Little Dog, Big Bills (And Close Calls)

We had a close call with Stewie this weekend that kind of freaked me out. He’s a miniature dachshund and with that brings a genetic disposition toward spine and leg problems due to their comically absurd construction. He’s also getting on in years at 9. In the last couple of years we’ve already dropped around $1000 on various surgeries for him regarding his teeth and jaw. So yesterday morning when we saw he wasn’t using his back left leg at all we all freaked out and assumed the worst.

I called our regular vet and told them what was going on and they told me to call an emergency vet. I did that and they said it sounded like a pushed in disc and paralysis. Their treatment plan was either a $1500 steroid and home care plan or a neurological consult and spine surgery at several thousands of dollars.  We’re doing well with getting our financial house in order and not living on credit cards anymore, but our emergency fund usually hovers around $400 – $500 and our regular savings had been hit hard by my book tour last month so we don’t have room for either of those options. I explained this to the lady at the emergency vet and she suggested we tell our regular vet that and see if they could get him started on just the steroids. Our regular vet was very accommodating and were able to fit us in.

Luckily we have a great vet who really knows his stuff and after poking and massaging Stewie in all of the right places, he didn’t see signs of anything serious. They did some x-rays on him and came back with great news. The x-rays showed a clean spine and straight legs with no fractures or out of place discs and the doctor thinks Stewie just sprained his knee playing in the yard with the kids. So instead of paying several hundreds of dollars for a patch to keep him steady until we could scrounge up several thousand more, we were out of there for around $150 with a couple of great stories about Stewie taking a dump in the x-ray machine and some doggie drugs.

Huge relief.

But in the hours between scheduling the appointment and actually seeing the vet, my mind went to some very dark places. I broke down and balled at the computer because I knew there was no way we could pay for any surgeries and that we’d either have to give him away or put him down. This was all particularly painful to me because I’d thought about re-homing him a few times before when I first started freelancing full-time for exactly these reasons. My income fluctuates and I don’t ever want to have to make an awful decision for strictly monetary reasons. So once again, with tears in my eyes, I was looking at the surrender policies for the local shelters and seeing if there were any breed-specific rescues nearby that could take him because he’s a purebred.

Now before you lay into that bullshit about what horrible places shelters are and how hard it is to re-home an older dog and what an awful person I am for even considering it, you need to sit here at this desk facing the impossible choice of maybe not being able to even give him away to a shelter because the surrender policies around here are incredibly tight and they likely wouldn’t take an older dog with pre-existing medical issues. So my choices at that moment all involved Stewie being put down with the variety in the timeline.

So sod off with that shit. I’m happy things worked out well this time and hopefully in the next month some opportunities I’m working on will give us the chance to build that emergency fund up more substantially, but I can’t help but think that I’ll be in this situation again some time in the future where his medical bills come at the absolute worst time for our finances and I’ll have no idea what to do about it.

For now though, I’ll hug him close, give him extra treats for a few days, and wonder how bad it smelled when he pooped in the x-ray machine.