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Life's easier in the dog house

LAST weekend, 29-year-old Felix Hu drove 90 minutes to his friend's house in suburban Fengxian District to see Sinbad, Hu's two-year-old Husky.

Hu sent Sinbad to the outskirts in early February, right after he received the annual notice for dog registration.

"I get the notice every year, but this is the first time the figures really struck me, the first time I looked at it and thought, wow, 2,000 yuan (US$293) is a lot," says Hu.

He works as a marketing manager for an American trading company, heavily affected by the global financial crisis.

"I feel lucky to be working still, although I have almost exactly twice as much work as I used to have because now I need to cover the job for our former PR manager, who was fired two months ago."

So, Hu has been feeling quite poor recently. And he also wants to save money in case he needs to stay at home for a few months, either after being fired or quitting because of overwork.

Hu lives in Xuhui District, one of the city's central commercial circles, inside the Inner Ring of Shanghai, where the average property price is still well above 25,000 yuan (US$3,676.47) per square meter. A good friend of his living only two blocks away saves 1,000 yuan on her dog because the home is outside the inner ring.

It only costs 100 yuan for Shanghai suburban households registered as peasants to keep a dog - and that's why Sinbad has moved. Everything else - grooming, dog food, toys - is also cheaper.

Huskies, a fairly large-size breed, are among the more expensive household dogs because they eat more and it costs more to have a bigger dog washed.

Hu used to spend nearly 2,000 yuan every month without realizing it. The bill goes like this - 400-600 yuan for dog food, 320-400 yuan to have it bathed four times a month, 100 yuan for snacks and 150 yuan for vitamin and supplement.

Other occasional costs include buying shampoo, medicine, toys and taking him out to a nearby town in Zhejiang Province for a run a few times a year.

Hu has already tried to cut spending, on himself and on Sinbad, since last December, particularly after it was confirmed that he would not get the expected annual bonus. He stopped all other spending except for the necessary dog food and vitamins.

"I even joked with Sinbad that I might have to downgrade his food to a cheaper brand or just feed him the leftovers from my meal, which will turn him into a country dog," recalls Hu sadly. He feels guilty that the joke has come true in a way. "It's not like I have to starve to feed him, but more that I have to save some money just in case."

After visiting Sinbad last weekend, Hu feels a little better because the dog has become healthier and more outgoing with the other country dogs. Hu's friend has also suggested he stop buying Sinbad expensive dog food so that he can eat with the country dogs.

"A lot of my friends who have larger-sized dogs ask me about Sinbad every day, because they are also shocked about the amounts they are spending on pets for the first time," says Hu.


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