The Hidden Costs of Loving Pets.

Early morning and I wake up to the sounds of Jasper making those alarming sounds of I-am-about-to-throw up-and-I-could-do-that-right-now-in-fact-I-think-I-will.

And, so he does.

Scrambling out of bed, with Tessa at my heels (that’s Tess curled up on my bed), Jasper and I head for the back door. Out we go into the backyard showing more dry, brown grass than green. It’s been a hot July and despite watering the lawn late in the afternoon into the early evening, my lawn looks like a patch work of dried hay interspersed with splashes of green.

Jasper sets out for the far side of the yard, behind the two grape vines that are almost all that remains of my grandfather’s garden from back in the day when this was his house, his yard and God help the stray dog that might have wandered into it.

Neither my grandfather or my grandmother were dog/cat people. They lived in what’s been my house for almost 30 years, in their time and kept a meticulous yard and an immaculate house.

Pets were okay as long as they were other people’s pets.

Which I’ve been thinking about lately as I’ve worn a path to my vet’s office on more of a daily basis than in a long time. We started with the unexpected death of William, our six year old, brown tabby cat.  After noticing his lethargic behavior and lack of appetite, I bundled him off to the vet’s.

Something was up if a temp of 104 was anything to go by.

Draw blood for tests and one antibiotic to administer and we were back home to wait for the results of the blood work. Twenty-four hours later, we were back at the vets – William’s liver counts were “off the charts” and our vet thought that an IV flush would be the best proactive and least invasive step we could take. William spent that night hooked up to an IV and he died, very quietly, early the next morning.

A couple of days after losing William, my son and I headed over to Lollypop Farm – our community’s local humane society. As we explained to one of the adoption counselor’s, we had just lost a six year old cat and had a three year old cat (Mack) at home who was a bit lost because William was gone.

And, I had never, in my life, lived with “just one” cat.

We knew we could introduce a kitten into our household. Kittens being babies and my dogs, all of which have lived with cats, recognize and accept babies – kittens or puppies will do.

We spent an hour meeting and playing with three available kittens and left Lollypop Farm with a black, 4 month old baby named Onyx.

Onyx had a couple of unexpected vet visits over the next 8 days because he developed a pattern of spiking fevers that would last about 48 hours before he’d seemingly bounce back to happy kitten.

No sooner did we get through this minor hiccup when Mack developed an eye infection and off to the vet we went again.

Somewhere in there, we took two dogs to the vet for their annual check up which included titres (we don’t vaccinate if we don’t have to) and kennel cough vaccines because next month, both dogs will be boarded for a week while their humans head off for a week’s vacation up in the Adirondacks.

Yesterday, I drove back to the vet to pick up an oral antibiotic for Mack because his eye infection took a slight turn for the worse. Which brings us up to Jasper’s early morning wake up call.

By now, we are talking some serious money, which in the overall scheme of things, is part of what we juggle because we live with three dogs and (once again) two cats. Two of our dogs are elder dogs: Jasper is nine which is an impressive age for a Great Dane. Josephine, my whippet, is fifteen.

Fifteen. Kind of amazing to think about isn’t it?

What’s even more amazing to think about is how much nicer as people we are: my husband, our son and me, because we share our lives with animals. 

My husband has always had a fondness for big dogs. More than that, dogs have been a touchstone for him; a quiet celebration of unconditional love that helps him to be centered and happy in this world.

Our son? Some of the earliest photographs I have are when he was less than five months old, laying on a baby blanket, reaching out to touch our first Great Dane, Diamond, who was in a down, with his big head just inches away from those tiny, outstretched fingers.

We’re back to babies again.

How is it that adult animals recognize the vulnerability of babies? Over the years, I’ve watched this with every one of my dogs. The danes will “gentle themselves down” when they are approached by puppies – they immediately go into long downs so that they can be nose to nose with a puppy. And, when that same pup decides to climb on top of their heads, my danes stay very still.

Because they’ve been raised with cats, they are the same gentle giants with kittens. Every time I watch this, it takes my breath away. Could there be a lesson for the world at large in this one display of inter-species act of kindness?

The intricate puzzle of figuring out how dogs and cats live not just with each other but with humans too is what I  have always lived with – What my husband has lived with and what the two of us have given to our son.

It’s impossible to put a price tag on the emotional components of living with animals, which might (finally) be the point of all of this.

It just took me a long time to say it.  [gplus count=”true” size=”Medium” ]




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