Emergency Vet Care is a Privilege

002It has come to my attention that I have not expressed in full the amount of anguish we experienced during the night of Shiva’s injury. It is true, I definitely held back. Many things occurred that Sunday evening which I could never divulge. It was just too personal and writing about the pain at this point would provide no benefit to myself or anyone else. However, there is an aspect to the horrific series of events that I do feel is worth imparting. Not in relation to the wound itself, in retrospect it wasn’t as serious as it could have been, more in relation to the treatment.Or the potential lack thereof.

Part of this withholding is no doubt due to shame. In order to be worthy of value in 2013 we are told three things: we must be forever 21, we must be thin, and we must be wealthy. To be anything else puts one in a place of derision. Well, it’s obvious I am not 21 and I wouldn’t be that age again even if it were possible. I am also not particularly thin. But I gave up caring about stupid things like the number on the scale a long time ago. Thinness rates as high on my radar as fashionable. Or being good at tennis. It just doesn’t matter. It’s the third requirement that pokes me in the side and reminds me I am not good enough.

I have made mistakes, there is no question. I own them. It is entirely my fault I am in the financial situation I am in. There were decisions that were made and they probably weren’t the right ones. Kicking myself in the head about them does not solve my current problems. Ducking my head and getting to work does. This is what I think we are doing but it’s going to take some time. Do I wish I could go back and change things so life would be easier now? Sure. I can’t. Does this make me a horrible, worthless human being?

According to some, yes. According to some, maybe I shouldn’t even own a dog at all.

This brings me to that terrifying evening three weeks ago when all of my greatest fears came to a head. Standing in the small examination room, looking down at the quote from the emergency vet, knowing we simply did not have the money to pay. There was no way around it. Could we get the money in the future? Of course. We both have solid jobs, we can sacrifice. But before the vet lifted a hand to stitch Shiva back up, they needed the cash in hand. That second. The clock was ticking.

It was one of the most excruciating moments of my life, knowing that I may not be able to help my poor puppy simply because I didn’t have the money.

009Embarrassing? Hell, yes. Mortifying. My tears only made me feel worse but I couldn’t stop them. I had always feared the moment would come and when it did, I was unable to control myself. It felt so hopeless. I mean, what were our options? We either magically came up with $1,300 or… Or, what? There was no second option.

Luckily, we are connected with some pretty amazing people. It took but a few text messages for family and friends to offer their help. I will be grateful for the rest of my life to my practically mother-in-law and my two close friends for being there in a time of desperation. If not for them, I don’t know what we would have done. My mind draws a blank. Now that Shiva’s ordeal is over, this aspect of that night still plagues me. What if we hadn’t had friends or family to whom we could turn? What if we had been alone? What would we have done?

I don’t know. All sudden I felt no different to those who surrender their pets to shelters simply because they can’t afford veterinary care. If we hadn’t been able to pay for Shiva’s surgery that night, that may have been an option. We would have had to bring her home, maybe try to stitch her up ourselves without pain medication and then hope for the best. Euthanasia as a concept was unthinkable. I’d like to think the vet would have forbid it.

But perhaps we wouldn’t have had the wherewithal for even that. Perhaps the only option would have been to bandage Shiva up and drive her to the nearest shelter, pretending we had found her running at large. Perhaps we would have had to lie and pray that someone else could help her. It isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. But it’s a possibility that breaks my heart.

I don’t blame the vet clinic. I want to be clear on that. They do what they have to do and I completely understand why they need the money right away. Even in the depths of despair I did not question this. As the kind assistant explained why they would need financial approval ahead of time, I told her over and over again that I understood, I just didn’t have the money. No amount of pet insurance would have helped, either. Please correct me if I am wrong, but per insurance companies act much like dental insurance. One needs to pay upfront and than receives reimbursement later. It isn’t much help when you don’t have the payment ability in the first place.

Who is to blame? No one.Ourselves, I guess, for being in this situation in the first place. But I know we are not alone.

After going through this nigh traumatizing experience I have to wonder how many other loving pet owners have gone through the same thing. How many others were either forced to euthanize because it was the cheaper option or who felt compelled to abandon their pets outside of a shelter in the hope they would find help in the morning. I can only imagine the fear, and the shame.

For the first time in my entire life, I think I might have a goal. If I ever have money or if I am ever in a place where I can start something, I finally know what I would do. It is now my dream, fantasy, lala land imagining, to start an organization to help people pay for emergency veterinary expenses. I won’t ask questions, I won’t require proof of income or ask to see credit card statements. If someone calls in the middle of the night, saying their dog or cat or bird or guinea pig needs veterinary help and they can’t afford to pay right away, I want to be there to say it will be okay, your pet will be okay.

How many pets would have been kept out of the shelters if such an organization existed? I can’t help but wonder. It’s a huge gap that needs to be filled. One day, I hope I can do my part to lay some concrete.

12 thoughts on “Emergency Vet Care is a Privilege

  1. I think there is a program through the ASPCA that helps people with vet bills so they can afford to keep their animals. It would be amazing to have a foundation that helps people and their animals in the case of medical emergencies!

    Most of the vets here take credit cards or have applications for Care Credit, which is specifically for vet payments. Not sure what the interest rate is though. I used to write checks for our vet, but they take credit cards so now we charge it, get the points and pay it off in full so we don’t get hit with interest. Our vet has super reasonable prices, this would not work out so well for an unexpected $1300!
    So glad you and Shiva are okay!


  2. I faced this exact same situation last October when my dog, Frenchy, suddenly became sick with IMTP which quickly turned into IMHA. I literally set up a fundraising page to try to collect money from people. I begged all of my friends and family members via social media and it was completely humiliating but like you, I was desperate. I work very closely with the animal rescue who gave her to me so I was able to ask them for help also as a loan. I struggle financially all the time. I have over $170K of student loan debt plus credit card debt so I can completely relate to your post. I did find some organizations that can help with vet care for financially challenged people like us: http://speakingforspot.com/?p=Financial%20Assistance%20for%20Veterinary%20Care You may want to contact one of them. You are incredibly lucky to still have your Shiva. After several blood transfusions, my Shelby didn’t make it out of the hospital. 😦 We had insurance for her and that did help get us some of the money back to pay people off. I used VPI and I have this for my current dog too and even though I have to lay the money out, I still find it very helpful. Thanks for the post. It made me feel less alone. 🙂 -Tammy


  3. Here in the UK we do have the RSCA and PDSA and both will sometimes help towards vets bills. We are definitely encouraged to have insurance. I have one that only covers accident and injury, but it’s all I could afford. Sadly I think a lot of people are faced with pts as they can’t afford the treatment.

    I am so glad you had angels to help you.


  4. i would face the exact same challenge if something happened to my two dogs. I would like to get insurance, but good grief, WE don’t have insurance. I think you’re on to something though. If there is one thing I know for sure, Pet bloggers are awesome. How about if a foundation were set up, and people donated what they could. The money could be held and managed until some one needed it. I can see every single pet blogger out there donated something. That would add up. Then the money could be used to help those that donated. Kind of like a huge saving account for all of us to use.


  5. Thank you for sharing and bringing this feeling out of the shadows. If something were to happen, I would be in the same boat. I am incredibly lucky that my boyfriend has a better savings account than I do so I wouldn’t have to struggle to come up with the cash. We have pet insurance on the pooches so I could definitely pay him back. So glad you and Shiva are okay!!


  6. Oh do I know this one. We had the same terrifying issue when Oly swallowed (unknown to us) some sausage casings that had clogged in her stomach. One vet said they could do surgery for $2,000, or we could go to another specialist vet who “may” have been able to remove what was inside with a scope for $1300, BUT if they couldn’t scope it, it would be another $5000 on top of the $1300 to get the item out with surgery.

    As scared as I was for Oly and this mysterious blockage, I was also terrified thinking how in the world we’d ever pay for any of these options. In the end it was removed with the scope, and our credit card took the hit, but after that day I refused to be without vet insurance for Oly and later Stella. The fear of being unable to pay for their surgeries still haunts me.


  7. In so many things, having some kind of safety net is the difference between a horrifying and stressful event and a disastrous one. Good for your family and friends who were able to help you. And good for you for doing what you needed to do for Shiva.

    You’re right that no one should have to choose between money and care for a family member.


  8. You should che contact Paige at CorgiPals (http://corgipals.org/). She created a non-profit from scratch all on her own to provide aid to corgi owners that need help with vet bills. It is an amazing organization build on donations from the “corgi nation”. She could definitely give you some pointers.


  9. I often worry about this exact situation. Luckily for me I’m fairly certain I could borrow it from someone but it’s still a horrible feeling.

    I say start a foundation and let’s have a fundraiser. I’m going to contact you privately with an idea.

    I’m sorry you went through this Kristine but I’m so glad you had people you could turn to, you are right, not everybody has that.


    • That’s the dream. I am not sure if I have the resources to start something yet but I would love to hear your ideas!

      I was very lucky indeed and I will forever be grateful.


  10. when Bender punctured his chest the emergency vet gave him ABs and painkillers on Sunday night once they had ascertained there was no organ damage and he was stable, and sent him home. He went into surgery at our regular vet the next day. That may not have been an option for Shiva due to the extent of the laceration, but Bender was full of river mud and dirt and stuff, and he still healed up fine just waiting the extra 12 hrs (we were probably in the evet waiting room for 5 hours as well!!!)


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