I am difficult to shock but shocked I was when a friend shared the good news that they are adding to their family. A healthy boy, currently called "mid-shoulder" is joining them, starting cost $5200.
Well versed in the costs of falling pregnant and the ensuing years of funding said small human, I was flabbergasted to discover the cost of a labrador puppy. I had to be hearing it wrong. That much? For a dog? For a creature that despite it being loyal, cute and not answering back was never going to wipe its own bum or prepare its own snack?
I was stunned.
Our childhood cats were all from the vet clinic or found in the hay barn. A quick search for "most expensive dog breeds" came up with names I had heard of: saint bernard, english bulldog, portuguese water dog, french bulldog, rottweiler and chow chow, at prices I had most definitely not heard of. From $1500 and running easily into five figures. And that was US dollars.
So, are dogs the new status symbol?
Status symbols have always been easy to spot; a fancy European car, holiday home, big boat or big jewellery. Then they started getting a little subtler. People in the know would recognise the value of a Hermes Birkin hanging off a forearm, although now every Bravo star with one season under their belt has multiples in their wardrobes and they have lost some of their appeal.
But the dog. Now I am aware, all I see are dogs and all I see are dollar signs. Whiffing of unspoken wealth, is the dog a sign of a healthy bank account wrapped up in a fluffy, cheerful package who will give unconditional love, and everyone will overlook the cost to run this thing because it's super cute?
I don't have a firm opinion on intentionally designed dogs or adopt vs shop. In the aforementioned friend's case, they wanted and needed a dog that was very child friendly and the reassurance that came from taking the ownership route via a respected breeder was the right move for them.
But almost blinded by getting their first family pet, they brushed aside their personal security by emailing video walk-throughs of the house, pictures of the children and the contents of their home to the breeder. It was that or no dog. Sometimes adopt works. Sometimes shop works.
The new owner of a chow not only parted with a significant change to procure him, but there was a protracted year-long negotiation with his breeder that all had to be conducted via Google translate from English to Russian. Walking on eggshells for an entire year in case they royally p***ed the breeder off, courting her and proving their worthiness, a representative flew from Russia to Southern France to deliver the pooch.
My friend made great pains to tell me the costs incurred for procurement are usually only the start. His last two dogs, living into their sunset years, had medical bills in the six-figure range for cancer treatment in their old age. I can only hope that comprehensive pet insurance covered those, but I'm too scared to ask him.
New Zealand may be operating at normal social levels, but 2020 changed the way we live globally. Great for mental health and with millions of people spending more time at home, dogs are hot property.
With less commuting along a crawling motorway in a fancy car and little to no chance of first-class travel for the time being, perhaps dogs are going to come to the fore as the future wealth marker.