How Much Would You Spend on Your Pet?

From airline tickets to organ transplants, local vets and rescue groups have seen it all.

Kitten whisperer Marnie Russ, with a little help from her rescue dog, Skeeter. Photo by Liz Lynch

Veterinary care isn’t the only scenario that prompts animal lovers to open their wallets. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects better than average growth for the pet industry—11 percent between 2014 and 2024—thanks to the rise of pampered perks ranging from gourmet food and monogrammed accessories to high-end grooming salons and doggie day care centers. The Animal Pet Products Association estimates that pet owners will spend nearly $70 billion on their charges this year.

Some owners shell out thousands of dollars just for the sake of togetherness. In 2011, Rosslyn residents Laura Chamberlin and Richard Salazar adopted two street cats, Lily and José, in Brazil while Chamberlin was doing stints there for the Foreign Service. When her assignment ended in 2016, the couple traveled with both felines from Brasilia to Sao Paulo to Atlanta to Albuquerque (both Chamberlin and Salazar are originally from New Mexico), with “Lily meowing bitterly pretty much the whole time,” in the airplane cabin, Chamberlin says. “We made no friends, slept very little and really annoyed the two creatures we’d lugged across the hemisphere.” They spent about $1,000 for the privilege, too.

When it came time to report back to Washington, D.C., the couple drove the two cats across country “going from pet-friendly La Quinta Inn to pet-friendly La Quinta Inn” for three days. Lily reprised her bitter yowling for about five hours of each nine-hour drive.

“After each transition, Lily sulks and hates us for a few days,” Chamberlin says. But she can’t imagine the alternative—abandoning the two furry creatures who have become family.

Later this year they’ll leave for Tanzania and do it all over again, readying the necessary health certificates and required cat vaccinations before they board their flights. Fortunately, the East African country doesn’t impose a quarantine on incoming animals, a policy that factored squarely into the couple’s decision about where to bid for their next post.

Leaving Lily and José “simply [isn’t] an option,” Chamberlin says. The cats were quarantined once, for a post in Ghana, she says. Never again.

Categories: Pets
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