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Doggie Dilemma


This summer we must travel. Okay, not must, but we are. The kids each have camps to go to and three of the four are going to camps out of state. Two of these out of state camps are in May.

The costs for this travel in nominal, we stay with friends/family, they provide most of our meals and what is not provided, we are still able to stay pretty close to our regular grocery budget by taking food and eating cheaply. The only hit we really take is gas.

HOWEVER, this year I have a major problem – Dog Care! The last three years, we have had a fabulous friend (also drum teacher) who watched our house and animals for nothing or next to nothing. This year, we don’t have that AND we have one more dog than we’ve had in the past.

In preparation for this, I’ve placed an ad at our church community board and put our feelers with our friends. So far, I’m looking at $40 per day. Ugh! And no way! That’s $560 for the first trip that we are going to be gone and there are more coming through the summer.

I’m planning this far in advance as I have to find something that works…and I can afford without feeling sick to my stomach. Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

I’m starting to look at a neighborhood girl who put our a flyer, taking the dogs with us (really not feasible,) getting rid of a dog (yes, I’ll give some detail on that,) and bartering a room in our home for the summer in exchange for pet care.

I’m open to any and all tips and suggestions….even desperate for them!


  • Reply Chicky |

    DogVacay.com may give you options for your area (as well as ratings on those sitters). Or, you could check Craigslist (under Services).

  • Reply Theresa |

    Have you checked with your vets office! They might have a tech or intern who is looking for a summer place.

    • Reply Hope |

      Hi Theresa,
      I actually placed an ad on our church community board offering a room for the summer in exchange…figuring my youngest could just room with me. But I think living in a house with all the kids and animals is a little off-putting to most…completely understandable.

  • Reply Sandra G |

    Try swapping dog sitting with someone else who is also going to need someone this summer.

    • Reply DC - Kate |

      Yes, try for a swap! Do you have a neighborhood listserve? Post on it and see if there is another family in the same situation. It could be a win-win.

    • Reply Hope |

      Hi Sandra,
      We do have a neighbor I’ve done that with and will continue for short times (like long weekends;) unfortunately, this year due to the distance of 2 of our trips we have to leave them quite a bit longer so I’ve definitely got to have someone committed to it.
      (One of the dogs is still puppy-ish and I can’t tolerate the idea of her having to be crated more than necessary.)

  • Reply Mary |

    Cute dog! Is there an elderly person in your area that might like a dog or some companionship for a few weeks? That way, they get the benefit but not the long term care for one and they can make some money to boot! I know a lot of seniors that would love to supplement their income, even if only for a short time. It’s a win for them too since they like the companionship but can’t commit to having a dog all the time. Good luck!

    • Reply Hope |

      Hi Mary,

      I hadn’t thought of that, and will definitely keep it in mind. Thanks for the suggestions.

  • Reply SammieK |

    Hello, after reading through all of your posts I just wanted to say what a lovely person you must be to foster children and adopt. Debt can be paid off, but giving two kids a safe loving permanent home = priceless 🙂

    • Reply Hope |

      Hi SammieK,
      I came to the same conclusion when faced with the decision to adopt a little over a year ago now. My kids are definitely priceless!

  • Reply Lynn |

    OK, I know this is not an answer to your question but it is he BIG elephant in the room. Why are you sending the kids to camp when you want to get out of debt and buy a home? You say it is only going to cost you gas but you have a large gas eating car and with gas nearing $4 per gallon, that is not a small expense.

    Secondly do you think that your relatives are looking forward to feeding an extra five people on their dime since you say they are providing most of your meals? When I visit family I feed them in gratitude for their hospitality. This smacks of major league mooching to me.

    Lastly now you are looking at pet sitting costs that if you do not find alternative caregivers could cost over $2k.

    Are you planning to amend your lifestyle in any meaningful way to achieve your debt reduction goal? Giving up diet coke is great but what would the savings be if you said “kids, we can’t afford camp this year”? I am gob smacked by this post. I will say again, you have got to get serious.

    • Reply Hope |

      Hi Lynn,
      Unfortunately, just seeing tiny pieces of my life I can see how you would get that impression. So I’ll just respond to the larger issues I think you brought up:
      1. With the adoption of the twins, one of the benefits I was able to maintain was summer camp is paid for for them…most likely this will be their last year attending since 1) they will age out of the camp I’ve had them going to since placed here and 2) next year they will be able to get ‘real’ jobs. (They have been applying this year as they did last, but steady jobs for 15 year old are few and far between.)
      2. One of the twins is heavily involved and committed to the Navy Sea Cadets. By sending him to camps (most all out of state,) he is able to rank up every 6 months and if he chooses to join the Navy when he graduates (3 years from now,) can maintain his rank thus a HUGE benefit to him at that point.
      3. My youngest is a competitive gymnast, going on his 3rd year now, and I barter for his training. Last year, he decided he wanted to attend a gymnast training camp that was WAY expensive. So we made a deal, his dad and I would each save $25 per month toward the cost of the camp if he trained without complaint, always did his best and earned all his own spending money. So for 12 months, I have saved $25 (in my budget as kids activities) towards the camp as has his dad. Yes, it is coming out of my pocket, but with his training (12 hours a week in the gym,) I feel he has earned it.
      4. My younger two receive “experience” presents for their b-day/Christmas from my family (4 siblings and 1 set of grandparents) as well as help from their dad on any camps they want to attend.
      Ok, I can go on and on, but I think you see the point. These are not frivolous camps that I just spend money on, they are all earned or paid for elsewhere.

      My dilemma is my dogs, which is why I have started looking for alternatives 3 months early.

      The gas is higher, you are right, but this is one of those things that I have to weigh the long term benefits with the minimal travel cost.

      And as for us being “moochers,” that is far from the case. I ALWAYS bring food, we cook food, we do labor and assist where we can, and our grocery budget is spent. The tradition in our family is that the hosts provide the food as those traveling must pay for the cost of travel, etc. It’s how it’s been done for as long as I remember….gifts of grocery gift cards are always turned away.

      Being from a big family and now having a big family, I am extremely sensitive to not only the cost of hosting us but the work and try to minimize it as much as possible. My kids have been traveling cross country their entire lives and are very clear on this.

  • Reply Barbara |

    I’m not sure what Hope’s situation is like, but I do know that one of my adopted children receives a subsidy from the state and that all three receive child support from my ex-husband. In my opinion, those funds are meant to support their physical, educational, medical, and social needs and are not meant to pay for any debt I have incurred. Additionally, there are often special free/low cost camps or scholarships for children who were adopted.

    As for “major league mooching”, what a harsh thing to say! I frequently have out of town guests and fully expect to feed them when they visit. That’s just what our family and friends do. Hope also mentioned that she brings food and expects to spend her regular grocery budget.

    Hope, I agree with attempting to swap. You might also consider putting an ad on craigslist. Just screen your people very well. I used to work for an animal shelter and I would occasionally care for people’s animals. For my animals, I had a twelve year old who was thrilled to make some money. Her p parents were friends of mine and did s pot check her work.

    • Reply Hope |

      Thanks, Barbara, you are right. I receive a monthly subsidy to help care for the twins and I also receive summer camp money for them so that expense is paid for them. (Read my book of a comment above for more details.)

      Our dogs are rescues, I hadn’t thought of calling the shelter to see if they know of anyone, but will definitely check on that.

      Thanks for the suggestion.

    • Reply KLM |

      For real, mooching? When friends and family stay with us, we feed them, and we don’t call them mooches. They may take us out to eat as thanks, but otherwise, we are their hosts, and we treat them as guests.

  • Reply Meghan |

    I have the same issue! I already pay for a dog walker 5 days a week. Her nightly rates are $60 for weekdays and $80 a night for weekend nights! One possibility is http://www.rover.com

  • Reply Kerry |

    I’d keep pushing the Craigslist angle–you want to reach a lot of people, but then be very choosy about who you take on. No colleges nearby that might have a responsible poor student looking for a place to stay for the summer? How about a hospital (interns or residents doing a rotation might be willing to take you up on a room)? You say you live in a tourist area, so I’m thinking there has to be a pool of young people who might need a place to stay who can’t afford to rent a room.

    My sister has sent her dog a couple of times to a local farm that does animal boarding on the side–$30/day plus $1 for every chicken your dog kills. They were very nice when Harley lead a breakout and went 2 miles up the road on walkabout.

    • Reply Hope |

      I actually think I’ve found the solution – a student teacher at our local middle school. He still lives at home with his parents so looks like he will be willing to do it for very little $$. Just has to get over his fear of dogs 🙂 Keep your fingers crossed this works out because it could be a win/win for us and him!

      • Reply Ashley |

        Fingers crossed for you!!! Sounds like a great situation for both of you!

  • Reply debtor |

    I would suggest getting rid of one dog. I’m not a huge pet person so my comment is influenced by that – but i think they cost too much in general (feeding/vet/doggy stuff) since you’re in debt reduction mode.

    I’d even say get rid of both of them but I’m guessing you all have a big bond with them. It’s hard, you definitely are going to have to make some hard sacrifices that are more than just an inconvenience but actual loss.

    Anyway, since I think it’s easier said than done, I too would put up an ad in craigslist. I think you live in a town that’s relatively small (might be wrong, didn’t re-read your earlier posts) so you might have an idea of the people responding…just start early so you can screen them out – CL can have weirdo’s and lots of flakes so you want to have time to screen them.

    Also, look outside your immediate area. When I lived in MA, there was a place about 45mins to an hour outside my town that would board animals on this huge farm. They had space to run and mixed with other dogs. It was fairly cheap at the time. Something similar might be around you.

    • Reply Hope |

      Believe me, when dog #2 showed up last fall (out of a dumpster no less,) the plan was to get her healthy and checked out and then send her on her way. The vet said she was just about 10 weeks and she was severely bruised and beaten and dehydrated. Needless to say, while nurturing her back to health, we all fell in love.

      While I am practical by nature and would agree with getting rid, the calm the dogs can bring to some of my high strung kiddos who come into the house, especially since both are complete cuddlers is worth the cost at this point. We do the very basic, legally required shots yearly and buy their food at Sams so it costs us about $30 per month to feed them (come out of our grocery budget,) and the yearly vet visit is about $60.

      The comfort and companionship they bring to us all is PRICELESS at this point…not to mention a pretty cheap security system as they are both barkers when someone gets near our yard. I like this especially with the kids outside so much.

    • Reply Christi |

      Getting rid of one? For most people with pets that is unheard of (and a very irresponsible attitude as well). There are many benefits to having pets for children’s health and mental well-being as well. Keep checking, often vet techs are willing to house/dog sit for a nominal fee.

  • Reply Angella |

    My parents run into this problem every time they want to travel, they own 7 dogs. Last year they looked into Care.com and I must say, it worked out great! They found a lady who took care of the animals for a flat rate per week ($200). My sister recently put an ad on there as well, and she found someone to watch her dogs and cats for $10/day for 7 days next month. That website also does background checks on people. Worth looking into!

    I would not simply get rid of an animal due to traveling and such. :/

    • Reply Angella |

      And the mooching comment is harsh!! When we travel out of state to visit friends and families, they always insist on feeding us, even paying when we eat out (although we don’t always let them.) We do the same when they visit us!

So, what do you think ?