Tag Archives: veterinarians

Who Would Spend Thousands on a Pet?

Me, for one. And quite a few other people I know. None of us is wealthy, but still we have laid out what some would consider extreme – even obscene – amounts on our pets.

First, let me say that these are regular cats and dogs, mostly rescues, strays, and shelter animals, not fancy, purebred show animals. The expense doesn’t come with the initial investment. Vet check, shots, worming, spaying and neutering – though shelters and local organizations sometimes offer lower-cost options on these – are just the cost of entry into pet guardianship.

Likewise, toys, beds, pet furniture, and other accouterments don’t need to be large investments. I’ve known cats that would ignore fancy toys to play with the plastic rings that come on milk jugs. Dogs can be amused for hours with a stick, tennis ball, or Frisbee.

No, the real expense comes with veterinarian bills. When I was a child, hardly anyone took pets to the vet, except to get the mandated yearly shots or to stitch up an injury from an attack by another animal.

My, how times have changed!

We know a lot more these days about heartworm, feline AIDS, urinary or intestinal blockage, fatty liver disease, kidney failure, and a host of illnesses that pets experience. We sympathize because we humans can get many of the same or similar ailments as well (though we don’t generally catch them from the animals).

So how do the costs scale up into the thousands? Well, veterinary training is as rigorous as medical school – perhaps more so because of the number of different animals a vet might be expected to treat. (A cow and a cat have different anatomy, after all.) Veterinary drugs can sometimes the same ones humans take, though usually at different doses. An x-ray is an x-ray and an ultrasound is an ultrasound. And you can expect to pay more for an after-hours emergency clinic visit than a regular office call.

Still, thousands?

Yes. We’ve been through it a number of times. When my cat Laurel had fatty liver disease, she needed, in addition to all the regular medical care, several weeks of intensive treatment – hand feedings, fluids, specially mixed vitamins. The vet actually took her to his home and treated her there for several weeks. I got a raise that year at work, and every cent of it went to that marvelous vet. He didn’t have to do what he did for Laurel – and I suppose not many people would have paid for the personal care. We did so willingly.

When our dog Bridget developed a tumor on her shoulder, the vet was honest. “We can operate on it, or we can do nothing.” Bridget was middle-aged, as dogs go, a formerly feral rescue dog.

“Do whatever it takes,” Dan said. “She deserves a chance.”

“She’s lucky to have you,” the vet replied.

Bridget came through the operation, never had a recurrence and died peacefully at the age of 17.

We’ve learned to give subcutaneous fluids to cats with kidney failure. We’ve taken them to specialty vets who have given them – literally – years of comfortable life with us. (Once we even had a parakeet that needed an operation – and pulled through.)

Every time we pulled out a checkbook or a credit card and paid willingly, though often with a wince. Some vets kindly allowed us, as long-time customers, to pay in installments.

But the question remains, why? Why do we spend this time, energy, care, worry, and especially money on maintaining the health of our pets or making them comfortable in their last days?

I don’t expect everyone to understand this, but these animals have become family to us. And as family members, they deserve our attention, care – including medical care – and love as long as they are capable of benefiting from it.

When the time comes that we have to let them go, when there is nothing we can do medically except prolong their misery, we take them to the vet for that final act of mercy, or let them pass quietly at home.

And the only cost we count is in our hearts.

Cats, etc. – The Little Soul Who Strayed, Then Stayed

The slim calico prowled the neighborhood, checking out the opportunities. This house? That one? There was a nice culvert in the cul-de-sac where she could both hide and find water.

The big, dark car stopped beside her and the door opened. The cat froze, waiting to see what came next. The human made cooing and chirping sounds, and the ones she’d learned to recognize as “here, kitty, kitty.” But she ignored him and sauntered on. You don’t get into a strange car with just any old human, after all.

Still, the human hadn’t appeared threatening. Maybe she’d check out this area again.

Carefully, the calico watched and waited. The big car went by several times a day. If she was hidden well, it passed by. If she allowed the human a glimpse of her bright eyes and sleek tri-colored fur, she might also listen to the low, comforting sounds that spoke of invitation.

Sometimes she strolled past the place she had lived before, just to check it out. Loud dogs barking in the house. In the yard. Not worth trying right now. Maybe some day the dogs would go away, just as she had.

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“I’ve seen this little calico around lately,” my husband said. “Doesn’t look like anyone owns it.”

“Her,” I said. “Calicos are almost always female. They need two X chromosomes to get that color pattern.” I knew I was being pedantic, but I wanted to keep the conversation out of emotional realms. Our big gray and white cat Django had died not long before, and I wasn’t ready to give my heart to another feline companion.

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A few days later, the calico saw the sign above our door, visible only to cats: SUCKERS LIVE HERE. FREE FOOD. Casually, she picked her dainty way through the garden and up to the front door. Just as the sign had revealed, the man from the car opened the door and brought her an offering of food. She started hanging around the house more. She could smell that there were other cats there. One dog in the back yard, but not a very noisy one. She allowed the man to take her inside.

He gave her a room to herself, with a constantly filled food dish and a container of litter. The man, and sometimes the woman, would visit her and pet her and give her a lap to sit on. There was a window to look out of and a comfy chair and lots of shelves and bins and boxes to explore.

No barking.

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“If we’re going to keep her, we need to take her to the vet for a check-up,” Dan said.

I was still trying to resist. “But are we going to keep her? I’m not ready yet. It’s too soon.”

“Even if we don’t keep her, she needs a vet-check before we can let her mix with the other cats. We can’t leave her in your study. If we do try to find her owner, it could take a while.”

“There was a sign up a couple of streets over about a missing calico. It’s probably this one,” I said.

The neighbor came to see the little calico. I made him describe her before I brought her out. She might not put up with being held very long and turn into a clawed tornado. He neglected to mention the sooty smudge on her chin or her crazy eyes, one gold, one green, and when I did bring her out for inspection, he shook his head sadly. No.

“Good luck,” I said, holding the cat firmly against my chest.

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“We’ve got to name her something, if only for the vet records. And we can’t keep calling her Li’l Bit. She’s not so little any more now that she’s eating regularly,” Dan said as we prepared to put her in a carrier. “Do you have any good ideas?”

“Well, there’s Dushenka,” I offered. “It’s Russian and means ‘little soul.’ On Babylon 5, Ivanova’s father called her that as a term of endearment.”

“That’s it, then. She’s Dushenka.”

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All Dushenka’s tests were fine. She did seem like she hadn’t been on the street too long – glossy coat, not malnourished, definitely not feral. Just as we were about to take her home for another round of “Should We Keep Her?” the vet said, “I should probably scan her. Lots of cats have ID chips these days.

The quick wave of a wand over her shoulders and – BEEP. Somewhere Dushenka had an owner. And it wasn’t us.

The vet called the chip registry service and the phone number they gave her, but had to leave a message. A few days later, she gave us the address and phone number too. The cat’s registered name was Carmen, and she had lived one street behind us.

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We tried. We really did. We called, left messages, even put a note on the door.

And I tried not to love her. I really did. But, truth be told, she had me as soon as I saw the crazy eyes and the smudgy chin.

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So we got the vet to write a letter to the chip registry about what awesome pet guardians we are and how all of us had tried to contact the registered owner. And we sent in the $25 re-registration fee. The paperwork done, her ownership officially changed hands. To this day, we’ve never heard a squeak from the neighbors who used to have her.

We’ve seen this meme since, and except for the pronouns, it’s perfect.

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She’s OURS now. And we LOVE her.