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Doggone veterinary outlay was worth every dollar

By Claire Harvey, The Sunday Telegraph, Sept 16, 2012

WHAT sort of idiot spends thousands of dollars on medicine for a dog? How gullible would you have to be to sign up for pet insurance? And - seriously - chemotherapy for a cat?

I really didn't think I was that person - the person who forks out over $3000 for a sick dog.

But, as I discovered this week, I am.

I totally am. And if the bill were triple, I'd pay with a smile.

Our puppy got sick - really sick.

With Dr Internet, I diagnosed her with everything from congenital heart failure to leukaemia. I raked through the backyard looking for poisons she might have eaten. I examined her vomit and poo. I hugged her in the vet's waiting room. When she was admitted to the vet hospital and we had to go home without her, I Googled ``puppy'' and gazed at gambolling fluffballs.

And when I thought she was going to die, I drove along the freeway, weeping in that open-mouthed, silent shuddering way, as drivers swerved around me. I swiped through my phone to play Mr Bojangles, hiccoughing along with the verse.

"The dog up and died, up and died, and after 20 years he still grieves'' sang Nina Simone, with me on watery harmony. I was imagining myself grieving into the future. I knew I'd still be crying, 20 years on.

Ah, the melodrama.

And when she finally came sprinting out of the veterinary hospital into our arms I was overjoyed to throw money at the geniuses who saved her.

This is why Australia now has a billion-dollar pet healthcare industry. It's a bit like the US, pre-Obamacare: if you don't have insurance, you better have cash. The animal versions of knee reconstructions and blood transfusions cost vastly more than human procedures.

Recent research by Bankwest indicates the average family dog will cost more than $25,000 over a decade, and a cat slightly less.

How Australia has changed. Once, dogs had dog-names like Rover and Blackie (or a variant on that I won't mention). When they got sick or inconvenient, they got shot.

Now, that attitude has contracted to the bush. City dogs have names like Sarah and Harry. They have diabetes management plans. It's not very Henry Lawson. But I don't really care. It's the new Australia.

There's a gap between the old doggie Australia and the new, and it's in households where cash is sparse. I'm lucky enough to have some spare money to pay for emergencies, but plenty of pet-owners don't.

Those animals aren't lucky enough to get either exorbitant treatment or a quick, merciful death.

And I'm happy to defend the city attitude. I chose to have dogs. They trust me. If they are suffering, I have a duty to choose either merciful death or treatment. For me, as a city wimp, the green needle is not an option - so I must pay for treatment. Simple.

Our naughty little doggie is back. She dug a giant lump of dirt out of the garden and chewed it on the cream carpet. She stole half a pork pie off the kitchen bench. She weed on the bedroom floor. That was all before noon on Friday. Don't worry, I haven't lost it completely. I did rouse on her for being so evil.

And then I picked her up for a cuddle. It felt like the modern Australian thing to do.

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