This article is part of relationship month at Get Rich Slowly.
As a dental hygienist, my girlfriend Kim meets lots of interesting people and has lots of interesting conversations. Last week while cleaning a patient's teeth, the topic turned to pets.
“Two years ago, we didn't have any animals,” Kim told her patient. “We were on the road in an RV. Today? Today we have three cats and a dog. Honestly, I'd be fine with more animals. We love them.”
“We love our animals too,” her patient said. “We might love them a little too much. Recently, we moved. I'd say 90% of that decision was based around our dog. Is that wrong?”
Kim laughed. “It's not wrong,” she said. “We did something similar ourselves.”
Pets are expensive, Kim and her patient agreed. Are they worth it? Yes. Yes, they are. But as with most things in life, pet costs can quickly get out of control if you let them. It's important to find a balance between the needs of your animals and your own financial well-being.
For the past two years, Kim and I have been working to find where that balance is for our family.
Near the end of our 15-month RV trip around the United States, Kim and I stopped to visit my cousin in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. For a week, we left behind modern life to enjoy the slower pace in this isolated 100-acre creek hollow. We enjoyed the communal meals (during which several families dined together at once). We marveled at the light show provided each evening by the fireflies. (There are no fireflies in Oregon.) And we lavished love on all of the animals: the cows, the chickens, the cats, and the dogs.
Especially the dogs.
A few weeks before we arrived, one of the farm dogs had given birth to a litter of puppies. Kim fell in love with them. “I think I want to take one home with us,” she said.
“Maybe on our way back through,” I said, trying to be the voice of reason.
Our plan was to turn east toward Memphis, Mississippi, and Alabama. We'd then drop down to the Gulf Coast, cut over to New Orleans, then make our way into Texas. “Dallas isn't far from here,” I said. “When we get there, then we can decide whether or not we want a dog.”
For the next month, Kim and I spent our evenings reading about dogs. Both of our families had dogs when we were growing up, but neither of us had owned one as an adult. We learned about different training philosophies. We discussed discipline. We discussed costs. We discussed what adding an animal would mean for our relationship as a couple.
“Do you still want the dog?” I asked Kim a few weeks later as we pulled into Dallas.
“Yes, I do,” she said.
After spending a few days with my pal PT (from PT Money), we returned to my cousin's farm in Tahlequah. Kim's puppy was still there. “Hello, Tahlequah,” Kim said as she petted the pup. “How would you feel about moving to Oregon?”
Tahlequah seemed happy about the idea. Kim was even happier. She turned to me and smiled. “With this dog, I thee wed,” she said. And that's how we entered a new phase in our lives.