Welcome to Money Talks, a series in which we interview people about their relationships with money, their relationships with each other, and how those relationships inform one another.
Megan and Logan Wolf, both 34, have been married for 11 years and live in the Bay Area with their two children — and four dogs. Logan works in law enforcement and Megan stays at home to manage the household. Logan lovingly says the two of them juggling it all is like “managing a small business.”
When they moved from the Bay Area to Tucson, Arizona, in 2010, their household started to grow quickly. At the time, Megan worked for an animal rescue and would sometimes take her work home. Before they knew it, foster dogs that were only meant to stay in their home temporarily became permanent residents.
The costs grew just as quickly as their pack, and when the pair moved to more expensive cities (first Washington, DC, and then back to the Bay Area), they were suddenly paying thousands of dollars a month to manage, at that point, six dogs — a ragtag pack that included labs, pit bulls, Shar-Peis and hound-dog mutts.
And even though the expenses — vet visits, food, supplements, and toys — have added up over the years (they’ve even lost security deposits on apartments), neither Megan nor Logan could have anticipated the tough decision they’d have to make when one of their dogs suffered an emergency vet visit. Both of them say they would never compromise a dog’s health, but how do you decide if and when a dog’s illnesses are worth the emotional and monetary costs? As their story proves, the choice is never easy.
The following conversation is lightly condensed and edited for clarity.
Megan: Both of us grew up having dogs. We adopted our first dog, Crash, when we got engaged. I had been begging for months and months, “Please, I want to adopt a dog.” And he was like, “No, we really can’t afford it.” We were living on Top Ramen.
Logan: My stepdad was a finance manager and a CFO in health care, so everything comes down to money. And he basically said, “Just take $10,000 and throw it off a bridge. That’s what a dog is going to cost you.”
Megan: I wish that’s all a dog cost at this point. I had just turned 21 when we adopted Crash — she’s 13 years old now — and we adopted her when she was maybe seven weeks old from a rescue down in San Jose, where we were living at the time, and soon after we adopted one of our other dogs, Nicki. Then we moved to Tucson, where we started finding stray dogs. They’re rampant down there; there’s even an area on the south side of town called the Dogpatch where people will dump their dogs because they don’t want to pay the shelter intake fee.
Logan: Everything is compounded when you have multiple dogs. One dog, you buy a $60 bag of food; you register one dog with the county and that’s $20. And then you take your dog to the vet for a checkup and that’s $50. You multiply that with multiple dogs and now you’re starting to add up expenses a lot quicker.
Megan: With six dogs, we went through one bag of food a week. So that’s about $60, so close to $250 in dog food a month.
And then you’ve probably got another $100 in vitamins and supplements. And then medicine. One dog had valley fever and he was on [antifungal] itraconazole for his entire seven years with us. He passed away last year. And that was probably another $200 in medication every month.
When we were in Arizona working with the rescue, we had access to a low-cost rescue vet and access to lower-cost food that was high quality, so it wasn’t bad. But when we were in Washington, DC, and then living here in the Bay Area, we weren’t with the rescue group anymore. Food was definitely the most expensive cost, outside of the vet bills.
Logan: The tension came up when [we were in Arizona and] there were rescue dogs that were coming back to our house that I was told a dog would only be staying for a week at a time, and then the dog never left. And that happened three times.
Megan: Luna’s sitting right here, she can hear you. She’s offended.
Logan: It’s just trying to find a balance between, “The dog came home, and the dog’s supposed to leave, but didn’t,” and, “Where else is this dog going to go now that it has been taken out of the shelter?” We still have those conversations.
Megan: So our two youngest dogs, Posey and Luna, have always had issues with one another. We’ve gone through multiple bouts of training, both in Arizona and up here. But back in August, they got into it, and we separated them right away. It should not have been a big deal because it was just a kerfuffle that has happened many times in our house, but Posey was bleeding.
So we called our vet. We go to a vet that’s probably about an hour away in traffic because it is the lowest-cost vet that we found here, and they had no availability that day, so we ended up going to a vet that’s a family friend.
Then the next day, she was getting really sick. By the next morning, her limbs were cold, she was not getting up at all, and we ended up having to rush her to the emergency vet. She was basically so sick by the time we got her there that her organs were shutting down. She was dying.
And that’s when they started bringing the bills to us saying, “Listen, to get her through to Wednesday ...” What were they quoting us? Fifteen grand to get through from Saturday to Wednesday.
We didn’t really know what to do. We went to one of our really close friends who’s very big in animal rescue and has a huge following on Instagram and social media. And she was like, “Well, you guys have done a lot over the years for the rescue community. I want to post a fundraiser for you guys.” And I was of the mindset, “I don’t know who’s going to donate to us. My husband has a good job, we live in the Bay Area. It’s a very expensive place to live. We travel.” I wouldn’t say that we’re well off, but we live a good life. [Their household income at that time was around $120,000.] But not to the extent that we have $15,000 to $20,000 to try to save one of our animals.
We had a little in savings, and we would have had to eat through it to try to save her. But in my mind, she was only a 7-year-old dog. She was completely healthy otherwise. With this, I felt like, “This was a complete freak accident that should not have happened. We need to try to do what we can to save her if she’s fighting.” And it felt like she was fighting.
So they posted the fundraiser for us. I think by the end of everything, people had donated almost $4,000, which was really, really incredible. We had a lot of conversations between Logan, myself, and some of my other friends in rescue that have multiple dogs where we asked, “At what point is the cost [to keep a dog alive] too much, especially when you have two young children?”
That was hard for me, because I was looking at Logan going, “Okay. If I need to find a part-time job on the weekends where you can watch the kids when you’re home and I’ll go and work on the weekends to pay off this vet bill, I’ll do it. I’ll do whatever I need to do to save my dog.” And I think everyone else was trying to counsel me otherwise. Like, “That’s not realistic. You’re thinking emotionally, you’re thinking with your heart.” Your dogs are like your kids. You love them. So it doesn’t come from a rational place for me, and I know that’s where Logan differs.
Logan: For me, the conversation out of the gate was just like, “The dog needs to be fixed, but I also am not looking to spend a bunch of money. And at some point here, we’ve got to throw in the towel.” But that’s not my decision either.
As my stepdad has said — Megan’s not going to want to hear this — but he said, “It’s cheaper to fix the dog than it is to fix your wife.” What he meant by that is like, the emotional impact that this will have to put down the dog is going to be greater on your partner than it’s going to be on your wallet, and money is going to come.
Money’s not everything. It does matter, but at the same time, you need to look out for the mental health of your partner and to some degree deal with the financial implications later.
Megan: It was the worst-case scenario where something that should have been a very small vet bill turned into an absolute nightmare, and we lost Posey.
It’s hard to not feel responsible. Because had I been 100 percent aware, I would have made sure that they weren’t in the backyard together. It sort of feels like I don’t deserve the responsibility of having another dog under my care. I really feel like I failed her on that one, so I’m sure that’s something that I’ll have to work past.
Our three oldest dogs are 13, 12, and 11. So I know that within the next couple of years, we’ll be down to just one. Which will be strange — and sadly, it’s also a little bit of a relief. I love them immensely, but I think having six is too much.
When you’re thinking about compromises — monetary compromises and lifestyle compromises — the experience of having so many dogs for the six or seven years, there were a lot of really wonderful moments and a lot of really good memories. But I don’t think that it’s something that I would ever replicate again.
Our daughter is 3, and every time we go to Arizona, we go to the shelter down there. We went on Christmas and we handed out treats, and every time we go, she completely understands that these cats and these dogs and these animals need homes. And to her, growing up with six dogs is normal. She doesn’t understand the concept of other people not living with packs of dogs. Like, “What do you mean you don’t have six dogs in your bed at the end of the night?” She helps feed them, she helps walk them. She goes out with us.
We may have decided that we’re not going to have more dogs for a while, but I don’t know what our daughter is going to decide.
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