Today’s article is a little unique. It’s three articles in one:
- An obituary for my dog, Jake, who we euthanized in late March
It’s extraordinarily difficult to write a dog obituary in a way that strangers will connect with. I’ve read a few online. I’ve included a link to one of my favorites at the end of this article. This isn’t the space for dog obituaries. I’m not ready to write one, and I don’t think it would be good anyway.
- A belated April Fools joke
I love April Fools! I usually have an idea of what I’m going to write about a month or so in advance. It snuck up on me this year. I wasn’t in the mood to write anything that was humorous at all. I’m still not there. However, this article can be seen as a little tongue-in-cheek. Don’t take the premise too seriously. At the same time, don’t dismiss it completely.
- A personal finance article
I write personal finance articles. Hopefully, the title was a hint that I’d try to stay on topic.
Let’s get started.
The Million Dollar Dog?
The Start of the Dog Business
More than fourteen years ago, I wrote an article exploring how much a dog costs. I had the wrong mindset back then. Instead, I should have asked the question, “How much money can a dog make you?”
When we got our dog back in 2009, I couldn’t have imagined that it would lead to a dog boarding career. It started as a tiny side hustle in 2015, earning about $1000 a month on average. All the pieces fit together to be a Rover.com host. I work from home. We have a nice fenced-in yard. My dog would love to have a friend come for a play date, so why not get paid for it?
I think most people will take an extra grand a month, but it certainly isn’t something that qualifies as a career. All that changed with COVID. With travel being shut down, we earned almost zero dollars for a full year. We were paying for a private school, and I was out of around $15,000 in annual income. In the meantime, I was teaching my six and 7-year-olds how to read and do basic math. My wife helped a lot, but she was working on the policy for the pandemic, so her time was more limited than mine was.
Everything changed when vaccines came out. Many people got dogs during the pandemic, and they wanted to catch up on travel. Suddenly, I was making $3,000 a month… then $4,000. I was getting so busy that I raised prices to try to get less business. I make a little more than $5,000 a month on average – over $60,000 a year. Some months are busy with school vacations or summer travel. We travel ourselves sometimes, and I can’t board dogs then.
Of course, this business would not have been possible if I didn’t have experience with my own dog. It also wouldn’t have been possible if we didn’t fence in our yard for him to do his business. Jake loved being outside. Many days, he would only come back in to bark at me to tell me it was time for a walk. Whenever I got the leash, he’d hump my leg like crazy. Some people might have discouraged that behavior, but I thought it was great how freely he expressed his love. Most people don’t experience that level of happiness once a week. I loved seeing it from him a couple of times a day.
The Total Dog Boarding Numbers
Overall, I’ve made a little more than $175,000 boarding dogs. That seems low to me because I’ve been on that $60,000/yr pace now for a couple of years. That shows you that the first five years were slower, $12,000 years.
I don’t know if I’ll keep up this pace of dog boarding for the long term. I’m thinking maybe five or six more years, and maybe I’ll cut down. I can get help from the kids until then, but they’ll probably be off with friends, and maybe I’ll slow down as I get into my early 50s. If I continue another five and a half years at this rate, it will be around another $325,000. That would take me to a half million dollars in lifetime dog boarding earnings.
We’re halfway to Jake’s influence being a million dollars. There are a few ways to bridge this gap to get to the other half million:
- Wife Joins in Dog Walking
My wife is going to retire one of these days. She seems to push it out one more year. However, she came up with the idea of dog walking when she retires. I don’t go around and walk dogs because we have them come to our house, where I get some blogging done. She likes the idea of getting some exercise. Fortunately, she wouldn’t have to build the business from the ground up. I would just add it to the list of services I do, and she’d get clients fairly quickly.
- Kids Join in with Biscuit Business
My 10-year-old is really into cooking and loves the idea of starting a dog biscuit company. We should hopefully get this started this summer. My 9-year-old is interested in cooking too. They don’t work well together, but I’ve got an idea of how they could make competing brands.
We’ll fine-tune our recipes with all the dogs we are boarding.
- Personal Finance Math
Whenever a money projection doesn’t seem to work, we can always use what I call “personal finance math.” (This is the tongue-in-check, April Fool’s inspired part of the article.)
Personal finance math is an easy way to make half a million dollars into a million dollars. Instead of using that money for housing repairs and such, I say, “Let’s invest that half million dollars.” If we use the rule of 72, we know it will double in about ten years if I earn 7% interest. By my early 60s, we’d hit that million-dollar mark.
Finally, I should mention that even if I slow down in five and a half years, it wouldn’t be a stretch to make $30,000 a year for the ten years after that. In the end, it may be a mix and match of all the above that makes the decision to get a dog back in 2009 worth a million dollars.
Jake’s Other Jobs
But wait, there’s more!
Every year around Mother’s Day, Salary.com puts out a “value” on the jobs that mothers do around the house. The list includes things like event planner, executive housekeeper, and staff nurse. They add up all these jobs and determine that a mother’s job value is $178,000 as of 2019.
You can do a similar thing with dogs. Jake didn’t just inspire a dog boarding business. Much like a mother, Jake performed a few other jobs around the house.
- Personal Trainer
I took a look at my Fitbit lifetime stats the other day. I’ve been using one since 2012, and I’ve covered 35 million steps and a distance of 16,000 miles. I estimate that Jake got me up and walking for half of them. He was getting me walking before Fitbit was around, so his numbers are probably closer to 10,000 miles. I found an article online that says that dog owners walk an average of 24,000 miles during a dog’s average 13-year life. Maybe my estimate of 10,000 is too low.
In any event, it’s hard to dismiss the health benefits of moving around. More and more research is showing that a sedentary lifestyle of sitting at a desk typing all day is not good for you.
Fortunately, Jake reminded me of this a few times a day when he thought it was time for walks.
As I mentioned above, a few times a day, Jake forced me to get some exercise and fresh air/vitamin D. In study after study, those two things have been shown to help with a number of mental health issues.
However, you’ve probably seen the bumper sticker of a paw that says, “Who rescued who?” The fact that there are so many sold shows that it resonates with a lot of people. Even the American Heart Association recognizes how pets can help with mental health.
Dogs are great at keeping mice and snakes away.
Jake had a strong instinct to get any other animals. He never caught the squirrels he chased, but one time while we were on a walk, he did get a woodchuck. I gave him a couple of tugs on the leash, and he let him go unharmed.
I’m probably missing a few jobs that dogs can do. Obviously, some are guide dogs or licensed therapy dogs. Jake wasn’t either one of those, so we can’t use those to bridge the gap to a million-dollar dog. Still, the cost of a live-in personal trainer and a therapist is very high. Over 14 years, that adds up to a lot of money.
Was Jake a Million Dollar Dog?
Value is the eye of the beholder. I say yes, but I’m sure that many of you could make a strong counterargument. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Looking for that dog obituary? It’s One final toss for The Dooze.