When you or I get sick, we feel horrible. And then we make a trip to the doctor's. It is an automatic mental jump. We don't have to think twice about it. When our pet gets sick, however, we hesitate a little. This could be due to high veterinary costs or the time and effort involved in transporting the pet. But we eventually bring the poor dog to see the vet because we can't bear to see it so miserable. After all, it's our pet and we love it.
Now when a shelter dog gets sick, it seems like the idea of bringing it to see the vet becomes a little ludicrous. Shelters are supposed to work on tight financial budgets. Between rent, food and other medical costs (such as sterilisation and vaccination costs), shelters cannot afford to be racking up exorbitant veterinary fees. In many shelters around the world, dogs that fail to get adopted after a suitable period of time are euthanised. This is the supposed "cure-all" solution that saves on food, shelter and medical costs all at once.
But that's not how we work. As we have often reiterated, shelter dogs are not second class citizens. They didn't ask to be a shelter dog. By some twist of fate, they were born just a little unluckier than their counterparts with good homes and great owners. Since we've taken our dogs into our shelter with open arms, we are going to do all we can to provide some sort of a home for them. Not the best, certainly, but the best that we can give. That includes making allowance for visits to the vet and chalking up the requisite expenses from the consultations. After all, isn't this what responsible rescuing is all about?
Recently at Gentle Paws, we've had an alarming spate of health issues befall us. It has been a rough time for us because, essential as it is, going to the vet costs.
First, we have Deckie, our furry orange boy who seems to prefer humans to dogs. Deckie has been warded at the vet's for some time now. He was bitten on the ear by another dog at the shelter. The infection of that wound triggered his autoimmune disease, causing his cells to attack healthy tissue and his muscle to detach from his skin. Deckie had to undergo a couple of surgeries to fix the damage wrought on his body. But it appears that he is now well on the road to recovery. Because he is terrified of the other shelter dogs, the shelter is no place for rest and recovery. Deckie has to stay at the vet's until his condition stablises, whereupon one of our volunteers would bring him back home.
Next, we have Diya (below right), one of Dior's three lovely daughters (the other two being Donna and Dyana). Besides Donna, the liveliest and most active of the three, people tend to overlook the other two. If you take the time to get to know them, you'll find that Diya and Dyana are two of the most loving girls at the shelter. When you make soft pitiful whining sounds as I've been taught to do, they will walk towards you, cock their head, look at you, then proceed to lick your face quite tenderly.
Diya was one of the few dogs we have yet to sterilise. Last week, we decided to bring both her and DakDakDei for the procedure and bid goodbye forever to any unwanted pregnancies. Little did we expect the trip to be a futile one. The procedure could not be administered to our dogs because blood tests revealed that they were tick fever carriers. While DDD could be discharged, Diya had to undergo a blood transfusion and was hospitalised for a day. Both dogs have to be put on a special diet and would have to head back to the vet for another review after a month. If you see Diya looking a little listless, do stop by to give her a pat on the head. She is barely even 2 years old and she needs all the love she can get.
Next we have Bobby, our oldest citizen at Gentle Paws. He used to be fierce and a little aggressive but oh how he has mellowed over the past two years. Just ask the volunteers who have been down for our PAW program lately... Bobby is one of the easiest dogs to handle and a joy to walk. But lately, he is easily tired. To add on, he has not been eating and his stomach has grown increasingly bloated. Could it be his kidney? Or what about his liver? Worried, we sent him for a full body check-up. This set us back by about $600 but did not reveal anything abnormal with our dog. Meanwhile, we can only keep our fingers crossed and keep close tabs on his condition.
Moving on, we have Darwin. Darwin is a boarding dog. This means that his rescuer pays for his lodging at our shelter each month. He was once a stray roaming the streets and he was absolutely terrified when he first arrived.
One look at Darwin and you'll realise that his bones protrude and his posture isn't like that of a normal dog's. A visit to the vet revealed that indeed, Darwin is no normal dog. He is a miracle dog. According to the vet, Darwin completely dislocated his right hip when he was younger. This means that his hip joint was entirely displaced from its socket. This could be due to a bad accident on the road or a nasty fall, we will never know. But because dislocation took place when he was still young, his body miraculously formed another socket for the displaced joint. Darwin has now got to undergo an operation to remove this extra portion from his anatomy because the pain is causing him to hunch quite a bit. Post operation, Darwin will be able to lead a normal life aside from a slight hop or limp when he walks.
Finally, a complete shocker we received in the past week has to do with our pretty miniature bull terrier you have heard so much about lately - Xena.
We thought that the worst was over for her but a few days after Furry Day, we received a call from the vet with some very bad news. Turns out that, the full body check-up that Xena underwent earlier revealed an enlargement and even hardening of her lymph nodes. There was also some bleeding in her abdomen. Lymphoma or cancer of the lymph nodes was highly suspected.
Just so you know, lymph nodes are small, circular organs found throughout our body and are used as filters to trap foreign particles. They form an essential part of our immune system. Whether lymphoma is treatable or not depends on the type and stage of the disease. Following the vet's advice, we have sent Xena's samples and biopsy to the US to be tested. This will take about 10 days and we are now currently still waiting anxiously for the results. We have also arranged for a potential foster home for Xena because the safe haven of a real home is critical to her recovery.
We didn't see this coming at all. No amount of planning prepared us for a cancer stricken dog. Treatment is going to cost. Each session of chemotherapy is going to cost $500. The chemo protocol is approximately 25 weeks long, so the complete treatment is going to cost us $12,500. This is a whopping sum of money. No, strike that. This is a completely scary sum of money. But you know what? If the vet advises that Xena undergo treatment, we are going to go along with it.
$12,500 sounds overwhelming, but we are going to take things one step at a time. $500 a week isn't so bad. There might be a lot of critics out there who violently object to our choice to treat cancer. But you must understand. Xena came back to us after 10 long months. Silly as this may sound, isn't this fate? We cannot leave her in the lurch now and not try.
Perhaps the lab test will come back negative. Perhaps our worries will be for naught. But we need to plan and we need to prepare. Should the worst come true for us, it will be a long battle ahead. If we set up a Xena fund, would you help?
Where our expenses are routine and predictable, we can act to deal with them. We take in dogs on boarding basis to supplement the rent. We scout around for pet food manufacturers for food nearing expiry and are no longer for sale. We launch the Sponsor-a-Dog program to help prop us up a little.
What sucks the most and hits us the hardest is when we can't predict. Because when we cannot predict, we cannot plan. Such health matters are a good example of what we face every month. Some months are better than others. This particular month doesn't look too good. But we're waiting with bated breath, still carrying out the hope that maybe Xena's case is nothing but one big fat false alarm. Let's keep our fingers crossed...