Puppy Love: Owning A Dog During AmeriCorps

A VISTA Member with the College Health Corps, Aria, was given a great gift several months ago when she graduated from Winona State University: a 3.5 pound Mikapoo (Maltese-Poodle-Papillion-mix) puppy. While the puppy, Meekah, has brought Aria much joy, she can be quite costly.

Making the AmeriCorps living allowance work while having a pet comes with challenges. Specifically when it comes to dogs, the average cost of wo/man’s best friend is somewhere between $10,000 and $14,000 over the course of the animal’s life (source: American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). You might be spending a significant amount during your AmeriCorps service on your pup! If you have your heart set on owning a dog, follow these cost-saving measures.


 Buying a Dog

Meekah was not a budget purchase because she came from a breeder, so good thing she was a gift! Here are some organizations where you can purchase a dog at a lower price:

  Fostering a Dog

If owning a dog for the long haul is not feasible, but providing a safe and temporary home is in the cards, consider fostering a dog. One Twin Cities foster agency is Midwest Animal Rescue, and other fostering agencies exist elsewhere.

  Caring for a Dog

A while back, Meekah suddenly needed emergency surgery. While this was certainly a blow to Aria’s bank account, there are a couple resources to ease the burden of vet bills:

  • Low-Cost Vet Care in MN (list by MNSNAP, below) – clinics that cater to pet owners with low incomes.
  • MNSNAP – donates partial funds to spay and neuter pets, vaccinations, micro-chipping and limited basic treatments.
  • Frankie’s Friends – Frankie’s Friends provides financial support for treatment of life-threatening conditions for families who demonstrate substantial financial need and whose pets have a good prognosis for return to a good quality of life.
  • Care Credit – If costs are insurmountable, Care Credit may be an option for you to make affordable payments on emergency vet bills.
  • Banfield Clinic – Aria has Meekah on a wellness plan that includes spay/neuters and vaccines. The $25 a month payments are much more manageable than large lump-sums.

  Training a Dog

YouTube videos have really been a life-saver for Aria and Meekah. Through YouTube, Aria has learned about bell training and other positive reinforcement techniques. Organizations like the Humane Society often offer cheap classes as well. (Seriously, though, check THESE out!).

  Grooming a Dog

You can save a lot of dough by grooming your dog yourself. Teach your dog early to be comfortable with the process by starting as a puppy and offering positive reinforcement, like treats. Research the grooming needs of your dog to safely care for her.

  Feeding a Dog

Feeding a dog can be one of the largest expenses, and one that is difficult to work around. You can shop for cheaper brands, and sometimes buying in bulk is smart. Another route is to make your own dog food, which some owners believe to be a healthier, cheaper alternative to store-bought food.


No matter how you slice it, dogs are expensive. They can, however, bring you companionship in ways that no other being can. We hope these tips will serve you and your best friend while you serve your community!