Daze of My Life/Pet Care I Do, But…

by Kenneth B. Lourie

I wouldn’t say I deserve an award, maybe a commendation: most veterinarians visited in a three-week period. How about three? The Emergency (after hours, and expensive) Pet Clinic in Rockville, MD, at 1 a.m. for our Persian cat, Smokey, suffering from puncture wounds in his throat, from a late-night cat fight, no doubt; an animal hospital in Wheaton, MD, one of the few that treats “exotics,” for a non-emergency but nevertheless serious resolution as to why our relatively new pet, Chester, a mostly brown, mini Rex rabbit, was not eating or drinking (it turned out to be a molar problem, $400 later); and another animal hospital in Beltsville, MD, (during regular business hours, thank God) to have a benign tumor surgically removed from our golden retriever, Bailey’s, right front paw. And though I’m happy to report that all three animals are completely back to normal and exhibiting no ill effects from their respective brushes with death, I wish I could say the same for their father, and his credit card.

It’s not as if the individual total for each procedure/treatment was so much, I’ve heard worse, but all three added together did provide a bit of a jolt. And though I do realize that I won’t have college costs to consider for all three, and thus my out-of-pocket expenses will pale in comparison to those of parents with actual children, still when unexpected expenses arise (times three) simultaneously, it’s no consolation knowing that there are other expenses I won’t be incurring later. All I know is what expenses are occurring now.

And not to cast any aspersions whatsoever, but as a pet owner I am totally perplexed when it comes to paying/understanding/inquiring about the bill at the animal hospital. I imagine I’d have similar anxiety/questions with respect to my own health care if I didn’t have medical insurance, but I never know exactly why I’m paying for whatever veterinary care I’m being billed. And what’s even worse, I feel compelled almost, to always say yes or sign the authorization, whenever the staff or doctors suggest that a biopsy, a blood test, an X-ray, a shot, etc., as a few examples, may be needed now or may be needed later, based on medical information as yet to be determined. I feel as if saying no would expose me to scorn and ridicule and accusations of gross negligence not only in this life but in the next one as well.

I realize the veterinarians are thinking only of the best interests of the animal/patient they’re treating, but I also feel that they may have a little room to maneuver. And having minimal understanding of their medical and/or administrative procedures, while having total understanding of my own emotional and financial procedures, combines to make me feel fairly helpless, hoping that when my bill is presented, the total falls somewhere within my available credit.

Don’t get me wrong. As a longtime owner of pets, I realize and accept my parental-type responsibility. I understand that I must provide for their care and feeding, “‘til death do us part,” sort of like a marriage, and yes, these pets are now family but... I have my limitations, and three veterinarians in three weeks for three different pets may be just about it.

I hope nothing happens to Dina or me in the next few weeks, because to tell you the truth, I’m pretty sick of going to doctor’s offices and waiting my turn. Something has to give, and it probably won’t be the animals, nor is it likely to be Dina’s maintenance, so that leaves yours truly to suffer, not exactly in silence, more likely in print, but what else is new, as you regular readers know all too well. (Sorry, but we all have to cope, somehow.) Thanks for being so understanding.

Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.