When Income Tax preparation time comes around, a yearly accounting of household and business expenditures is inevitable.  We clearly see where our hard earned money is spent.

Just for “fun,” I recently tallied up all the canine related expenditures doled out over the past twelve years for our beloved dog, Hooper.  During a typical year, I find that we “ruffly” spend upwards of $1,500 for her care.  Costs include visits to the vet, and groomer, food, and other  miscellaneous items.  That means that we have probably spent about $12,000 on our furry friend since her inclusion in our family, which I think, probably isn’t as much as some people do, especially if they have more than one dog taking up residency in their home, or if the dog, or dogs, are extremely pampered. 

First let me say, not having any children of my own (through marriage I’ve inherited a grown son with three children, so technically, I just skipped to “grand-dom”),  these expenditures are nowhere near what parents of humans must dole out for their kids over a lifetime.  Secondly, I know that not all dogs require professional grooming (like mine), and in some places, the only time a dog makes a visit to the vet, or clinic, is to be spayed or neutered (if they are lucky) or to get their rabies vaccinations. 

Interestingly, when I travel through regions of the nation, away from large cities, I cannot get over how many dogs roam, unleashed, along busy roads.  The number of abandoned dogs that end up in shelters, or worse, mortally wounded, dying alone on back roads and major highways is startling.  You wonder if anyone knew they were even missing.

Back in 1938,  the seven objectives of National Dog Week were announced in the newspaper of a major city.  Among them were the elimination of strays from the street, and the education of the public of the “actual truth” about rabies.  We may have come a long way with the latter, but due to economic factors of late, we still have a ways to go with the first. 

It seems, dogs, like people, are born into different life paths.  Some have the good fortune of enjoying the benefits of a happy and safe home, a lifetime of love and care.  Others travel a harder path, their fortunes go up and down with life’s circumstances.  Some land on their feet, or paws, good fortune and timing coming to their rescue, others suffer quietly, living day by day, their future uncertain.

This week, the Westminster Dog Show will take place in New York City.  There, among a multitude of champions, one special canine will be deemed “top dog.”  On Saturday, my husband Rich, will be employed by the owner of a show dog, to transport local champ, DJ, his owner, and handler, to Madison Square Garden.  But first, DJ, an Old English sheepdog will be groomed, and then professionally trimmed, so that he will shine and shimmy as he competes with 19 others of his breed.  As his owner jokes, her dog has a one in twenty chance of winning.  If Dj wins, he will then move on to compete with the other dogs from the Herding Group.

In my heart of hearts, I believe that underneath all that puff and fluff, is a dog that drinks out of the toilet bowl, and brings home squirrel carcasses.  Hey, a dog is a dog, right?

Whatever you may think of the spectacle of the Westminster Dog Show, you cannot deny that it is fascinating.  Hooper, and I will watch it together (well I watch and Hooper usually falls asleep, drooling and snoring) and we will cheer for the Portuguese water dogs (and DJ of course).  These show dogs are spared no expense, and I know personally, to the humans involved, the art of showing dogs can bring purpose and pride to all involved, owner, handler, and groomer.  It really is quite an amazing industry.

But in these hard economic times, I think I will just skip the tallying up of the cost of my canine at this year’s end, and just concentrate on all the love she brings into our lives.  Like that commercial for a major credit card says, the rewards are well,  “priceless.” 

As my husband reports back to me from behind the scenes of Westminster, I will try to give a little insight on the intricacies of dog shows as seen from an outsider.  In the meantime, I’ll be having Hooper groomed, and then, when no one is looking, I’ll pretend I’m a handler, trotting her around the yard, and I’ll know that my dog is the real “Best in Show.”

Have you ever been to the Westminster show, or do you know anyone whose dog has made that journey?  If so, please feel free to share your experiences!