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February 15, 2008


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Wow. Don't get me wrong, we love our dog (a pug no less) as much as anything in the world, but there is no way we'd spend that kind of money, especially considering it is already at the end of its lifespan. I guess everyone has different priorities, but expensive surgery for our pet isn't one of them.

I think you are being a bit superior. If the article you linked to was about a woman who could not afford food, or was writing to ask you why she could never save money and it came out she dropped 4k on a dog pace maker then no additional comment would be needed. I do not really see this as a frivolous expense. I am a pet owner and my criteria on procedures has been and will likely remain: if I can afford the procedure and it will improve the animal's quality of life, as opposed to merely extending a painful downward spiral, I will probably have the procedure done. It always shocks me how easily non-pet owners see pets as another generic chattel that can and should be simply replaced if that is the cheaper alternative.

Agree with M.

For all we know, this lady simply sacrificed vacation trips for a couple years to save her lifelong companion. My family would do that in a heartbeat (no pun intended).

Who are you to judge the value this person should assign to her dog's life? If this woman can afford the surgery and that's how she wants to spend her money, good for her.

And just how does this relate to growing my net worth? This seems like a post made simple for the sake of posting.

I would do this for my dog. This isn't an investment, it's health care for a family member. I understand the dog is old, but as long as the proceedure would significantly improve his life and health, I would do it. If it only kept him around for a few months, and he would still be in pain, then probably not. But if it extends his life for a few years and eliminates pain, it's a no brainer (for me). This is one of the reasons we have health insurance for our dog. At $240/year, it's well worth it because his breed is prone to health problems (english bulldog). The insurance has already paid for itself because we were reimbursed 80% after we spent $1600 on an overnight stay due to pnumonia when he was a year old.

JMS --

It's a $4k expense. If you can't make the connection between spending $4k and growing your net worth, especially in a day and age when we have a zero percent savings rate, I think you need to go back to money management 101.

My problem is simply that I do not see this as an unquestionably excessive expense unworthy of comment or discussion


You continue to assume this $4K is being redirected from non-discretionary spending or savings. Why?

Is it not possible to believe that this person simply made other discretionary sacrifices to save her dog for a few more years?

Or is it that you just can't envision $4K worth of anything you'd sacrifice to save a pet.

M --

That's why we're discussing it here.

J --

I'm not assuming anything. From the facts, I know she spent $4k on her dog's pacemaker. Where she got the money, I do not know.

But $4k isn't a small amount to spend -- be it on a big-screen TV, new ATV, or anything else. And all those "oh, my pet only costs $250 per year, how dare you suggest he/she costs more than that" people need to pay attention to stories like this.

Personally, I don't care if she took $4k out and burned it in a trash heap. It's her money. That's just not what I would do. And since this blog is about what I would do, it's a worthwhile topic.

Sheesh, you pet people are really touchy. That's what makes posts like this so fun. ;-)

FMF normally I am right there with you but if she has the money I don't see an issue. I agree with above about quality of life and pain, if those are both good, I'd probably get the surgery for my pet. As someone with no kids to support who makes good money my pets are second only to my SO when it comes to things I really love and could need to support.

"It's a $4k expense. If you can't make the connection between spending $4k and growing your net worth, especially in a day and age when we have a zero percent savings rate, I think you need to go back to money management 101."

Yes its a 4k expense and while it's "just a pet" to you pets are a big deal in many peoples lives, such as the elderly who it is their only companion. I would liken it to skipping a 4k medical procedure for myself or a family member. Would I skip those cause it was a 4k expense? nope. If I were single and lived alone and only had my pet for companionship the payment would already be made.

Growing ones net worth in exchange for health issues and happiness seems foolish. Pets are proven to lengthen ones lifespan, if you aren't willing to spend 4k to lengthen your life at least you'll leave some people more money when you die early. Money is only good when you are alive.

This is not a black and white issue by any means.

Rev --

Why do you assume I think it's "just a pet?"

To be fair, as a disclaimer, we completely hemorrhage money on our dog. We live in an expensive city and since we both work, spend $600 a month to have the dog walked from 9-3pm everyday. That doesn't even include the pet food we have to buy at the vet because our brat dog has "stomach issues." I wish I didn't spend that much a month, but I couldn't imagine leaving the brat in a laundry room all day.

Really enjoy your blog by the way.


> Sheesh, you pet people are really touchy.

It's not about pets.
It's about judging what people do with their discretionary money.

Is your personal finance philosophy that every single discretionary dollar spent during your entire life is a wasted opportunity to save?

FMF - If you are going to make a post like this, where you just link to an article and say "no comment," people are going to make inferences and assumptions about your point of view. I think those inferences and assumptions are totally fair if you aren't going to go to the trouble to write a post in the first place.

J - I just have to say that your comment "Is your personal finance philosophy that every single discretionary dollar spent during your entire life is a wasted opportunity to save?" completely cracked me up.

J --

I know you have been reading this site for a tremendously long three days (at least based on when you left your first comment and said you were new), so I'm sure you're not really up to the task of saying what I do and don't think.

Go back and read my previous 5,000 posts so you can be a bit more informed before you comment on what I do and don't think.

BTW, I'm leaving the underlining on.

> so I'm sure you're not really up to the task of saying what I do and don't think

I don't either ... that's why I'm asking.

> Go back and read my previous 5,000 posts so you can be a bit more informed before you comment on what I do and don't think.

Wow. Again, I'm asking for a clarification. Not judging.

> BTW, I'm leaving the underlining on.

You work in customer service at your job, don't you?

This simple question is this FMF...

What is the difference between the $4K this lady spent on her dog and the next $4K you spend on discretionary items in your life?

This should be fun. I'm going to get some popcorn.

J --

Your tone seems sarcastic to me. Anyway, if you read my comments JUST ABOVE YOURS, you'll see that I say:

"Personally, I don't care if she took $4k out and burned it in a trash heap. It's her money."

Obviously, people can do whatever they want with their money (because it's THEIR money.) Am I ok with that? What's it matter? But for the record, I am ok with that. Just don't come crawling back to me saying you can't pay for your kids to go to college, you can't afford to retire, you can't afford you name it.

BTW, if your definition of customer service is changing something that 6,000 people each day like simply because one new guy shows up and demands something different, then you're right, I'm not in customer service. And last time I checked, you weren't actually a "customer". (Customer defined as someone who pays for something.)

Fred --


Hmm. $4000 is a lot to spend on a pet. Did the dog understand why he was going through surgery? Did the dog know that this was being done to prolong his life, or did he just think he was being punished? I think it is sad that we live in a society where people vehemently defend a woman for spending $4000 on a pacemaker for a dog at the end of his lifespan, but don't spend nearly as much energy making sure the children in our communities get the health and dental care they need to live healthy productive lives. Mocking people for spending money on frivolous expenses is nothing new on personal finance blogs, get over it.


Is it sad to live in a society where you may spend $4k for your child's braces, or lasik surgery, or whatever, when there are children in our communities who need health and dental care? It's not like that 4k would go there anyway.

I think the last question I asked was an interesting question FMF, would you be interested in answering it? (No sarcasm intended).

"What is the difference between the $4K this lady spent on her dog and the next $4K you spend on discretionary items in your life?"

Because without knowing this lady's financial situation, that's really the only question you can ask yourself when judging this expenditure.

Fred cracked me up! I can just picture him settling comfortably into his computer chair with a bowl of popcorn!

Anyway, I just mentioned this topic to my husband the other night. I work in financial services and have seen clients take $3000 out of their IRA worth $4000 to pay for a pet to have surgery. No, she didn't have other retirement accounts. She took it from her IRA because she didn't have an emergency fund or anywhere else to get $3000 from. Yikes!

Don't get me wrong, I love my two cats very much. There's no way I'd empty out my retirement account for them, though!

Oh, not this again--though for the record, I agree with many of M's comments.

(Actually, I might have mistaken you for another blogger--someone is ALWAYS posting about how much people spend on their pets.)

J --

Are you even listening to me? I said it doesn't matter what I think she should do -- she's free to spend her money however she likes. Me? I'm also free to spend my money however I like.

But here are a few things you probably haven't considered:

1. You don't know her situation either -- and what she had to give up to pay for this. Maybe it was simply some other discretionary spending (like you assume) and maybe it wasn't.

If you go by the averages, maybe there's just as good of a chance that she's in one camp than the other. However, since our national savings rate is negative, it's probably more likely she's spending this money instead of saving. Now maybe she's fabously wealthy and doesn't need to save. Based on net worth numbers in the US, she'd have to be in the top 10-20% of her age group (look at her picture, she's older) to be in that situation. So odds are really stacked against the "it's just discretionary spending" argument. $400 is one thing, but $4.2k is another.

2. I consistently get "my pet doesn't cost that much" comments here. I keep warning that there can be severe health care costs associated with pets. Many pet owners don't believe me (because they haven't yet experienced it yet). This serves as yet another example of why pets can be so expensive.

SMB --

No, you have it right. That's me. ;-)

I have a whole category devoted to the topic:

I am a pet owner of 2 cats that I love dearly and will miss very much one day when they are dead. Almost a year ago we spent almost $1,200 on one of them because he had crystals. Albeit, he is healthy now and acts like a kitten again, though he is 6, but my husband and I decided that if something happened to one of the cats, we would set a limit of $1,500 to "heal" it. Yes animals are great to have around, yes people can do what they want with them and with their money, but comparing an animal to a child is just wrong. Animals can't talk to you, can't do anything for you (except show you affection and just be there with you), they can't wait on you when you're sick or unhealthy, they can't pay the bills, they can't take care of the home, etc. things that a child could do for you. (I know small children can't do these things, but I'm sure you know I mean children of appropriate age doing these things.) So why am I going to spend that kind of money on an animal when I have no idea what kind of future the animal will have, I will have, my spouse will have, or what kind of financial world we will be living in tomorrow...nothing is certain in this life except you are going to die. Even in humans, there is no guarantee that a pacemaker will correct the heart problem, so why should it be considered absolute in an animal?

J --

And if you think only people with discretionary spending shell out big bucks for costs like this, see Becky's comment.


If your reason for posting this originally was to show folks that pets can potentially cost much more than they expect, then that is a valid point.

Perhaps you should have said that in the post, rather than posting "without comment".

I'm assuming you don't just intend for the deeper meaning of your posts to be only decoded by the clique of folks that have been reading for some extended period of time.

J --

Actually, I just do it so Fred can enjoy his popcorn.

> Actually, I just do it so Fred can enjoy his popcorn.

Aha! I knew there was an ulterior motive!

Seriously, no hard feelings. I enjoy your site ... despite the underlines. :)

Well, your blog is still one of my favorites--I usually just skip the pet posts. :)

linkbait, nuff said

FMF, what's it like being better than everyone else? I know your opinion sure as hell isn't humble

Pets cost what they cost. I don't get why FMF and other imply that the cost is better spent elsewhere. The money belongs to those people and they can do with it as they please.

As for those talking about kids with no health care or whatever, you should be more concerned with the irresponsible people who had them. If you can't afford a kid, don't have one.

And I wasn't disapointed!
Good show!
(You'll never guess what I spent on a friends pet when he was hit by a car on a holiday though)

The judgment that pets aren't worth spending money on is a judgment that pets are inferior to chidren, because everyone accepts that only a terrible person would not spend $4000 for a pacemaker for their kid. I hear this judgment from lots of people who have kids - people who look down on those who don't have kids and so give their hearts to pets instead - whether out of choice or necessity. For me, out of choice, not necessity, I have a cat - not a child. I don't feel the need to look down on those who love their pets as much as some people love their kids. I don't judge them because they love someone who is not just a smaller version of themselves. In many ways, I feel my cat is as precious to me - and unlike most children, I know she will be with me only for a short time - I will almost certainly outlive her. that just makes her all the more precious - not less. People with children will say that I don't have a kid so I can't compare. But I don't think those people can compare either. They don't know what it's really like to live their whole lives without a kid. They assume their love is so much more valuable because it is bestowed on a human being who can "talk" rather than on a creature who uses other forms of communication. So, because they assume this, they can't really understand people who love their pets so much. They could never understand the comfort and companionship I have received from my kitty over the past 17 years. Through loss of friends, family members, jobs, even a marriage, she was there with me. She even kept me alive at certain points when life seemed so hard I wished it would end. I knew that no one else would be there to care for her if I didn't stay around (partly because of people with attitudes that diminished her value because she was "just a pet"). Looking back, I know that one of the reasons I am here is because of her. That may sound trite to some people, but I don't really care. So, if I were to choose to spend money to give her a few more years of life, it's my choice. I know a lot of parents who spend more money on their kids for more frivolous reasons, like summer camps, designer clothes, European vacations, parties unnecessarily extravagant weddings, etc. $4000 is really not so much to save someone's life.

I have just finished reading all your comments on this dear lady spending all that 4K on "just her PET's" pacemaker. Well here is one old lady (81 years old) that has a 13 year old cocker that just today has learned that her little buddy may be a pacemaker canidate by tomorrow and this old woman will gladly spend a part of her savings to give her pet perhaps another 3-4 years with her ! I'm sure if it only turns out to be 1 year, I will have her that long at least. So you fuddy-duddies cuddle up to your cold cash while I cuddle up to my beloved companion for whatever time my cold cash will buy me. I won't miss it one bit.

While savings plans and economic conditions change through time, Katie has connected the dots between the most important necessities in life that don't change. Love and Compassion. And we need to stop judging one another. Pray for the other person's peace of mind instead and one of two things will happen... either the other person will change their thoughts or behavior, or, you will stop caring about what was ultimately out of your control all along anyway. Good luck every one. Oh, and for Fred... I pop my corn in coconut oil with some salt and a dash of cayenne pepper... Mmm Mmm good!

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