Worries about Vet Made Worse by Debt

DH = Dear Husband

Budget Blues

                Wednesday night of this past week, DH and I sat down to balance the books for January and to prepare our budget for February.  It was the single most depressing budget talk we have ever had. Budgeting for us is at best a necessary evil, but this week’s revelations brought us to a place of numb hopelessness.
January business for DH was better than we had thought it would be. He was away for one week with an old friend on a snowboarding trip, paid in full upfront, and since he’s self-employed, we knew there would be no income for those seven days. He had a great time, and we felt it was well worth the sacrifice in terms of income. But some unexpected big orders made up for his one week off, and we thought we were in for a good payment against our debt after all. “$2,500 at least,” DH said.

Vet Bills & Ugly Thoughts

Then the vet bills came in. $450 for the original x-rays which revealed a bladder stone and possible heart disease. $830 for an ultrasound and a consultation with a specialist who gave us the good news that Rocky’s heart was fine – and the bad news that he actually had several bladder stones that were a crisis waiting to happen. $1,370 for surgery to remove the stones. If you do the math, you can probably figure it out. We will not be able to put anything against the debt for the month of January.  We have had seven such months over the last year: 2 because of slow business; 4 because we had to save for a new roof and a tree removal; now 1 more because of vet bills. Ugh!
“I feel like we’re on a treadmill going nowhere,” DH said Wednesday night. Rocky’s surgery was to happen the next day – on Thursday – and we looked ahead to it with dread. Not because we were worried about Rocky, but because we thought it would be just one more in a stream of vet bills that would stretch morbidly into the future. There was regret and resentment that we had ever bought a dog in the first place. I really hate to say this, but we found ourselves warming to the thought that perhaps things would go terribly wrong on the operating table . . .
After a poor sleep Wednesday night, I took Rocky to the vet Thursday morning feeling agitated and conflicted. I knew I would get an update sometime in the early afternoon, so when the phone rang for me at work at 2:00, I braced myself. “The vet called,” DH told me. “He said one of Rocky’s stones was big and multi-pronged. He said it looked like an instrument of medieval torture – he’d never seen anything like it.” Along with other smaller stones it had been removed, and Rocky was doing well. I was surprised by the power of relief that flooded me – relief at a sense of finality. The root of Rocky’s pain was gone. The vet bill saga was over.
Poor little guy had a cone over his head and personality-altering drugs in his system when I brought him home Thursday night. He was absolutely dear in his stunned state, and we all molly-coddled him shamelessly. He’s to have a quiet two weeks of recovery before the stitches come out and the cone comes off, and in that time we’ll have our challenges. What’s the best way to feed him? What can we do about the snow he shovels up with his cone every time he goes outside? We’re having some good giggles as we try to navigate the obstacles though, and laughter over this matter is a welcome thing.

Reflection & Resolve

I can’t help but acknowledge the fact that our debt has made this episode much more difficult than it needed to be. It would have been challenging and worrisome enough just to get all the testing and procedures done. We didn’t need the added stress of financial anxiety. We didn’t need to be reduced to guilty thoughts of surgery-gone-bad. Debt weakens us when trouble arises, draining us – making us less effective in dealing with it. So DH and I are left with a greater-than-ever desire to fight our debt down – though we’ve never felt more frustrated by our inability to do so.  Time to tap into some serenity. We’ll do our best, and we’ll let go of what is beyond our control. February is a new month, and we have a reasonable hope that it will be free of vet bills. On we go.

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  • Thank goodness the vet found Rocky’s issue – he is a doll face, by the way! True, vet bills always seem so high…that makes me realize how much our human health care would cost if we had to pay for every test and check up out of pocket! Yeah Canada! Even with its issues, we have free service when we really need it. I do love our 125 pound dog and our 2 cats but, the $900 vet bill each spring for three ‘check ups’, blood tests and flea meds, made me crazy. So last year, feeling like a bad pet owner, I skipped it! They are all still alive! I also realize a big part of our house cleaning chores are caused by these three extra beings in our home! Dirty footprints, litter tracked everywhere, drool stains, and HAIR tumbleweeds!! Pets are a huge expense and must be accounted for in our budgets. We are child free so, no college education or car expenses required! Pets are a luxury but we enjoy them as part of our family. Good luck with getting your debt paid down more in 2014. The good news is your unexpected vet bill was paid instead of just adding it to your debt!! That is progress! PS – even after a big xmas trip, our line of credit now sits at ZERO! At least until some unexpected vet bill comes up!! ;.)

    • You are right to say that it is a sign of progress that we didn’t add to our debt with our vet bills. We paid them off, and I suppose I could feel good about that. I’m definitely looking at the glass half empty these days. Our dog is 20 pounds. I can only imagine what is involved in looking after a 125-pound dog! There really are a lot of hidden costs involved in having pets. They all have to be accounted for with eyes wide open. Like you, this experience made me reflect upon our Canadian health care system with gratitude. I believe that part of the reason I was so taken aback by the vet bills is that I have never had to think about the costs of medical aid. Is that good fortune or naiveté?

  • Oh No, the cone of shame!!!! LOL. My wife often makes the observation that the universe always seems to balance itself out. We find out that through some means we are getting some extra money…and BAM van needs new brakes. It’s crazy…glad to hear your furry friend is on his way to recovery!

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