It doubled my debt in a matter of days. It made me reminisce about the last 14 years of my life. It resulted in a mass spoiling of all three of my furry children. It was the week we spent $4,000 at the kitty ER saving one of our kids.
I have always loved cats. I’ve also been one of those pet owners who couldn’t imagine spending amounts of money on my cats that required commas and monthly payment arrangements. I have stared at people with my mouth hanging open. Were these people crazy?
Then Molly got sick.
Molly is my middle child. She’s beautiful, but grumpy; talkative but anti-social. She doesn’t like to be held, tolerates petting and has little use for her siblings. She had been getting even crabbier as the year had gone on and I overlooked it as just a sign of old age. She was still begging at the dinner table and running for the door when I got home, but her eating habits had been changing so slightly I hadn’t noticed.
The day my job switched to second shift, she was throwing up a couple times an hour. By the time I got home from work eight hours later, the vomiting had stopped, but she was lethargic. The next day, she refused to eat and just wasn’t herself. The veterinarian ran some tests and recommended I take Molly to theMilwaukee Emergency Center for Animals for an ultrasound. Nothing definitive manifested itself, so they told us to take her home. If she wasn’t better in 48 hours they wanted to see her again. The diagnosis at that point was she had gotten into something that upset her stomach. I charged $1,000 for tests that provided no answers.
Forty-eight hours later, Molly refuses food and water. I’ve tried baby food. I’ve tried StarKist tuna. Nothing. We have to dribble water in her mouth to get anything in her at all. I’m petrified by this time. We’ve been so busy worrying about our older cat that Molly’s illness was like a basketball to the chest. I have never had to put a pet down before and I felt like I was reliving my dad’s sudden death a year and a half ago. At least the doctors would tell us Dad wouldn’t regain consciousness, that we could keep him on the machines if we wanted to, but he would never come back to us. It didn’t make the decision easy, but in a way, it was better. We had information we could use. We knew Dad’s feelings about machines. Could I have to make that decision with less information for an animal that lived through things with me my dad couldn’t even imagine?
Molly would need to be admitted for IV fluids to regain her strength before any further testing could be done. A prepay of $2,000 earned her a small wire cage, a blanket, an IV in her leg and a feeding tube in her nose.
After two days, we were convinced we were going to have to put her down. The ER vet called me at work one evening to say they found a mass in her intestines. Could be a foreign object they may be able to pluck out, could be a tumor. They wouldn’t be sure until they could get a scope in there to have a closer look. The vet started talking about cancer treatment and suggested my husband and I talk about it. Not at any point did they suggest putting Molly down, but they were pretty straightforward about the costs and outcomes.
While I’m standing in the ladies room at work on the phone with my husband, we decide if it’s cancer, we will put her down. If it’s something else, we’ll do what it takes. The vet bills have already cancelled any vacation we thought we might take this year. Just that easily, we doubled our credit card debt. I knew I could never have lived with myself if I didn’t answer the question. The scope was another $1,000. If it turned out this was an act of God, so be it. But if it was a foreign body that we left in her environment, we would fix it. We owed her that.
The next morning, I wandered through the house, wondering what I might have done to cause Molly’s illness. Why didn’t I notice she was sick sooner? Had she gotten into something I had left in her reach? My husband blamed himself for leaving out a piece of packaging foam he was sure she must have been chewing on. I knew better. I know this cat and she would not put random items in her mouth. She refused to eat anything that wasn’t swimming in gravy. There is no way Ms. Finicky was eating Styrofoam. But you can’t help it. It’s too easy to travel down the road of self-blame.
Driving home from work the night of the scope, I hadn’t heard any news from my husband. I didn’t want to hear bad news and have to keep working and hold it together, but I was preparing myself for the worst.
When I walked into the house that night, my husband said, “It’s gone. Whatever mass was there is gone.”
I stared at him. “How can that be?”
“I don’t know. They called and said they couldn’t find it with the scope. They took a biopsy and we’ll have the results in a few days.”
As it turns out, Molly has Inflammatory Bowel Disease and she’s probably been suffering from it for some time. No cancer. A little bit of medicine and a special diet and our little kitty will be her old cranky self in no time.
I no longer talk smart about the price limit on a pet’s love. When someone talks about having to put their pet down or spending several thousand dollars to save its life, I can feel the sorrow and pain deep within my soul. For I almost lost one of my best friends and if I was really the person I thought I was, I would never have given her the chance to continue parading around the house as if she owns the place.
Thank God I hadn’t really known myself when I told people there was no way I would spend that much money on an animal. Thank God I figured it out just in time.