Thinking about getting a pet? Don’t.

I have a dog, and it sucks. Ten years ago, I had a decent job, a supportive partner, and a rare detached house and yard in downtown Toronto with some of my best friends. It made sense to complete our sitcom family lifestyle with a furry friend to call our very own. Fast forward to today and I am a student, single, barely working, floundering in debt, and my furry friend is entering his very expensive golden years. My once vital, majestic beast now has Lyme disease, a tooth infection, tumours that seem to sprout over-night, and an intermittent limp. Preliminary diagnostics will set me back around $1200, then there’s the matter of recommended surgeries, specialists, and a selection of pills that cost around two bucks a pop.

I know what you’re thinking: any decent animal lover would do whatever it takes to ensure their pet’s health and happiness, regardless of cost. And believe me, I have. I have sacrificed so much over the last decade, at times spending more money on dog food than I could on human food. But the last few months have made me take a hard look at pet ownership and the inevitable euthanasia that comes along with it.

How invasive should medical treatments be to keep our special creatures alive? How much can one justify spending on a surgery that may or may not be effective? Is it not equally selfish to artificially extend an animal’s life because we aren’t ready to say good-bye? Is my mother’s friend correct in having all of her 16 year-old cat’s rotting teeth removed, or would it be less traumatic for all involved to say a timely and gentle farewell?

Don’t get me wrong, none of this is surprising to me. Every pet owner is vaguely aware of the looming demise of their best friend, and I knew when I first brought home my awkward, squash-nosed puppy that this was going to happen. But it’s all too easy to remove ourselves from future hardship. We justify these things by thinking our future will be more stable, we will be wiser, calmer, better equipped to deal with life’s difficulties. I’m here to burst your shiny bubble of optimism and tell you that no, it won’t be easier. In fact, it may be much more devastating than you could have anticipated.

Even at the best of times, having a pet is more challenging than many people realise. When I hear my friends say they are considering getting a dog because they miss their family pet, my first instinct is to swoop in and crush their dreams as swiftly as possible. Having a dog dictates your entire life.

Want to sleep in? Can’t do it.

Want to spend the night at your partner’s place? Can’t do it.

Want to maintain dignity while cleaning dog shit off of Queen St. West with a gaggle of hipsters eyeballing you from the patio next door? Definitely cannot do it.

Now, before you call the SPCA, don’t worry: I am going to ensure that my dog is as comfortable as possible, as the last thing I want is to see him suffer. I realize there are ways to acquire money for vet bills through avenues like crowd-funding, and I am lucky enough to have a safety net to fall back on when things get really ugly. Still, I can honestly say, some days I regret ever getting a pet. I love my dog dearly. We have had wonderful adventures together. We have traveled together, climbed mountains together, swam in the ocean together, but I sincerely wish I had waited until I was older and my life was truly stable, and not with that false sense of security that a few good years of your early twenties can instill.

Still, it’s true — our lives may never be stable, and there are thousands of animals in shelters who would be better off with a loving, if ill-prepared owner. So, if you really want to adopt, I can’t stop you, but know this: this animal will get sick, this animal will die, and it will suck.

Start a rainy-day fund for vet bills like, yesterday. Maybe try fostering a geriatric pet so you can get an idea of what it’s like to care for a pet that’s approaching the end his or her days. I don’t think you can ever be completely prepared to make final decisions once your pet’s health begins to wane, but take my advice, plan for the worst, and remember, all dogs go to heaven.