On the heels of my mentioning yesterday the Boston Globe and NPR stories on how far to take medical treatment (with all of its associated costs) for our pets, NPR did another long bit on this today, on Neil Conan’s afternoon program, Talk of the Nation. You can read it (or, after 6 p.m. eastern time today, listen to it) here. Today’s discussion included several animal experts and advocates, including Jon Katz, whose work and writing I enjoy and admire.

Four or 5 years ago Dinah went down. I mean, one minute she was fine and the next minute she was Seriously Not. Slumped in the floor, silent, not eating or even really responding to us. Given the unnatural stoicism of airedales, we were alarmed, and within the hour we were on our way to the vet.

Not just the vet, of course, but the Emergency Vet. Near midnight. On a Sunday night. That may go without saying, since in our experience and that of many of our friends, veterinary (and for that matter, pediatric) emergencies occur only Late At Night and when the vet (or pediatrician) is Very Far Away. The other tenet, of course, is that the emergency vet is Very Expensive–$200 just to walk in the door and start the real tab running. At least the pediatrician takes our insurance. The vet–not so much. For many of us, that’s a lot of money, and in our case it led to much more money, though we didn’t know that on that scary Sunday night.

She was a very sick dog, and while I won’t go into detail, the basics are that she had a lot of peculiar symptoms (none of which seemed to explain her condition), she needed round the clock care, IV fluids, and a menu of services that prevented us from transferring her to our nice Neighborhood Vet the following morning. Three days and many, many dollars (and tears) later, she was fine. And–whew!–home. They never did figure out what was wrong with her, but she’d either gotten over whatever it was under the tremendous healing power of airedale vigor and hardheadedness, or something they’d done–and they freely admitted they could not themselves make the connection–had pulled her through.

In retrospect, I think it’s just as well that I didn’t know on Sunday night how much money we’d end up spending. Looking back, I’m glad she got the treatment she needed and is still with us. Since then, we’ve made the hard call to refuse intensive emergency medical care for a beloved cat who had a stroke, and for another, who had been part of our family for 17 years, with cancer. Since then we pulled Dinah through another Emergency Vet adventure (also on a Sunday night–see?) for something that would quickly have become life threatening if not addressed immediately. Small procedure, big bucks.

Tough decisions. Listen to the program.

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