By Alisha Jucevic
Lainie Vinikoor’s boyfriend sounds panicked over the phone. His voice is worried, as he tells her their new puppy, Duke, is puking all other the floor and won’t stop. She tells him to calm down and they decide to meet at the emergency vet care in Eugene. She drives to the clinic quickly and meets her boyfriend, who’s holding the shivering dog, at the door. The vet takes Duke back into the clinic to do testing, and they wait anxiously.
According to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, around 62% of households in the United States have a pet. Out of these pets, 78.2 million are dogs and about 86.4 million are cats. The New York Times says that the word “pet” may have first appeared in Tudor England and that in the late 20th century in America a pet animal was considered an alternative to a spoiled child and thus the word took on a new meaning.
“Growing up and going to the vet, your parents were always the ones who took the dog to the vet,” Vinikoor says. “But going to the vet, paying for the vet, and watching your dog, the hours after… your parents always dealt with stuff like that.”
Vinikoor is a senior at the University of Oregon. She grew up with dogs but has never had one of her own, until now. A few months ago she and her boyfriend, Jeff Allen, decided to adopt a mini Australian Shepherd puppy. She says they talked about it for a while, sent each other links, and looked up different breeds. One morning they saw an ad on the Portland classifieds with photos and they decided to drive 100 miles north to “take a look” – and ended up coming home with Duke.
“It was kind of spur of the moment, but I am so happy,” Vinikoor says. “It’s kind of been a nice gradual like way to graduate and go into the real world. You kind of start this little family, and you realize that in a couple months you won’t have school but you’ll just have work instead.”
Though owning a dog has all gone pretty smoothly for Vinikoor and Allen, they have run into some challenges along the way. Since Duke is a puppy, he requires ample attention and socialization. When one of them goes out to hang out with friends, the other one usually has to stay home with him. Vinikoor is taking mostly online classes, so she is able to be with Duke most of the day. She says that she would not have gotten him if she knew she had to be in class all day during the week.
Vinikoor says that the most rewarding part of having her own pet is the feeling she gets when she knows that Duke is relying on her, and that she is the one taking care of him.
“He is just another part of the family at this point. Whatever choice I make he’ll come with,” Vinikoor says.
Vinikoor’s boyfriend works for Enterprise Car Rentals, and Vinikoor hopes to work in the recruiting department of a university. Whether they stay in Eugene, or move to another state, Duke will come with them.
Because dogs are highly dependent pets, many college students choose to get a pet kitten in college instead of a puppy.
Kristi Jacobs, junior at the University of Oregon, decided to adopt a kitten last spring. She saw an ad on Craigslist, and without even seeing a photo she went to check him out.
“I had a dog when I was younger, but I wanted a cat,” she says. “I saw him and fell in love.”
Jacobs says that the most difficult thing was adapting to the changes she had to make in her everyday routine, though she was thankful it was not as much work as it would be to have a puppy. When she first got her kitten, Tux, he needed a lot more attention. Luckily she was about to go home for the summer, so once she returned to school for the start of this school year, he was more independent.
But that wasn’t the only issue. “It’s a lot more expensive then I thought,” Jacobs says. “I was prepared to get all initial things, the shots and get him neutered.”
Jacobs says that she did not anticipate all of the other fees like litter, food, and vet checkups that come along with having a pet (See sidebar at the end of the story for more on average pet costs). Another problem she encounters is the plane fees of bringing him on her flight when she wants to fly home to southern California during breaks. Airlines fees for bringing pets on board can be $100, and even more, each way. When she goes home for long periods of time and drives, it is much easier for Tux to accompany her.
“I didn’t get to go home for spring break because of him, because it’s more expensive to fly with him,” Jacobs says. “But he is really good at driving, he just sits on my lap while I’m driving, I just put the litter box behind my seat and he knows what to do.”
Medical and Socialization Concerns
Though Tux has adapted well to Jacob’s lifestyle, dogs and puppies often take more work and require more of the owner’s energy than caring for a cat. Jennifer Biglan, founder of Dog & Cat Training and Behavior Modification in Eugene, believes that socialization is key to the development stages of a puppy.
“The worst thing you could do behaviorally is not vaccinate them against behavioral aggression or fear issues by helping your puppy between 8-16 weeks learn that people are good, and different things are good,” Biglan says.
She says that this is the time when the puppies are forming neurological pathways in their brain where they are able to assess whether something is safe or not. If they are only around a few people and a few locations, once this first 16 weeks passes, they are more likely to have aggressive or fearful traits later in life. She compares this stage to a mother wolf and its puppy.
“This is the time a wolf puppy would start leaving the den, and that is why that socialization period is there,” Biglan says. “The mother dog shows the puppy what is safe and what is not safe.”
Biglan’s mention of a wolf family comes from the belief that dogs evolved from wolves. If the mother has not taught them these things, the puppy would be in danger of getting harmed. This period is there for survival reasons.
In contrast to this, Dr. Bonnie Burns, a local veterinarian, says it is important to keep your puppy at home and in your backyard until it has all its vaccines because of a virus called parvovirus. This viral illness can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea and in some cases death.
“The virus is spread through the diarrhea,” Burns says, “and it can stay in the environment for up to 8 or 9 years.”
Because socialization is so important, but there are dangers of viruses such as the parvovirus, Dr. Burns says she recommends people have their friends bring their dogs over to play in the backyard. Or they can also bring their puppy to a friend’s house, if it is safe.
Burns says there are also dangers of letting cats out of the house early. Cat owners like Jacobs have to make sure their cats are spayed and neutered before they let them out because they can get pregnant as early as 6 months Kittens also often have persistent diarrhea, which is usually diet or parasite related. If the owners are able to bring them in for check ups with a vet, this can be easily cured, Burns says.
Some owners are able to find a good balance between socializing their puppies and making sure there are safe from the parvovirus. Chet Udell, an instructor of music technology at the University of Oregon, bought a border collie 7 months ago. He says that he and his wife, Monique Udell, found ways to get their puppy Ember, out of the house.
“You’ll be surprised at what stores are dog friendly,” he says. “We took to riding her around in carts at the Home Depot and PetSmart on a nightly basis. We also had friends over early to teach her that other people were allowed inside of ‘her’ space.”
He says that these things helped Ember become comfortable with other people and locations, and they did not have to worry as much about exposing her to parvovirus.
As well as the medical concerns that go along with owning a puppy, there are also many behavioral challenges. According to Jennifer Biglan It is essential for people understand the development of puppies before they adopt so they can expect these changes in behavior. Puppies enter a developmental stage around 4-6 months that is considered teenage years, and they don’t mature until they are 2-4 years old.
“They go from being attentive to wanting to go out and explore on their own and be more independent,” Biglan says.
Biglan says that this is a change in attitude that often confuses people, and they get frustrated or annoyed and give up their dog because they can’t deal with it. During that time dogs have the highest percentage of relinquishment to shelters.
Though puppies often require more attention, there are still a few behavioral challenges of having a kitten. Cary Lieberman, Greenhill Director, says many people do not realize that kittens can be very high energy for the first few years and not the best fit for a quieter household.
“We don’t want that kitten to come back as an adult,” Lieberman says. “We try to make good matches at the beginning, but if people are overwhelmed with their situation, we want to be a resource for them to bring the animal back.”
Biglan says that for dog owners, “One big thing is setting expectations that dogs are dogs and they like to do doggie things.”
She says people need to know that their dog’s behavior is not going to be automatically perfect, just like humans are not perfect. She also says they need to know that every dog may not be the right fit for their home.
“Sometimes it is just not a good fit which is not a good thing because then it is detrimental to the family and the dog,” Biglan says.
Some dogs, such border collies, need a lot of exercise. If owners are a busy household and don’t have enough time to exercise the dog as much as it needs, this might not be a good fit. Also, if owners have small children, they have to make sure their dog is not fearful or aggressive with the children.
At Greenhill, the whole family, as well as any other dogs, are required to come out and meet the new dog before they bring it home. Sometimes dogs can be fearful of children, or they may not get along with the other dog in the family. Lieberman says this helps ensure the dog is a good fit from the very beginning. If potential adopters are college students, Greenhill often calls their parents to make sure the dog or cat will have a home in the summer if the students cannot take care of them.
Lainie Vinikoor and Jeff Allen, the students who had just gotten a new puppy, waited in the lobby for Duke’s results. When the vet came out, he informed them that Duke’s illness was not fatal, and he would be back to normal in a few days. The vomiting was most likely caused by a reaction to vaccines or because he had been chewing on their bathmat earlier that week. Vinikoor and Allen made sure to keep an extra close eye on him for the next week, and after just a few days he was running around the apartment and back to his boisterous self.
“To have an animal, a living thing so dependent on you, that loves you so much unconditionally, that is a really cool feeling,” Vinikoor says.
Cost Estimates of Pets
Adoption fee from a shelter: This can be anywhere from $50 – $300, and often includes the spay/neuter and current vaccinations.
Spay/Neuter: $75 -$ 90 (low cost clinic) – $150-220 (veterinary hospital)*
Other initial medical, such as blood tests, de-wormers, and a microchip: $100-$200
Recurring medical, such as the exams, vaccinations, heartworm preventative and topical flea preventative: $150-250/year
Toys and Treats: $50-$100/year
* Dr. Bonnie Burns says that in a veterinary hospital they will have monitoring equipment, monitoring their blood pressure, oxygenated blood stream while they are under anesthesia. This will give them really good pain control for the animal. If you go to a low cost clinic, they are trying to do a good job at a very low cost, but the pain control is not as good.
Adoption fee from a shelter: This can be anywhere from $30-$100
From a Shelter like Greenhill, the adoption often includes:
· Spay/Neuter surgery
· Felv tested
· FVRCP vaccine and booster
· Microchip and free registration
· Free health check at a list of local veterinarians
Spay/Neuter: $40-50 (low cost clinic) – $100-130 (veterinary hospital)
Other initial medical, such as blood tests, de-wormers, and a microchip: $130
Recurring medical, such as the exams, vaccinations, heartworm preventative and topical flea preventative: $160/year
Litter: $120-$180 (Litter Box: $15-$40)
Toys and Treats: $20-$50/year
The Greenhill Humane Society partnered with The Oregon Voice to bring dogs from the shelter to the UO campus. The Rent-a-Pooch event gave students a chance to spend 15- 60 minutes with a dog. Cary Lieberman, Director at Greenhill Humane society, says that it is a way to get the dogs out to socialize, and help students who may be missing their pets at home. Greenhill offers opportunities to adopt, foster or volunteer to students and other community members.
For more information on the Greenhill Humane Society, visit www.green-hill.org.