I got my dog Josie when she was already 7 years old. We bonded from the moment we met. It was while I was on a working trip in Alaska. She was a smoke gray twelve-pound pooch with tons of attitude and fight. So much so that I sometimes think we’re cut from the same cloth. Josie was in a rough situation and her beloved owner asked if I would take her home with me. I agreed. Neither Josie nor I knew what to expect at the time. But she seemed to accept me. It was almost as if she knew I was the right person for her, as well.
Josie flew back with me and quickly adjusted to her new life in Connecticut. She became “top dog” in my home while befriending my two other dogs. Then she slowly worked her way into my husband’s heart one nip at a time. She’d formerly had problems with a man and it was a while before she learned to trust him.
My house is covered with windows and Josie loved to sit and bark at anyone that passed by. She’d go from one window to another gazing in all directions. When she wasn’t looking out a window she’d be sleeping in front of it basking in the sunlight. She’d jump at every opportunity to run outside. Josie was curious, agile and smart and never backed down from a challenge whether it be squaring off with the UPS guy or standing up to a buck ten times her size. That is, until she became stricken with SARDS three years ago.
Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome is a rare disease that causes sudden blindness and can lead to a numerous other problems. I dove into research mode and learned as much as I could about the disease. I had Josie put on a cutting edge protocol and began to home cook for her. It was hard work and took a few months, but I managed to get Josie on an even keel. We both adjusted to her new condition over the next few years as she became more dependent on me and I grew even closer to her. Her strict schedule of meds and foods has never been a bother to me. But I won’t trust a dog sitter to administer the care and attention that Josie needs. That means there are no vacations or weekend trips unless Josie can come along.
At the age of fourteen, she needed to have a number of teeth pulled. We worried about anesthesia at her age but I found a dental specialist in Manhattan. Josie pulled through like a champ after the first frightening post op night and a few more recovery days. That was in May of last year.
This November she developed a growth on her hind foot that became infected. My vet put her on an antibiotic but the infection has persisted. Surgery is the only option. Josie recently turned 15 years old and the thought of her undergoing anesthesia again is nerve-wracking. Even so, I took her to the Cornell University Veterinary Specialist Group where she has been evaluated. Her heart is in great condition, her blood work is perfectly normal and she’s been deemed to be a good candidate. She may be blind, but Josie is one healthy girl.
Then I received an estimate of what the bill will be. The cost for surgery is mindboggling. And while I bitch about it, to my mind there is really no choice. I have to see Josie through this event, whatever it takes.
The interesting—and upsetting—thing to me is the reaction of some of my friends when I tell them what the cost of surgery is going to be.
Why don’t you just put her down and get a new one?
It’s as if she’s no more valuable than an old pair of shoes and just as easily replaced.
Josie is precious to me. She’s become an integral part of my life these past 8 years. There are things I can do without. I don’t need lattes or special dinners and, for now, I can even do without the occasional haircut. What I can’t do without is Josie.
So, how much is a dog’s life worth?
A lot once they’re part of your family.