotional about this. I'm sure my family brings up good points but I can't help but feel resentful when they mention these things because they all own pets and this is yet another thing that I'm not "good enough" to have in my life.
posted by xyzzy to Pets & Animals (44 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Before a suicide attempt a few years ago I gave my cat (who is still living) away to my aunt. My family was horrified by my willingness to give up a pet and have used this in their ammunition to prevent me from acquiring another one. I actually wanted my cat back, but my aunt had become so attached to him in a short time that I wasn't willing to hurt her like that. I still pay for his medical care, both emergency and regular check-ups. I would have to continue this as well as pay for the care of a new pet.

If your aunt won't give you back your cat (and I completely understand that she's attached and wouldn't), tell her she's now responsible for the cat's care, and get yourself another cat. A dog might be too much for you at the moment. Don't let your family guilt you out of having the love and companionship you want.
posted by Dolley at 5:35 AM on January 19, 2016 [14 favorites]


Surely with all of your issues, you attend therapy regularly? If not, perhaps that's a place to start.

Here's a suggestion, you tidy up, start cooking and take the steps in your life as though you have a dog today. Think of it as preparing for your eventual dog. Get out and walk regularly, save up the money for the pet deposit, put aside the cost of monthly pet rent. Save up some money in a fund for a vet should you need it.

Once you get these things in order, then you can seriously start thinking about taking in a dog.

Another option is to foster dogs while you're getting our own environment together. Volunteer at a rescue/shelter for some dog-time. Hell, hang out at PetSmart or a doggie day care.

I know that folks on disability have some wiggle room to work, perhaps a part-time gig at a doggie day care or PetSmart might be a good step in the right direction. You'll get out, mix and mingle with others, and you'll get some good dog-time.

Instead of viewing this as what a dog can do for you, get yourself into a place where you can do something for a dog.

Good Luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:37 AM on January 19, 2016 [33 favorites]


Once you get these things in order, then you can seriously start thinking about taking in a dog.

Not threadsitting, just wanted to clarify that I would not be running to the shelter tomorrow to get a dog. I would have to finish cleaning up my apartment (in progress now), save money, quit my dependence on nicotine, adjust my lease, etc.
posted by xyzzy at 5:43 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think you should get your dog fix by volunteering at a shelter, or maybe fostering. I feel like there are some fairly big red flags in your Ask.

For example, you say that you have been walking your cousin's dog twice a week and that this is an example of your responsibility. However, two walks per week is basically nothing - committing to 2+ walks per day is much harder. Do you think you could realistically do that? I would try it (take 2+ walks per day, sans dog) for a few weeks and see if you can handle that.

You also say that you would have to make some pretty big budget changes, namely cooking at home instead of getting delivery and giving up your nicotine habit. This makes me worry that you might struggle to pay for dog-related emergencies that come up. Do you have a savings account or a credit card you could use for those types of things? Would you qualify for Care Credit?

On a related note, could you afford to board your dog or hire a pet sitter if there was an emergency?

Dogs are amazing for mental health and they can be fantastic motivators. (I often say that my dog is the best diet I've ever been on - so much walking!) But unless you know that you'll be motivated by your dog, I share your concern that this might not be the world's best idea.

If you do decide to get a dog, please consider a senior dog, ideally of a low-energy breed.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 5:55 AM on January 19, 2016 [13 favorites]


My apartment complex charges an arm and a leg for monthly pet rent and the pet deposit is several hundred dollars. I am not a wealthy person, so I would have to sacrifice and save up (quit smoking e-cigs, shop at the grocery store instead of ordering delivery every other day) to meet these financial obligations.

Double check that it is legal to charge pet rent/pet deposits in your state. A lot of people charge them here in MA but they are totally illegal.

I don't think it sounds like a bad idea to get yourself in better financial shape regardless. You want to be prepared for emergency vet or boarding bills--we have a decent emergency fund for our cats for this reason.
posted by chaiminda at 6:15 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I agree that you should get more dog in your life, but not actually get your own dog yet. Volunteering can be hard to coordinate, and fostering is a big step (almost like owning a dog), but does your cousin ever go out of town without the dog? Could you watch her dog for a weekend or a week at a time? FWIW, dogsitting for a week took me and my boyfriend from "definitely want a dog sometime in the next few years" (my boyfriend) and "would be OK with having a dog if it's really important to you, bae" (me) to "nope nope nope, maybe a senior dog when we're old" (both of us).

On the other hand, my cousin and his wife fostered a puppy and now she is Their Dog, so it can obviously go both ways.
posted by mskyle at 6:21 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


schroedingersgirl: "For example, you say that you have been walking your cousin's dog twice a week and that this is an example of your responsibility. However, two walks per week is basically nothing - committing to 2+ walks per day is much harder. Do you think you could realistically do that? I would try it (take 2+ walks per day, sans dog) for a few weeks and see if you can handle that."

This is exactly right. As part of your preparations, commit to taking a brief walk first thing in the morning (and I mean first thing, like before coffee or anything) and right before bed. Even when it's raining, even when it's cold, even when you feel like shit. See how well you do with that before you consider having a dog.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:22 AM on January 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


If you get a small dog (like the 5lb-ish size), they are less walk-needing and can be potty trained. They still need to get out of the apartment for social/stimulation reasons, but you won't have to worry so much about getting it out to do its business and of course even when it does walk, it won't need to walk that far. I realize that's just barely a dog, but if you have physical problems that make it difficult to walk, then this might be an option.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:35 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Before a suicide attempt a few years ago I gave my cat (who is still living) away to my aunt. My family was horrified by my willingness to give up a pet and have used this in their ammunition to prevent me from acquiring another one. I actually wanted my cat back, but my aunt had become so attached to him in a short time that I wasn't willing to hurt her like that. I still pay for his medical care, both emergency and regular check-ups. I would have to continue this as well as pay for the care of a new pet.

Man, your family sounds like a pack of assholes. Whatever you do, I wouldn't listen to them. Get their mean-ass voices out of your heads, and tell your aunt to pay for the damn cat if she wants it so much.

People have really high standards in the abstract about what it means to take care of a dog, and people with dogs are constantly warning other people away from getting them because of the responsibility they entail. I mean, I've got a freaking PhD and every time I mention the possibility of getting a dog to my (dog-owning) parents, they're always quick to tell me that there's no way I could handle the commitment, how much work they are, etc. (Meanwhile, my mom is constantly pressuring me to give her grandkids - so, idk, I guess she thinks I'm responsible enough to handle that?)

But I look around me, and the people who actually own dogs aren't freaking paragons of responsibility who love taking early morning walks in the rain for no reason - they're regular jerks just like the rest of us. In other words, I think it's a mistake to think of dog-ownership as this incredibly high achievement badge of responsibility that has to be earned, and to beat yourself up for not living up to that standard. Just from the thoughtfulness that you've given this question, and the fact that you're responsible enough to commit to taking care of your cat (you found a family member to care for it and paid for its upkeep instead of dumping it at a shelter) I bet you're as responsible a potential dog-owner as half the people out there.

That said, you don't know if a dog is right for you right now until you know if you can afford it and you're physically capable of taking care of it. The financial situation is basically a math problem - sit down and crunch the numbers, taking all of the moral "am I good enough" garbage out of it. If you can't afford it now, start saving. Put your spare change in a Dog Fund for a year. And yeah, go for walks - I don't think you have to be able to motivate yourself to go for a walk in the rain at dawn without an actual dog licking your face to get you out the door - but just make sure that you won't be physically pushing yourself beyond your limits. And if it's too tough, see if you can slowly start building up your endurance, so that by the time the Dog Fund is substantial, your health has improved, too.

I absolutely 100% believe that you can get a dog. Maybe now, maybe not - but definitely within a reasonable time frame, if you are willing to work at it.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 6:41 AM on January 19, 2016 [59 favorites]


trying to band-aid my loneliness with potential animal companionship

What exactly do you think the rest of us are doing??? :)

At the heart of all this there is an incredible passivity to rules and order, coupled with an incredible but misguided obstinance. That seems to a huge component of your very odd relationship to your family, and your very sad relationship to self-care.

Tell your aunt that she can enjoy her cat permanently, find someplace to live without bizarre rules or get an exemption, and clean your damn house. You'll feel better. Then, maybe, a dog arrives.

Not only do terrible incompetent people all over this world have dogs and cats, they also have children, as you can probably attest from your own experience. A shelter dog could do a lot worse than you.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:55 AM on January 19, 2016 [27 favorites]


I think working toward dog ownership would be a positive change in your life and there's no harm in quitting e-cigs and starting to save. I mean, man, I don't know. The unconditional love of a pet can be a powerful motivator.

I agree that you should ignore your family because they sound like abusive assholes.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:57 AM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


If you want a dog get a dog, both of you will be better for it! Maybe not a Great Dane or other challenging breed.
posted by sammyo at 6:57 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


pretentious illiterate: "I don't think you have to be able to motivate yourself to go for a walk in the rain at dawn without an actual dog licking your face to get you out the door"

The only thing is, some dogs don't lick your face or otherwise motivate you to take them out, they just piss on your rug. For a person who (like me!) is admittedly not great at housekeeping, this becomes a major issue.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:57 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Aside from the excellent points re: budgeting and housekeeping mentioned upthread, may I recommend a middle-aged chihuahua rescue? If you find a nice one, s/he will basically be like a lively cat who loves snuggling and will be very very loyal. Loyal to the point of obnoxious. But still small, like a cat. And so much fun. And can easily get exercise indoors (still take your dog outside, obviously) because they love to play fetch with small toys. Chihuahuas are excellent apartment dogs, and are plentiful at shelters.
posted by witchen at 7:02 AM on January 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


I just wanted to chime in. I can't give advice on some of the aspects of your question but I can say that you shouldn't let your physical limitations stop you here. I have a large, very high energy lab, and about seven months ago stopped being able to walk him (my foot got messed up pretty bad).

Instead I throw his frisbee for about an hour, or I take him swimming in the summer at the dog beach, or he gets to run free in the fenced in, leash-free dog park. Bonus points for him socializing with other dogs!

Walking is great and all but not the only way to exercise your pet. I have a ball playing with him everyday!

Also your first con reads like a positive. It sounds like you are in a rough place but you're making progress! I don't think you need to train yourself by walking at the butt crack of dawn every day until you feel like you've paid your dues and you are finally responsible enough.

A dog is not a cat. I love my cats don't get me wrong, but it's plain ole different. Your dog will depend on you. It will offer up unconditional love. And you will love it! And things like not ordering takeout for every meal won't feel like a huge sacrifice, because it will be done out of love.

So yes, don't rule this out for yourself.
posted by Syllables at 7:11 AM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Count me in as 'yes'. I would want you to have an emergency fund for the vet and for occasional boarding if you need it. But -- yes. Get a dog, or work yourself up to getting a dog, by all means. I hope your health gets worked out.
posted by Dashy at 7:12 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I vote yes, too. Ignore your family. I think the fact that you found a home for your cat when you were at your very worst shows that you are a loving pet parent. Get your finances in order (move? save up? whatever), clean your apartment (you really don't want to encourage your new dog to chew all your stuff because it's everywhere), and go to the shelter and walk some dogs. See what size/breed is good for whatever limitations you have. Take your time and find the right dog for you. The life you give a dog is going to be 1000x better than the life the dog would live in the shelter, so keep that in mind. I am happy for you. You'll be rescuing each other.
posted by clone boulevard at 7:25 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I vote yes, if this is what you want, do it! Give yourself a reasonable time frame to organize in preparation and give yourself rewards along the way. Maybe something like two weeks of cleaning and grocery shopping to start saving money and build your routine. Then, keep that up and start volunteering at a shelter (as often or infrequently as you like) to meet dogs and have fun that way, but also keeping an eye out for the right rascal for you. A couple more weeks with that, and try out dropping the e-cigs if you still need to save more money. [As an aside, I wouldn't tie this life change too tightly to giving up an addiction. If you can swing it financially any other way that is also an okay solution. Otherwise it is a whole lot of pressure all in one place and may not be fair to yourself. If you can both get a dog and give up e-cigs together, that's great; but if you can afford the companionship and that's what you need, it is okay to take care of yourself that way first.]
The bottom line is that it sounds like you need to do some things financially to set this up that will take a couple months, that is a great time period to demonstrate to yourself that you can handle this as well. And, about that cat, if you are already paying for the care of a cat someone else now owns you have more than demonstrated responsible commitment, and I'll add my voice to those saying you have permission to say "Enough! I love that cat too, but if you want to keep it you should pay for it's medical care, and if you can't then I would like it back if I am paying for it."
posted by meinvt at 7:25 AM on January 19, 2016


Answering some questions:

committing to 2+ walks per day is much harder. Do you think you could realistically do that?
I have been a sitter for both my cousin (Yorkie) and my parents (golden retriever) during extended trips (5+ days away) and managed just fine.

To all those suggesting that I volunteer at a shelter, well, I would love to. However, taking a couple classes at a community college in order to have human contact got me kicked off of disability and cost me over five grand in legal fees to get back on, so I am unwilling to do anything that looks like work and leaves a paper trail. (A family friend who is profoundly intellectually challenged and is mostly blind and deaf got kicked off of disability for shining tractors for a local farmer in an adult daycare type situation, so trust me when I say that disability is hard to get and stay on without complicating things by trying to improve the quality of your life. Like me, he eventually got back on, but it was a financially and emotionally painful process that I don't care to repeat.)

Surely with all of your issues, you attend therapy regularly? If not, perhaps that's a place to start.

I am not currently in treatment and cannot be for various reasons that aren't germane to this question. When I was in treatment, though, my therapist did suggest that I get a pet.
posted by xyzzy at 7:29 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


A pet isn't a bandaid at all, it's totally fair to hope for animal friendship, just for itself.

I do think that's a lot of change to peg on a dog, or on any one thing. Walking more often and feeling less lonely (furry companions really do help) are I think reasonable hopes.

Cleaning, shopping, and cooking more often, and quitting smoking (though you might take to the e-cigs quickly, some do), may not happen in the way you think they will... I think that will take a little extra; different kinds of support might be needed. (Even people who aren't depressed struggle with that stuff :) Home and self-maintenance just are a lot of work - especially when you're on your own, depressed or not.)

From experience - if there are days the challenge of dog ownership is just a little more than manageable, that might be hard to deal with, when there's a pair of big brown eyes looking at you; on days like that, it might turn out to be another thing to beat yourself up with. Not that this would necessarily happen to you! But it's been known to happen to people in rough times (and just ordinary times).

I think another cat would be a great idea, for companionship - much easier to take care of. If you do go for a dog, 2nd going for a low-need, low-energy dog - a slightly older, definitely already trained dog that isn't likely to suffer incontinence soon, from what you know about personal history and breed information (not a puppy; not any kind of terrier). You could still train it to do things, but the basics will already be there.

2nd getting your aunt to pay for what is now her cat.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:31 AM on January 19, 2016


I think the fact that you are coming here with this Ask shows that you have given this considerable thought. I have worked with dog rescues for a few years now, and dogs have been great for my mental health. I wanted a dog forever as well, and decided to become a foster to see if I having a dog was a good fit for me. I did it for 2 years, and loved it. When I started, I was struggling to organize my days beyond showing up to my boring job, and sitting in front of the tv at night. For me, the responsibility of caring for a dog that belonged to someone else (in this case, the rescue), was what got me up every morning at 6am for 5 mile walks. Over time, that schedule became not just something that had to be done, but just a part of my routine. Now, with my own pup, the dog stuff is just built into our schedule, and I don't even think about it.

Giving thought to the financial side IS important. I am still living pretty much paycheck to paycheck, but I was very careful to have a strategy if an emergency happened. Likewise, I started putting aside the amount of money spent on dog food/monthly meds/vet visits before I adopted to see if it was feasible. If you decide to foster, find an organization that can pay for pretty much everything.

Anyways, I think you have nothing to lose by volunteering at a shelter or fostering for a rescue. By taking those steps, you are finding out if a dog (and importantly, what kind of dog) is a good fit for you. Make a plan, and take it step by step. Anecdotally, I had a difficult last half of '15 and my roommates remarked several times they were impressed that I was not laying in bed all the time, had myself dressed, etc., and I realized how much of that I owed to my pup. And on those couple of days where I really couldn't make it happen, she was just like, "it's cool mom", and snuggled right next to me. So there's that.
posted by gollie at 7:32 AM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Honestly you sound like a perfect dog owner to me, for the right dog. I would look to a rescue for an smaller breed older low energy dog. . I think having a goal to work towards would be great for you, and having a home for a harder to home dog (as most people want young dogs) would be win win. Most rescues will take the dog back if you have problems, or they are not a good fit and will work with you to find a good temperament match.
posted by wwax at 7:46 AM on January 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


A vote for yes, you can get a dog, here. I actually had wanted a dog for years and years but I thought I wasn't ready, that I couldn't afford it, and I wouldn't be responsible enough. It was actually my therapist that I get a dog after some incredibly hard times coupled with manic anxiety and depression. She wrote me a referral for an emotional support animal for my apartment/emergency travel. This is not the same as a service dog and they cannot be treated the same. It just makes it easier for you to rent/travel, and it's a huge peace of mind. Now I have Luna, a 2 year old great dane and it's been the best year of my life. I walk a lot more, do yoga in the park instead of the studio, and I'm in a better health overall. Plus, other then the grocery store I can take her pretty much anywhere I go so she gets a lot of walking while we're just out and about as well.
posted by Marinara at 7:55 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Speaking as someone who has recently been in a very similar situation to you... getting a dog right now is likely an ineffective choice. You'd be making yourself responsible for another life when you haven't got yours together yet, which is setting up all kinds of ways to fail and feel worse.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:15 AM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


I know you're not in treatment right now, but if your therapist had suggested a pet in the past, I'll throw this out there anyways-

While it's a somewhat controversial topic right now, if you can get a therapist to certify that you require a companion animal, I've heard that some landlords are willing (or required?) to waive pet rent. Just something to consider.
posted by R a c h e l at 8:55 AM on January 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Keep in mind, dogs are expensive and providing adequate veterinary care is expensive. Will you be able to provide for this dog financially? Will you be able to cover the cost of a veterinary medical emergency for this dog if the need arises?
posted by OsoMeaty at 9:08 AM on January 19, 2016


You should totally get a dog!

I was in a pretty terrible place emotionally when I got my first dog and she pretty much saved my life: She gave me a reason to get out of the house, go sit in the park, get some fresh air, walk through different neighborhoods. For me, it was good to have a small little someone at home who needed me.

I recommend finding an older dog, something on the smallish side under 25 pounds or so. My first dog was 13, but age 8 or 9 might be just about right. And she was amazing and didn't demand too much from me. She didn't play ball or anything (she was pretty much a dog-shaped cat), but she was a cheerful little walker, a voracious eater, and at just under seven pounds, she had a bullhorn snore that would wake the dead. She was deaf and nearly blind, and in many ways she was less a dog than she was a funny yet ancient old lady who did her best to put up with me. She quickly became my very best friend.

My next dog was a year-old puppy when I brought her home, and she's brought me a lot of joy these past three years. I've been able to build on what I learned from my first dog. We're pretty much inseparable and she gives me a lot of stability. It's nice to have a little floof to keep me company.

And honestly, cats are great, but if you're a dog person, there is nothing better than a dog.

I think the biggest hurdle for you is the economic one. Knock off the home delivery for a bit because that really does add up.
posted by mochapickle at 9:10 AM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


I agree with others above. Getting a dog is not always a huge deal. I have always lived with dogs. Until I left home, I have had my current dog for 8 years, since he was born. I have been through some really terrible times in the past 6 years. Almost homeless, broke, in a deep depression. I have always looked after my dog, he has never gone without, and I give him more love than anyone I've ever known. I also have the laziest dog in the world, he's not a big fan of walks. He likes snuggling and sleeping. There are dogs that will suit your level of activity.
I agree that you do need to build up an emergency fund for anything that may happen. But I think it's a great idea for you. As someone who has dealt with mental health issues my whole life, my dog has saved my life many times over.
Good luck!
posted by shesbenevolent at 9:27 AM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm usually wary of people who've given up pets in the past getting other pets but yours sounds like a special situation.

Apart from the money bit, you sound like an ideal pet owner. If you truly yearn for a dog, I think you'll be able to find/save the money to support one. And not all dogs are super active. A good rescue can hook you up with a low maintenance, lazy dog who will be happy to mostly sit on the couch and bask in the love. I think it could be a life-changing (for the better) arrangement for both of you.

As to someone taking care of your dog if you can't, there are pet care exchanges you could look into where you watch somebody's pets when they're on vacation and someone in the group will return the favor when you need it.
posted by Jess the Mess at 10:10 AM on January 19, 2016


If your therapist has recommended a pet in the past and you have a disability (mental, emotional or physical) that could be mitigated with a companion animal, it is almost certainly worth your time to get back in therapy and get a certification from a professional. Companion or assistance animals do not necessarily need to be specially trained, and under Fair Housing law, companion animals are not pets, and your landlord cannot charge you a pet deposit or pet rent for that animal.
posted by Kpele at 10:24 AM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I came in to say you shouldn't get a dog but pretentious illiterate's arguments swayed me the other way.

Go for it. You dont need to graduate from school dog before you can own one.
posted by Kwadeng at 10:50 AM on January 19, 2016


My sole contribution: Don't discuss this with your parents. You don't need another voice telling you what you can't do. Be diligent, do your preparations. Get a dog.
posted by Omnomnom at 11:04 AM on January 19, 2016


A therapist can write a letter for an emotional support animal. As Marinara pointed out upthread, they don't come with all the training or benefits of a service dog, but they do allow you to have an animal with you in your apartment without any restrictions like deposits or monthly fees.
posted by QuakerMel at 11:06 AM on January 19, 2016


It doesn't sound like you're psychologically or physically incapable of taking care of a dog. It definitely does sound like it would be a huge financial challenge for you in your present living situation.
posted by deanc at 11:09 AM on January 19, 2016


Have you considered a middle-aged/older lab? I know that totally goes against a suggestion of a smaller dog, and I cannot recommend against getting a lab puppy enough, but a mellowed out lab is wonderful.

My lab is nearing five now and is generally a very high energy dog, but he also completely mellows out with some play time, a daily walk, and some cuddles. As long as those needs are being met, he's content to just hang out and smile a lot. He CAN be very high energy but a lot of that comes from the fact that he's an American lab; English labs are bred to be very laid back.

The beautiful thing about labs is that they love so fully and unconditionally. I can't think of a better dog to get if you're having a hard time. They positively adore you.

I know it may seem like a bad idea to get a bigger dog, but if you get an older one they're so easy and mellow and lovely. I think a dog would be great for you, either way. I often think about that quote that talks about being half as good a person that your dog thinks you are and it inspires me to be a better person overall.

Good luck. Please update someday if you get a dog... With pictures! :)
posted by Amy93 at 2:34 PM on January 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Nthing the idea to look into a support animal.

It took me about six months from the day I declared I wanted a dog to actually bringing one home, for what it's worth. There was a lot of planning and saving money and slowly working to dog proofing my house. But it was all for something I was immensely looking forward to, so it didn't seem like a terribly long overwhelming time.
posted by Ruki at 2:44 PM on January 19, 2016


I think you have a lot of love to give a dog, and that getting a dog would be good for you as well.
posted by bearette at 4:19 PM on January 19, 2016


Don't get too hung up on having an emergency fund for vet fees. If you adopt a shelter dog, and it has five good years with you before it dies of cancer because you couldn't afford to treat the cancer, it's still had a much better life than if it stayed in the shelter and was euthanized because no-one adopted it.

Your bench mark doesn't need to be "Can I be perfect for this dog?", just "Can I offer a dog a better quality of life than a shelter?"

As long as you can afford dog food and rabies vaccinations, I think you should adopt a dog.
posted by A sock, a sock! My kingdom for a sock! at 5:49 PM on January 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


+1 for yes, get a dog.

#3 on your Cons list reads to me as, "Will absolutely put the welfare of the animal first." and belongs on your pros list. I mean, we both hope that you never attempt suicide again but I think it would be fair to say that if you find that you're not able to care for the dog such that the dog isn't happy, you'll do what's best for the dog. Your worst case scenario (accidents notwithstanding) ends up with a happy dog and a happy you. But there is nothing about your situation that makes me think you might fail. Go for it.
posted by VTX at 6:13 PM on January 19, 2016


Get that dog! I posted a question about was it fair to get a dog when I had depression and ended up getting one. Changed my life.

I had attempted suicide a month before. I was 350lbs and never left the house. Couldn't talk to people. Couldn't walk more than 10 mins without my legs shaking. Couldn't find the energy to cook. Didn't feel like I was human. Pretty much got a dog to see if I was capable of loving anything.

Now four years later I am down 120+ lbs, have friends, dated, and so much better mentally even though it is a struggle lately with debilitating mysterious body pain that is affecting my mobility. My dog saved me and taught me so much.

You are so so much better prepared than I was. Don't deprive yourself of this in fear of not being perfect.

I'm on disability and live in poverty and have to pay more in rent due to having a pet. I can't walk her twice a day anymore but you know what? She doesn't care. As long as she can go out to the bathroom and get a bit of a walk around the neighbourhood now and then she's happy. Dogs when you've bonded with them just want to be with you.

You are so so able to handle a dog. Get one!
posted by kanata at 8:17 PM on January 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


To the extent you can be very mindful and honest about your capabilities and select a dog whose needs you are able to meet (like, don't get a rescue greyhound, probably), and you won't be pushing your financial resources over a red line, I'd say go for it.

The basic fact that regardless of what I think I need to/can do for myself, the dog has to get fed and taken out has ensured a minimal baseline of structure in my life, even through some really ugly shit. As well, at various points of crisis my ability to ensure that the dog is cared for has served as a model for taking care of myself.
posted by PMdixon at 8:59 PM on January 19, 2016


I could have posted this question a year ago (though my disabilities are different). I got the dog (despite my mostly estranged family being assholes about it) last April and it's honestly been one of my best decisions self-care wise. Sure there are still some days where I wake up and I don't want to take the dog out or where I don't have the spoons/energy to give her the amount of exercise I would like but so does everyone else. I have really benefited from having a routine that I must stick to and from feeling like I am doing something every day + doing OK at it.

My life isn't magically fixed by any means. I still have all the disabilities I had before, I still can't work, and I still really struggle with interacting with people, but having the dog has given me something to do other than sit on my couch feeling terrible and having flashbacks all day. I spent years waiting for my life to get better before I made such a ~drastic~ commitment and I wish I had just gotten the dog earlier. She is by far one of the easiest parts of my life now. (Plus interacting with people is MUCH easier with the dog as a go-to topic of conversation.)

Some tips:
- If you live in an area where most people work 9-5, you might be able to find a group of folks who take their dogs out around 5/6 PM after work. It's really nice to just offload some of the PAY ATTENTION TO ME responsibility especially on hard days. I stumbled across one such group at the local school.
- You will rarely meet your own high standards of dog ownership. This is OK. You are doing OK. Nobody is 110% perfect dog owner all day/every day. Just do the best you can.
- Once you have the dog, talk to other dog owners you meet and you'll get recommendations for boarding/daycare should you ever need it. Honestly I didn't expect to develop a dog-related social circle but I did and it's been really nice to have people to ask for advice.

Go get yourself a dog and best of luck!
posted by buteo at 10:43 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


From a purely emotional perspective: yes, dog. Always. I've always been a cat person and adopted my first dog over the summer. She is the love of my life and my best friend and she has helped me tremendously with my anxiety and depression.

From a financial and logistical perspective: caring for a dog as a single person is very stressful for several reasons. As the only caretaker for the dog, you are solely responsible for fulfilling all of its needs. As others have mentioned, that means every walk, every feeding, every time they're begging for attention, you're on the hook. I adopted a four month-old puppy (which I never intended to do but she was so cute), which meant that getting up at all hours when she was potty training, paying for midday dog walks, rushing home from work to walk her, and staying home as much as possible to keep an eye on her and get her acclimated. It was a lot of responsibility.

As others have pointed out, you cannot discount the financial burden of a dog. My monthly budget for the dog and two cats is $125 for food, litter, poop bags, toys, etc. That $125 doesn't include emergency vet visits or boarding. It's a lot of money.

The other thing to keep in mind is how your lifestyle could affect a dog. Since I adopted mine, I have to keep my house cleaner, because otherwise she'll get into anything that I leave on the floor or at her level. She has destroyed several books and pulled a TV set down. Dogs also thrive on routine, so keeping an inconsistent sleep schedule could be really tough on a dog who doesn't know when their next meal or nap will be.

I'm not trying to dissuade you from adopting a dog. You know your own abilities and comfort level far better than I do. Just offering up some things to ponder.
posted by anotheraccount at 1:31 PM on January 20, 2016


You need a dog, and a dog needs you. Do it.
You're clear-headed enough to see if it doesn't work out, and if it doesn't, well, let the doggie move on to another home. But I don't think that's going to happen.
posted by LonnieK at 7:13 PM on January 20, 2016


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