By Adriana Reyneri
Writing a story about trust funds for pets has, shall I say, altered my world view. You heard me. Trust Funds. For Pets. Be assured you can spend even more money on your animal from beyond the grave.
The first financial epiphany concerned my beloved dog, Bella, also known as Mini Marley. It turns out that this financial writer’s best friend is seriously over budget. The American Pet Products Association tells me that the average annual cost of owning a dog runs $1,542 – that is excluding yoga classes, which I hear are all the rage now and great for helping your dog deal with its stressful life. Somehow, I feel that Bella is getting enough mat time as it is.
Bella is not an overly pampered pet. She gets two squares a day, occasional biscuits and regular exercise. No rhinestone collar. No doggy day care. But by the time she reaches the ripe old age of 14 she will have cost me way over the estimated $21,588. Her last vet visit alone – necessitated by an unfortunate encounter with a toothy neighbor dog – totaled more than $300 for seven stitches, a Vincent van Gogh-style bandage and an Edwardian collar. Last month it was the $70 treatment for tapeworm – apparently acquired from eating small rodents. You get the drift.
We’re not even going to talk about the startup costs. Yes, I was one of those Americans, who suckered in by those cute Cottonelle commercials featuring adorable lab puppies, forked out real money for a purebred dog. To this day, I wonder if over breeding may have played a role in her early development. The pup figured prominently in a story my then grade-school son wrote about a criminal mastermind and his evil sidekick “Bella-Bites-A-Lot.”
And there’s the collateral damage. We’re talking numerous area rugs, one pair of brand new Danskos and my own vet, er, doctor bills, for injuries resulting from my dog’s brand of “irrational exuberance.” My story would make a great commercial: “Life with Bella. Priceless. For everything else there’s MasterCard.”
How do we Americans do it? The recovery may be slowing but Americans will spend a record $50.84 billion dollars on pet products in 2011, according to industry estimates. That’s more than double the gross domestic product of both Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Look at my own financial folly. Had I otherwise invested my “pet fund” with a wiz like Bernie Madoff I wouldn’t have any of the money left. Had I bought stock seven years ago, instead of a puppy, I’d maybe be breaking even. It goes without saying that, in my doting eyes, Bella is worth her weight in gold, about $2 million in today’s market, but investing in bullion might not have been a bad idea in July 2004 when gold was trading around $400 an ounce.
I do wonder if I can glean some financial wisdom from this fiscal disaster called a dog. Perhaps in this sluggish economy, people will downsize their pet choices. This could lead to a run on gerbils, which in turn increases demand for pellets and tiny pieces of dried vegetables. I could buy stock in those companies and ride the small pet rally … .
Or, I could stop worrying about the possibility of eating cat food in retirement – thanks to my dog – and take my faithful companion for a walk. Studies show that interacting with a pet lowers your blood pressure. Those researchers obviously haven’t met Bella.