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Saying Goodbye to my Beloved Cat

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Billy

Deteriorating Health

On Monday night, I got home from work and found my cat, Billy, unresponsive. As you may remember from one of my first posts, my cat Billy is diabetic. I was on edge already, as he had become a bit unstable over the past few weeks.  A couple of weeks ago, I woke up and he was having a seizure. I put syrup on his gums and tested his blood sugar. It was 34 mg/dL or 1.9 mmol/L. This is critically low and can kill a person or cat in minutes. I spent the whole night getting him stabilized and then he was a bit out of it for the next day and a half. But after that, he seemed totally fine. He played in the garden and sat in the snow. He played fetch with my friend’s four-year-old daughter.

I lowered his insulin dose and kept testing him. But I can’t be there 24/7, so I was scared. Removing insulin entirely, his blood sugar was too high. So I kept him on a low dose.

Monday night

Monday night, I found him staggering and falling over. He couldn’t seem to see, hear, or feel me. He had hit 32 mg/dL, critical again. I got his blood sugar up to a normal level, but he was not okay. He fought with his entire might to hide in dangerous places. I ended up putting him in the dog crate, and he was out of his mind trying to escape. He wanted to hide, perhaps because he was dying.

I took him to the vet because was in severe distress. The vet found a lot of pressure around his abdomen and could see and hear fluid around his kidneys. He asked if I wanted to run tests, saying it could be something minor. But my vet knows I am an expert in diabetic cat care (long story but I volunteer with an emergency response team for diabetic cats in Toronto). We spoke about the recent difficulty to control sugars, and about the severity of his crashes (life-threatening both times). The first time, it was a miracle I woke up to find him having a seizure. The second, I’m lucky I got home to find him alive. He could have been crashing for hours. Ultimately, with a broken heart, I decided to say goodbye to the cat I’ve had for half of my life. I couldn’t bear him suffering or dying alone while I was at work.

Planes, trains, and automobiles

I found Billy in bad shape on a busy road when I was in high school. He moved out with me in my first apartment when I was just shy of my 18th birthday. He helped me survive my first breakup. Billy came to college and university with me. I took him on the subway, for rides in my first car, to friends’ houses. I never left him alone. My friends are easygoing, and when I was staying over, I would bring Billy along. He was so brave. You will hear me say that again later because he really was. When I took a job in the US, he moved with me. I used to walk him on a leash on the side of the interstate. He navigated airports and air travel with an air of grace rarely seen in cats. He loved his leash, and I rarely ever had him in a carrier when we travelled.

 

A lifetime of memories

Billy put my 90lb dog, Rosie, in her place every day of his life. He wouldn’t let her walk past him on the stairs, take the place she wanted on the couch, have the last treat on the floor. Billy was a little boss of a cat, and we happily gave him everything he wanted. His purrs could be heard across the house. He liked to bang on doors with his tiny paw instead of scratching, so when he was accidentally locked in a room, one would hear little knocks echoing through the rooms.

I have spent less than 50 days away from him in 16 years. Those days were all for overseas travel. Every day we were together, he slept in my bed, usually near my head. That might sound strange to people who don’t have pets, but it was one of my life’s greatest comforts and gifts. Billy was loud, voracious, insistent, playful, energetic, and brave. He was so, so brave. He never minded me learning to test his blood or give him needles.

I ran my nose up and down his nose dozens of times a day, our private nose kisses. I held him to my chest every day when I got home from work. My grief is profoundly physical. My arms feel so light, my heart so empty. I understand the weight of the word bereft now. I feel bereft. There is a Billy-sized hole in my life.

An expensive loss

It cost me $410 to have Billy euthanized. Since then, I purchased a custom handmade Christmas ornament ($32) and a tree as tall as me ($76) to remember him by. I’ll keep the Billy memory tree inside my house so it can come with me when I move. Cremation would have been about $250 to have the ashes returned, so I elected to bury Billy. It took almost three hours to dig the hole deep enough, but it was cathartic. I woke up today feeling so much better than yesterday.

I’ll donate his supplies and meds to another cat in need. I won’t have to pay for syringes, insulin, or canned food any longer. That saves me about $60-70 a month. I won’t be getting another cat, at least for a couple years.

I took all of this money out of my emergency savings and I don’t know that I will be able to replenish them in December. But I guess that’s what the money is there for. I’ll summarize the finances once again in my monthly net worth update after I tally everything for the month. I’m committed to budgeting tightly for December, out of desperation. Finances feel like they’re in a free-fall and I hate the feeling of using my savings.


Pet Insurance

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Hey everyone! I’m back. The budget is still a work in progress (bad debt blogger!), but I am on vacation and haven’t opened a computer since Friday. Today, I decided to talk about something else weighing on my financial mind. Pet insurance is another good example of how emotion plays in to financial decision making. Additionally, enjoy some photos of Rosie swimming yesterday! 🙂

The increasing cost of pet ownership

I received a note from my dog’s insurance company that her deductible is going up to $500 a year (from its current $300), because that’s the rate for dogs 5-10 years old. Her monthly premium is also going up to $60, from $54. I’ve shopped around, and this is the best plan I can find for our needs. This is a competitive rate for a large breed middle-aged dog who hasn’t been insured since puppyhood.

I struggle with the monthly cost, which feels like a waste. We didn’t meet the $300 mark this year (her submittable bills were $180), so I haven’t been reimbursed a cent for vet visits in 2019. However, the $60/month isn’t a hardship for me, and I don’t have savings for my dog’s care. If she was sick or injured and needed a few thousands dollars of vet care tomorrow, I’d put that on my credit card in a heartbeat. I know that isn’t smart for me financially, and that’s why I have insurance. This plan covers her medical bills up to 90%.

Based on her age and borderline giant size, she will almost certainly be having hip or leg issues soon. Many dogs at her size and activity level tear their ACL at some point, which can be a $10k injury. I wouldn’t put that on my credit card. I’d never pay that off. But putting my dog down because of a torn ACL would cause me profound guilt and grief. That’s how I am justifying this ridiculous insurance cost right now.

Details of the plan

Rosie’s plan includes 90% of her medical bills covered up to $30k once the deductible is met. She also gets $300/year of dental work with no deductible or co-pay, fully covered euthanasia and cremation/burial costs, and some other benefits. Skin lumps, cancerous or not, will not be covered because they were a pre-existing condition. I am going to call the insurance company to try and get the rate lowered (hey, it’s worth a shot). I’ll also ask them for tips on how to make the most of the plan. The vet says she doesn’t need dental work, so we can’t even use that benefit. Her teeth are perfect from eating raw meaty bones!

Would I get pet insurance again?

My next dog will have a savings fund before I even adopt the dog. I’ll tuck away $150/month for their care. But for Rosie, I don’t have that option and I don’t want to end up in the hole if she gets sick. I hate seeing the monthly fee for the insurance on the credit card statement, but I can’t save aggressively enough for full medical care.

She’s my family. Not everyone will understand that, but I know most of you do, and I love you all for that.

We are using Pet Secure. I think we have the best plan, but I’d love to hear from readers who have experiences with other pet insurance plans. There are many new companies, like Bivvy pet insurance, that offer amazing deals to their customers – they are definitely worth checking out!

How do you make sure your pet is covered in case of emergency, while also protecting yourself financially? How do I make the right decisions going forward, having made some mistakes with pet care in the past?


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