Carter’s First Visit to the Vet – It was a Real Snooze!

Last Friday we took Carter to his ‘healthy-puppy’ check-up.  This was our first visit to the vet, and Carter did great. He slept through most of the appointment and examination. His litter-mate and brother Bauer, slept through his appointment as well. Maybe it’s a family thing!

Carter having a nap at the Vet's.
Carter having a nap at the Vet’s.

At the end of our visit, Carter was declared a healthy and normal puppy.  He also gained 1.8 pounds in one week! Oh boy.

If you’re off to see the vet for the first time, here are some tips for your visit and signs that you have chosen a good vet!

1. How to choose a vet

I asked a bunch of friends for vet recommendations in our neighbourhood. I then went online and researched reviews to help make my final decision.

If there were too many negative reviews, or comments about the vet being pricey, then that clinic was an obvious no.

I also read doctors’ and staff bios, how long they have been in operation in the neighbourhood, and looked at their philosophy or approach to care and treatment. For example a website of one of the clinics I reviewed, stated that their approach is to neuter male pups at 6 months.  I don’t want to get into a debate about the pros and cons of what age to neuter, but when a clinic makes such a statement, it makes me wonder whether this vet is open to discussions, or is flexible enough to assess each dog (i.e. breed), case by case rather than making such a blanket statement.

2. First impressions count!

From making the first call to book an appointment, to when we arrived, we were greeted by friendly staff.  The clinic we chose was very clean and tidy too. It also didn’t hurt that staff gushed over Carter!

When it was time for our appointment, the doctor was kind and patient with us and with Carter who kept licking her stethascope. She answered all of our questions (see below), and we didn’t feel like we were rushed out the door.

3. Bring your list of questions

We had a lot of questions, from food quantity and supplements, to chewing and biting. These were just some of our questions:

  • Is it ok that he eats his food in record-time?  Yes, most puppies do.
  • He has the hiccups a lot. Again, normal for puppies.
  • He once ate his own poo! Gross. Also normal, but don’t encourage it.

4. Bring your pup’s paper-work and vaccination record

I brought Carter’s paperwork but forgot his vaccination record. No biggie since he was not due for his second round of ‘shots’ at this visit. Luckily, the paperwork I did bring had his microchip number, and when the technician used a wand-like device to scan him, she was able to verify his number. Who knew about microchips and scanner-thingy-wands until you own a dog!?

5. Foster a good and open relationship 

Communication is a two-way street. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Hopefully your vet will welcome this. As already noted, our first impression of our vet and her philosophy was positive. She wasn’t pushy, she provided lots of good information about what to expect now and down the road, and was supportive of us as new puppy parents.

Carter at the spa, I mean during his examination. Snooze.
Carter at the spa, I mean during his examination. Snooze.

Having said that, some friends have switched vets over the years. It’s ok to do so if the need arises. They tell me it’s easier to break up with your vet than with your hairstylist! Good to know.


How Much is that Doggy in the Window?

A classmate suggested that I write about the cost of owning a dog so that interested future dog owners can plan and perhaps budget for it.

I’d like to say that my family crunched numbers before we made the decision to get a dog, but we didn’t. We went into this with eyes-wide-shut!

I surveyed some of my dog-owner friends and asked about their monthly dog-related costs. The responses were hilarious and the costs, luckily, were not too scary. What I also discovered is that there isn’t a set, one-size fits all, monthly or yearly cost for a dog. There are many factors that come into play. The following is a generalization and quick run-down of numbers based on my friends’ personal doggy-spending habits:

Cost of Dog

This is a one-time (unless you decide on more than one dog) and obvious cost.  The cost will depend greatly on the size and age of your dog, and whether it’s a pure breed, a mix, or a rescue dog. Pure breeds tend to be the most expensive and can range from $1000-$2000 for a puppy. Adopting a rescue dog costs considerably less: $210 for a male and $240 for a female dog through the City of Toronto’s Animal Services. A smaller mixed puppy can cost around $800-900.

Photo by ANTPKR,
Photo by ANTPKR,

Food & Treats

Again, the cost of food and treats depend on the size and age of your dog, and the quality of food you choose for your dog. A German Shepard, like my pal Maverick eats about $150 worth of food a month. My medium-sized dog pals Jake and Martha, eat about  $70-$80 a month worth of food.

Vet visits

Again your vet costs will depend upon the health of your dog, and hopefully they don’t get sick.  A “healthy” vet visit will cost about $100. When you first get a pup you’ll have to visit the vet a few times for immunizations, but generally you don’t see your vet more than once or twice a year.

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Grooming and Spa Visits

If your dog needs grooming, it can cost about $70-100 a month to send your special furry friend to the doggy spa.  Some people buy nail clippers and brushes and try to do it themselves.  But some dogs need a professional’s touch and maybe even pampering!  Some dogs have hair rather than fur, so they do require haircuts.

Doggy Hair Salon for me please! (Photo by SOMMAI,
Doggy Hair Salon for me please! (Photo by SOMMAI,

Other monthly costs can include…

Doggy sitting – $30-50/day for family vacations that don’t include fido.

Toys & Chew Sticks/Bones – about $25-30 month.  It can be hard to resist a cute new toy when shopping for their dog food!

Yummy! (Photo by SOMMAI,
Yummy! (Photo by ANTPKR,

As you can see the costs can add up. But is it worth it? My friends gave a resounding and unequivocal YES.  This is how my (hilarious!) friend described Maverick, her adopted German Shepard, “he’s a like a Ferrari – good-looking on the outside, but requires a lot of maintenance.” He is an expensive dog, but he’s lucky that “he is the “George Clooney” of German Shepherds!” Bow-wow to that!Embed from Getty Images

Another friend also said that her little Jake “gets only the best! We skimp on the children.” I have actually heard that more than once about dogs vs kids! Hum, I wonder what will happen when Carter overtakes, I mean, becomes part of our family?

The list of these expenses don’t take into account the ‘start-up’ costs associated with owing a dog. My family got a little carried away when we made those purchases. More on that in my next post.

What’s in a Name? Why baseball of course!

When it comes to puppy love and finding a name for your pup, it’s not about love at all. It’s a battle to get your favourite name to come out on top! Just like trying to decide on a breed, choosing a name for our pup via consensus was filled with many passionate debates. Four people with a veto over one another’s names didn’t help the process. But that’s ok.  Naming your dog is one big and important decision.

Harry Styles

My little niece, who is afraid of anything furry that moves, offered her favourite name. She said she will like our dog if we named him Harry, as in Harry Styles from the boy-band One Direction. Well, Harry is cute I must admit. And so is the name. However, my boys didn’t wait a nanosecond to shoot that name out of the water.

The one thing my family agreed on was that the dog’s name had to be baseball-related. Both my boys play competitive baseball, and we spend much of our summer at baseball diamonds and travelling to many tournaments.

At the breeder’s 3 week-old pups visit, we chatted with other families about names. One couple had a name locked up, and chose a hockey-themed name. Their boy puppy will be called Bauer. Great name.

Another family we met was in the same boat as us; close to finalizing a name. This family looked to their favourite movie characters for inspiration. They threw out names like Bilbo, Frodo and other characters; then tried more standard names like Max and Cooper and finally landed on Reilly. But I’m told, they are not sure if it will stick.

One name that was often suggested to us was ‘Homer,’ which would be awesome if it didn’t remind me of Homer Simpson. Doh!  (No I’m not including a photo of Homer Simpson.)

Just like trying to find the perfect baby name, with meaning or a great story behind it, there are many websites to get you started. A quick google search, and ka-pow, you’ll find a whole lot of help: Names for Boy DogsMost Popular Dog Names 2014

The list of names we went through included: Jackie and Robinson after the first black person to play in the major leagues; Robbie for Toronto Blue Jays’ Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar, and Joey for Canadian-born Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds.

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Jackie Robinson
Embed from Getty Images
Roberto Alomar
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Joey Votto

In the end we decided on Carter as the name for our puppy. Carter, as in the Toronto Blue Jays’ Joe Carter, who hit THE  home run in dramatic fashion during game six of 1993 World Series. It was the bottom of the 9th, runners on first and second, Toronto was losing 6-5, and on a 2-2 pitch, Carter sent the ball over the left-field wall. With that home run, the Jays won their second consecutive World Series.

Maybe our very own Carter will bring good luck to my boys this summer. There’s nothing like hitting a home run, and nothing better than watching your kid hit one out. This summer I’ll have someone helping me cheer on my boys from the stands.  Can’t wait.

For all my 20-something classmates, here’s Carter’s home run in case you missed it the first time.

Breeds, Breeders and Panic. Oh my!

I have no idea why I’m on a Wizard of Oz theme for my post titles, but I am. For a soon-to-be new puppy owner, saying yes to a dog is a big decision. Recently, a friend told me how he compared his dog to his two-year old niece; both need a lot of care and attention. BUT unlike his dog, his two-year old niece will grow-up, become independent and eventually leave! In other words a dog = big commitment.

So what’s next? You have to decide on the right breed for your family and lifestyle. You would think this would be exciting and easy, but it wasn’t exactly easy when you throw kids and a husband into the decision-making mix. Of course there are many factors to consider when selecting a breed like size and temperament to name a few. My family’s requirements were simple but vastly diverse. I wanted a smallish, non-shedding, cute dog. They wanted a big ‘real’ dog (no toy poodles!) that can play catch, fetch and run. Hum, one of these things is not like the other.


The obvious place to start your research is to hit the Internet and that’s what my boys did. I choose to send out a bunch of “OMG what did I just say yes to?” panic emails asking friends for advice and suggestions.

If you start an online search, a great place to start is the Canadian Kennel Club. You’ll find lots of information about pure breeds, and listings of reputable breeders by province. The Internet can also show you what breeds may not be suitable for your family. For example, my younger son was lobbying hard for a Husky, until we watched a video on YouTube entitled Warning About Huskies. While huskies are beautiful and can be great family dogs, they are very strong-willed and require an experienced dog owner. And that’s not me.

My research approach was a little different, and less digital to start. After I received reassuring replies to my panic emails, I talked to many friends and asked a lot of questions.

First stop, life-long dog-owner and friend, Jen. We went for a walk in High Park with her sweet Martha, a Golden. (You can see where this is heading right?) During our walk, I pointed to every dog we came across. What dog is that? Tell me about that dog. And Jen always had an answer. But guess who stole the show? Yup, Martha the Golden Retriever. I didn’t even know she was a Golden Retriever because she’s not golden but white! Yes, I have a big learning curve people.

Shortly after our walk, while I continued to ask other friends about their dogs, I had Martha over to meet the rest of my family. She got 3 yeas, and a maybe. Majority rules! In addition to the Internet, your best bet when it comes to making a final decision is to talk to dog-owners. Go to a dog park and watch dogs play and talk to their owners. You will get a lot of good and practical advice, and probably fall in love too! With a dog, I mean. After spending about a month researching and some lively debates, we settled on the Golden Retriever and chose Martha’s breeder, Braefield Golden Retrievers.

Reputable Breeders

After conducting a non-scientific survey with my dog-owning friends, here is a list of what to consider when looking for a reputable breeder:

  • A reputable breeder will ‘interview’ potential owners because they care about where their puppies are going. These breeders do their job as a labour of love, and are not just in it for the money.
  • You too should meet and interview the breeder. A few friends visited 2-3 breeders before settling on one. If they are willing to answer all your questions and not rush you out the door, it’s a good sign. In our case, we had to first fill-out an online survey and then met with the breeder in person.
  • Be sure to also meet both the mother and father of the pups and get a sense of their temperament.
  • All my friends chose a breeder that had their puppies and dogs in a home environment. If the breeder uses kennels, visit the kennels to be sure they are clean, and the dogs are well tended to.
  • Find a breeder that is registered with the Canadian Kennel Club. This helps to ensure CKC breeding rules and regulations are followed. A good breeder can tell you the lineage of the pups, and guarantee against potential hip or eye issues for example.
  • And as tempting as it may be, DO NOT purchase a puppy or dog from Kijiji or similar sites. These pups or dogs may come from a puppy mill, and you have no way of knowing if your dog will develop health or behavioral issues. If you haven’t seen the “GoDaddy” controversial Superbowl commercial, you should take a look at how cruel it is to sell pups over the Internet. The commercial has since been pulled due to the outrage it created all over Twitter.

Rescue Dogs

You can also find the right dog by going to rescue shelters. Like reputable breeders, there will be an interview process, and a good shelter will get to know you and your family and find the best dog to match your lifestyle.

My friend Margaret’s beagle-husky mix, Babette, is a rescue dog from Toronto Animal Services. Babette was about four years old when she was adopted and is now a happy 8 year old!

Here are some of the ‘pros’ of choosing a rescue dog:

  • An unwanted dog is forever grateful for the home you have given them
  • Shelters provide ‘head to tail’ service, including neutering the dog if this hasn’t been done
  • Rescue dogs cost considerably less then going through a breeder

A drawback to a rescue dog is that you can never be sure of the dog’s background and whether there was any abuse that may affect their behaviour.

The Toronto Humane Society has a foster-parents program to help socialize dogs, or help them recover after a surgery before they are put up for adoption. That’s how my friend Deborah got her German Sheppard, Maverick. Initially her foster-parenting was supposed to be a two-week gig, but once Maverick started to improve and gain weight, Deborah and her husband couldn’t let him go and adopted him.

I promised photos… and here is the first! This is the gorgeous Maverick, also known as Maverick the Wonder Dog. Look at that happy face!

Maverick the Wonder Dog

In conclusion… 

So my family didn’t settle on the small, non-shedding dog I thought I wanted. But Goldens are really cute, and loyal and loving. I’m also told that they’re easy to train! Really, how hard can this be?