Woody: Mutts too doggone expensive
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BY LARRY WOODY

How much is that doggie in the window?

About $700 per pooch, according to a recent survey!

The survey was done in conjunction with National Dog Day. (Motto: every dog has its day.)

The canine census found approximately 78 million dogs in the U.S., and discovered that, as an interesting side-note, 77 million of them use my lawn as their personal puppy potty at least once a day.

It also found the average dog owner spends $269 a year on food, $235 on vets, and $108 on treats and toys.

That's for your average, run-of-the mill dog. The price goes up when you figure in the hoity-toity hounds. Some of them have their personal trainer, groomer and walker -- just like Queen Elizabeth.

When their owners travel, they can opt for "dog-friendly" lodging in which the private pooch-suite comes with Alpo served on a crystal dining set, or they can put Fido up at a bowser boarding house. Some of the latter are spiffy and include valet and room service; others are total flea-bags.

At our house we are currently between dogs, our faithful old lab Buddy having gone to that big Kennel in the Sky last fall. Ever since I was a kid I've always owned a dog -- or vice-versa -- so after a respectful interval we'll probably ask Santa for a Christmas puppy.

But I know one thing: our new dog won't be one of those pampered pooches that drove up the price-per-pooch in the survey. If Buddy had still been around when it was taken, he would have lowered the cost curve considerably.

Take the expense of dog food, for example. Buddy's tab came to just a few bucks a month, which is what we paid for a giant bag of dry dog food the size of a hay bale. Buddy wasn't a picky eater; he would chomp down whatever brand we dumped in his food dish.

That is, when he hadn't already filled up on table scraps. He loved leftovers, and would eat whatever we ate. In fact, during his 15 years of dining, I don't recall anything he WOULDN'T eat, including coffee grounds, banana peels and a cloth place-mat that had a gravy stain.

Buddy's doctor bills didn't amount to much either. We'd take him to the vet for an annual rabies and distemper shot, and everything else, like worm pills, was cheap, off-the-shelf stuff. Neither Buddy nor the worms seemed to know the difference.

We didn't have to worry about him being injured in an accident -- all he did was lie around snoozing. His idea of exercise was strolling over to his food dish.

Buddy didn't have a personal groomer. In fact, he made it 15 years without once being groomed. We soaped him up and hosed him down now and then, and that was about it in the grooming department.

Bath-time generally came during the heat of summer when one of the kids would sniff the air, wrinkle their nose, and announce Buddy needed some "grooming." (We applied the same hygienic standard to my Grandpa.)

The owners of some of today's pricy pooches could learn a fiscal lesson from Buddy: it's possible to have a perfectly healthy, happy dog without costing an arm and a paw.

Take it from our low-maintenance mutt.

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