This is Charlie.
Nobody likes to learn a lesson the hard way. I’m not even sure if there is an easy way to learn any lesson, except for maybe simple lessons like “I love ice cream” or “sunny afternoons are pleasant,” but if there were, I’d choose the easy way every time. All of that is to say, this story is about the day I wished I had pet insurance. Actually, it was more like three days.
I had just moved out to Seattle from Iowa after completing graduate school. It was just me and my dog, Charlie, but, depending on my mood and his behavior, he’s also been known to answer to Chucks, Chuck-a-Luck, Charles Barkley, and Chuckles. When I’d adopted him years earlier from the Chicago city pound, his papers had him marked down as a sheltie-mix, but I’ve never believed that. His short, setback legs and bicycle seat-shaped head mark him as a dachshund while his fuzzy body hearkens something else altogether. The consensus among my friends seems to be that his father was most likely an opossum. Never mind the biological impossibility of that, I think they’re most likely correct.
After a few dicey months of looking for a job and living off of ramen noodles, I’d finally managed to wrangle up a position teaching writing at a community college. The morning of my first day in the classroom, I knew something was wrong the moment I woke up. I knew because Charlie wasn’t crushed up against me with his paws in my face the way I was used to. In fact, he wasn’t in my room at all.
“Charlie!” I called. From the living room, I heard him whine for a second and take a few steps before stopping. I sat up and called him again and again heard him start to come toward my voice before stopping himself. This was a cue that he’d done something “bad”.
Charlie is a particularly guilt-ridden dog. I’ve never figured out exactly why, but if he even suspects that he’s done something that I wouldn’t like, he scrunches up his face, refuses to make eye contact and slinks down on the floor. There have been times when I’ve come home to Charlie and his remorseful face and spent hours looking around for what he got into—Did he chew up paper? Did he get into a wastebasket?—only to find nothing amiss. When I got out of bed that morning, I was hoping this might be the case.
What’s Wrong with Charlie?
The first thing I noticed when I stepped out of the bedroom was the ungodly stench. Charlie was cowering in the corner and the rest of the carpeted living room was covered with, um, you can probably guess. Charlie had both lost control of his bowels and vomited on practically every square inch of the floor. I sighed and then went to comfort Charlie and let him know that he wasn’t in trouble. Then I got him ready for a walk.
On the walk, the situation went from bad to much, much worse. Charlie needed to stop every few feet to either vomit or else, well, the other thing. It just wouldn’t stop. And then came the blood. Dark, maroon blood replaced the diarrhea. I knew it was time to take him to the animal hospital. I also knew it wasn’t going to be cheap and I was still a few weeks out from getting my first paycheck from my new job as an English professor. I called into the college’s office and had them cancel my class for me.
Vets are Expensive
Once he was admitted at the animal hospital, the vets started him on IV fluids immediately. They said if I hadn’t brought him in right when I did, he probably would have become too dehydrated and wouldn’t have made it. His vet performed some tests and it ended up that he had an inflammation of his colon, which is also where the blood was coming from. Most likely, it was from him eating something off the ground when we were out on a walk. They kept him two nights for observation. The total bill? $2,700.
Luckily, I could borrow the money from my dad. If that hadn’t have been the case, however, I would have been forced to make some tough decisions regarding the quality of healthcare I could give my dog. It taught me a lesson. When I finally was able to bring Chuck home from the hospital, I grabbed a pet insurance brochure as well. With pet insurance, I pay a nominal fee each month, but I have peace of mind knowing that he will always be covered in an emergency.