You’ve Got To Change Your Advil Ways, Baby

How an ill-advised snack made me see why paying the vet bills is a no-brainer
by Georgie Binks
A couple of Sundays ago, my son, Ian, 11, phoned me while I was out shopping. “Goody ran into a desk, and knocked a bottle of Advil off of it and then ate some.” Goody is our one-year-old West Highland Terrier and he’s eaten a fair number of odd things since he arrived in our house, so I wasn’t too worried. He eats the cover of our TV guide every week, shortly after I pull it out of the Saturday National Post. We have chased him around the house trying to retrieve a cupcake paper, which we never got. (And never saw come out the other end either, now that I think of it.) And, of course, he loves human food. One day, my son, sitting sleepily at the breakfast table with a buttered bagel in hand, lost it as Goody lunged in the air, grabbed it and slid happily under the couch to enjoy it. So I figured with the Advil that he would just throw it up and that would be the end of it. It wasn’t. This particular episode was not only dramatic, it taught us all a lesson about vet bills as well as what role Goody really plays in our day-to-day life. But I wasn’t to know that until afterwards. At first, it was a just matter of cleaning up dog puke. After vomiting four times (Goody, that is, not me) I called the emergency clinic and asked them what I should do. They were friendly, but firm, “Bring him in. It could be fatal, or at least bad for his kidneys and stomach.” So Ian and I bundled him up and took him up to the emergency dog clinic at Sheppard and Yonge. At this stage, I was still feeling calm, both about Goody’s health and the balance on my Visa bill. (You will see why the two are related shortly.) As soon as we got there, they whisked Goody in, ahead of what seemed to be an unusual number of sick cats. I made jokes to the receptionist about a New Yorker article I had recently read, which mentioned people spending thousands, and I mean thousands, of dollars on sick animals, and wasn’t that funny and all. She just looked at me, which should have been a tip-off. Soon enough, the vet was out and informed me that Goody would be given hydrogen peroxide to get him to vomit up the rest of the Advil. Then he would be given charcoal to absorb the poison. Then tests would be done to determine if there was any permanent damage to his kidney or stomach. He would also be hooked up to an IV. Tomorrow he would be transferred to the animal hospital close to us. I stupidly asked, “How will he be transferred?”, wondering if there were dog ambulances. I was informed it would be in my car, with me driving. As well, I needed to be there before eight in the morning, no small feat when you consider what the traffic can be like at Yonge and Sheppard during rush hour. Oh, and would I please pay a deposit of $490. That’s when I started to ask detailed questions of my son, to determine if I could schlep more liability onto his shoulders, allowing me to dock him his allowance ’til he was 16. But he felt so badly about Goody, that I had to follow plan B which was to pray that my pet insurance would cover it, and of course to pray that Goody would make it through this. Early the next morning, I picked up Goody, who was very chipper, although unhappy about the IV still stuck in him, paid the balance, which brought me up to about $560.77 and headed home. Goody had half an hour to correct the squirrel situation in the backyard (they had been running rampant during his brief sojourn in the hospital) and then I trucked him off to our own vet. Goody was then hooked up to another IV, and given more tests. I left him there and waited for the vet to call. It was then that I really started missing him. There was no one to listen as I complained that the mailman still not had arrived. I made the meals without anyone watching me, hoping for food to fall on the ground. And worst of all, every morning as I finished my cereal and picked up my bowl to place it on the floor for him to lick up the milk, there was no one there, so I was forced to finish it myself. The kids were hurting, but I was hurting worse. I even felt like going for walks. But there was no point. Wednesday they let him out (another $311.86, gulp) with special dog food, liquid medicine to squirt, and pills. Unfortunately, the peroxide they had given him on Sunday to make him throw up still seemed to be working. So Thursday, I took him back in. The vet, a kindly woman who kept hugging Goody, asked if I wanted an estimate. I shrugged and asked, ‘How bad can it be?’ What I actually meant was at what dollar value would I cut Goody off from medical care. I guess it was at this point I stopped laughing at the people in that New Yorker article. There was actually no amount of money I wouldn’t pay to get him better. And I realized another thing–that it almost wasn’t about Goody anymore. It was about my family and what Goody meant to us. Ever since Goody had been in the hospital, the kids had been fighting like crazy, and I was depressed. Goody was our therapist, my boyfriend, a trash compactor, a people walker; just a warm being to hold and love. He filled a very big empty spot in our lives. So when I picked up Goody the next day, who had finally stopped barfing, I paid another $400.93 without blinking. I am just praying my pet insurance doesn’t have some fine print that says it only covers Tylenol and not Advil.