Food For Thought

How Much Is Your Pet Worth?

by John E. Bonfadini, Ed.D.,
Contributing Columnist
Professor Emeritus, George Mason University

John E. Bonfadini
John E. Bonfadini

Georgia Finds a Home

I saw her for the first time on a cool November morning as I was leaving for work. She was lying under the holly bush in front of our home. I initially thought she was a squirrel, but a closer look revealed the animal was a black-and-brown Burmese cat. My neighbor Pat has always had several cats, so I assumed this was just a new addition. When I got home that evening after teaching my classes, the cat was still there. I took a closer look and noticed she had a collar with a Georgia rabies tag. I went inside and informed my wife that a stray cat had taken up residence under the holly bush. My wifeís response was, ďDonít you bring that cat in the house, and you know I donít like cats.Ē I decided the judicious action would be to provide the cat with some food while I tried to find the owner. The cat had been spayed and was in excellent condition. I called the local radio station, purchased a newspaper listing and posted signs, but no one responded.

Several days passed and the weather turned cold. I just couldnít let the cat stay outside in that weather, so I decided to bring her into the house. My wife reluctantly agreed to let her stay in the basement until we could find the owner or take her to the animal shelter. Sniffles, our Pomeranian-Chihuahua mix, didnít give her a warm reception and quickly chased her up the curtain. I retrieved her from the top of the curtain and placed her in the basement. After a short time we began calling her Georgia, the initial step in an adoption process. And yes, it happened. One night several weeks after the cat had been admitted into the basement, I came home to find Georgia asleep right next to my wife on the couch. The friendship had begun and it lasted for over a decade. How quickly she had moved from the basement to a prominent place at the foot of the bed. Even Sniffles learned to accept her as a member of the household. Sniffles saw Georgia come and go, as Sniffles lived to be 21 years old. We could write a book on the effect Sniffles had on the Bonfadini family, and Iím sure many of you could write your own books on how pets have contributed to your quality of life.

I love bird hunting and Iíve had several Irish setter hunting dogs ó Scarlet, Scarvor, and Beau. Fiver was an English setter that a friend and I purchased from veterinarian Richard Goode for $75, thus his name. There was Cotton, a mixed breed that I found in front of the local Giant store. Cotton followed an adoption process similar to Georgiaís. Our last pet, Molly, a springer spaniel, became my wifeís protector for over a decade. We now have an empty nest; all the kids and animals are gone, except for when they visit. Starlet, my sonís Irish setter, makes frequent visits, supplying us with needed interaction with the animal world and, occasionally, reminding us why we have been reluctant to obtain another furry companion.

They Can Cost Us Big Money!

Pets, especially dogs and cats, are very important in many peopleís lives. Why are people willing to spend unreasonable amounts to keep their pets healthy? People purchase health insurance for pets when a large segment of our human population doesnít have health insurance. In an act of road rage, a driver threw another personís dog into oncoming highway traffic. Thousands of dollars were contributed to a fund for apprehending the offender. Many abused children donít receive that degree of attention. We spent over $3,000 dollars this year to replace carpet stained by our pets. Thomas Edison, the great inventor, purchased stray dogs for 25 cents apiece so they could be electrocuted in an experiment to prove that DC current was less lethal than AC current. I canít imagine this happening in todayís world, but animals are still used in many medical research experiments, which sparks continual controversy.

How much would you spend to keep your pet healthy or alive? Mr. Ted was a big white cat owned by a friend of mine. He weighed 24 pounds and was the proverbial gentle giant. He too was found under the bushes on a snowy day and eventually found his way into the master bedroom. He consumed five cans of food and then ate the paper plate for an initial meal. Mr. Ted was big in every way except his urethra. The small opening led to an initial surgery to remove stones at a cost of $1,500. That surgery was followed by another major, more expensive, urethra operation at the age of 11 done by a cat specialist. The doctor told the owner to lock Mr. Ted in the closet and feed him only green beans. Of course that didnít work, Mr. Ted just opened the cabinets and helped himself. Mr. Ted seemed to have this knack for getting blocked on all major holidays when he had to be taken to the pet emergency room. He lived to be 18 years old and had medical bills totaling over $10,000. But listening to his owners talk about Mr. Ted, you could tell they felt he was worth every penny of it.

Save His DNA?

During a discussion of this article with Cooperative Living graphic designer Becky Potter, she told me that she loved her dog so much she had his DNA preserved. The company that did the procedure is called ďGenetic Savings and Clone.Ē Move over Ted Williams. I havenít gone that far, but our petsí pictures are expensively framed and hang in prominent places in our home. Reader contributions to the Say Cheese section of Cooperative Living magazine say volumes about the value animals have to many of you. We are never in need of pictures to complete this section of the magazine. Want a commercial to be a hit? Include an animal.

Maybe we could all learn a lesson from our pets. They seem to understand the key point of Abe Lincolnís quote, ďIf you look for the bad in man you can surely find it.Ē Most pets only see the ownerís good points and thatís why they love us so much and we in turn love them. In many cases we exhibit a love thatís beyond logical reasoning.


Whatís Your View?

Obviously, there are at least two sides to every issue. Do you have a different view? This column is meant to provoke thought, so keep sending comments. Each one is read with the utmost interest. Send e-mail to:, or send written responses to the editor.  Mail will be forwarded to the author.




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