Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Brief Veterinary Interruption

As befits someone who spends his free time describing the universal horror of human existence, I've had pretty miserable luck in recent years with the animals who live under my roof. About four years ago, Greta -- the older of our two Newfoundlands -- lost her mind and required several months of heavy medication, hypnotherapy and Jungian psychoanalysis before she ceased being afraid of nearly every spot in the house. She's no longer being medicated, but most days she still seems confident that the house is crawling with invisible dog murderers.

The next 18 months were more or less uneventful in the pet department, but in October 2006 our beloved cat Herbert contracted diabetes and suffered through nearly a year of fruitless insulin treatment before leaving us last May.

Two months later, Hazel -- the younger and less melancholy of our Newfs -- blew out the meniscus in her left knee, an injury that required costly surgery and an extended period of rehab, not to mention a shaved leg and an embarrassing plastic hood to keep her from gobbling her own wound. By October, though, she had fully recovered and was again ambling through the neighborhood, barking at harmless strangers and befouling yards and driveways like the town drunk she'd no doubt be if she were human.

Today, unfortunately, we submitted Hazel to the surgeon's knife for the second time in seven months, this time to repair a partially torn cruciate ligament in her right leg. The alternative to surgery would have been a lifetime of progressive arthritis, as her body crudely dumped calcium into her knee to substitute for a failing ACL. Treatment for that would have required daily anti-inflammatory medication, an expense of roughly $1000 a year that could just as well have been spent on a reconstructed knee. Euthanasia -- of either the medical or shotgun variety -- was not something we could contemplate for a five-year-old dog whom we continue love in spite of her tremendous character flaws.

The prognosis for Hazel's recovery is excellent, but the prognosis for my family's bank account is not quite so pleasant. To put it crudely, a dog that we received for exactly zero dollars in early 2005 will now be walking around on $5000 worth of new knees.

Clever readers have already figured out where this is heading. Believe me, I'm nearly too embarrassed to continue.

Now, I can think of plenty of reasons why no one with a sense of perspective should donate money to help defray my veterinary bills. There are plenty of bloggers out there who lack health care, who have lost their jobs, who have surrendered their homes to foreclosure, or who have been killed in Iraq. My wife and I are both employed, and my toddling daughter will soon be old enough to sew purses and stitch tennis shoes at home. More importantly, our entire economy appears to be gyrating in ever-tighter spirals toward the drain, and so my general advice would be to preserve your assets, stock up on canned food and bottled water, and learn how to deter or disable hungry neighborhood mobs.

All that said, if you're a regular reader of the Axis -- and you happen to have (literally) a couple of dollars that you weren't planning to spend on booze or drizzle with lighter fluid and use to roast hot dogs -- I would be unendingly grateful for a small contribution toward Hazel's shiny new knee. You can use the gaudy yellow donation button in the right sidebar, or you can use the gaudy yellow donation button below.

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