There are times in life when you have to admit a mistake, especially a really big one. This is one of those.
Earlier this summer our 10-year-old cat, Nikki, was attacked and wounded in our house… on our bed… by our neighbor’s dog who we’d let in so we could leash him and bring him back home. Before you decide we must be crazy, we’d done this countless times before without incident. Not so this particular Sunday. The events that followed prove one of the favorite sayings of radio personality Howie Carr to be true, “No good deed goes unpunished.”
The cat’s leg was broken, in not one place but two — $2695 surgery plus $295 for cast and care, another $50 for post op meds. Certainly not expenses we’d planned on… but palatable because of financing options like CareCredit who charge an obscene interest rate to pet owners on the hook for the cost of veterinary treatment. So my hubby and I will be paying, and paying, for this injury for a very long time. A couple of financial wizards, that’s us.
Unfortunately we were not in a place to be clear-headed about finances. In part it was the abruptness of the whole thing. In part it was the idea, suggested by an older and considerably wiser person, of euthanizing the cat because of the cost and uncertainties of treating her. If only we’d been smart enough to get past the heartlessness of ending a beloved pet’s life because of cost, we’d have made a much smarter (in terms of finances anyway) decision.
And then there was this. The opinion of our children, the eldest a first hand witness to the interchange between myself and the vet. If I’d asked about euthanizing the animal she loved I believe it would have changed her opinion of me… as a mother and as a person forever. And not in a good way. My children have grown up with NIkki… they love her… the injury was not her fault but ours (okay mine)… how could I raise the issue of taking her life under those circumstances?
I couldn’t do it then… and hindsight is 20/20.
Unfortunately as my older and wiser adviser already knew, there was more to come. That evening, as we sat around the supper table there was another call. Despite being at the vet’s all day, they’d only now discovered Nikki also had a punctured bladder and an abdomen full of fluid… add $2000 to the surgery total, plus $600 for diagnostic tests. I wasn’t prepared for that… was overwhelmed and acutely aware of the gazes of three pairs of eyes, probably the only people on this earth whose opinions matter to me, and so I asked the most basic of questions about risks and recovery before agreeing to the procedure.
But wait… there’s more. The surgery (a successful 4-hour affair) was to be followed by confinement for what started at 10 weeks and steadily increased, to a large, open dog crate with food and litter. Luckily Nikki is a hardy, easygoing soul who has taken the whole experience in stride… she’s doing well. Better than I am in fact. We’re at 12 weeks and counting now… and have given Nikki the run of the house, after the second set of $85 x-rays have shown slow healing, which I’ve come to learn is to be “expected in a cat of this age.” Another month in the house, and another set of x-rays “just to be sure” ought to do it.
Ouch doesn’t nearly cover it.
I’m sharing my story in hopes that anyone reading who is faced with a sudden veterinary expense takes the time I didn’t to think about some things. To ask some hard questions of the people working on your pet. To “trust but verify” things like…
- recovery needs and survivability
- expectations of success of surgery as well as concerns
- potential for future problems/weakness in same area
- what are costs to you, not just procedure but follow up
- what do we do if things don’t work out
Wish I’d thought more about all (any) of these before agreeing to the surgery. The recovery was harder and slower than I was first told. There were behavior issues too… things I’d not even thought to ask about, until it was too late. The likelihood that this injury would always be a “weakness” was never brought up until those first x-rays came back, nor was the possibility that Nikki would live out the rest of her days inside because she would never be strong enough to go out.
If we’d known then what we know now, if we’d listened to our hard-hearted but utterly sound advisor, we would not have a still recovering cat longing to go out, a recurring $180 monthly bill and the certain knowledge that we (okay I) screwed up, and screwed up big.