This last week, my family and I faced an overwhelmingly emotional situation – we thought we’d have to put our almost 2-year-old dog to sleep. We came home from the vet and all three of us cried our eyes out for the rest of the evening.
WARNING: This is a long post!
Let me back up as to what happened and then fill you in on the current news. Speckles (our dog) had what we thought was a ‘bad leg’. We brought her into the vet a year ago and he said it was likely some kind of sprain. He gave some pain pills for her and said to come back for x-rays if her limping did not go away. It did and it seemed she was better. During the time since then, her soreness would come and go. It would be especially noticeable when she was tired, but again subsided when she got some good rest. That was until two weeks ago.
Suddenly, we noticed that she would no longer put any weight on her hind left leg at all. We were very concerned and decided that x-rays were completely necessary. We were not happy with our last vet so we searched on Yelp and called for pricing. With 4-1/2 stars and an open appointment, we decided to visit a nearby veterinarian. I knew he charged more for x-rays but figured it was okay since we only needed two (both sides of her leg).
The vet seemed very patient and loved dogs. He gave a VERY thorough examination, pulling, stretching, and squeezing. Speckles mostly reacted when he tried to move her hip. At that point, the look on his face changed completely. He went on to tell us that she may have a slew of conditions from torn ligaments to joint deformity to arthritis to needing hip replacement, a surgery starting at $5,000. We were inundated with a mass of scary-sounding medical terms and the vet telling us she needed several x-rays that even required sedation.
We walked out of the examination room to the estimate of $490 for the suggested x-rays. As much as we love our dog, it was not feasible to sacrifice my family’s well-being in order to pay for our dog’s medical bills. My husband and I looked at each other and began to draw the same conclusion – either spend thousands of dollars (that we didn’t have) to MAYBE fix one of several conditions or drug her up on painkillers for the duration of her life. Neither sounded fair to Speckles and putting her out of her misery might be the most loving decision.
Suffice it to say, we were heartbroken. Speckles was our first dog and had grown to be a part of our family. My daughter was with us during the exam and, as we felt she was old enough to grasp it, we explained the situation to her. She considered Speckles her sister and did everything with her. She even took photos of Speckles all the time so that my daughter’s cell phone had hundreds of blurry and underexposed pictures of our sweet pup. Speckles was an awesome dog that was sweet, loving, funny, clever, stubborn, pretty, and totally special. Plus, she was not even two years old yet. It hurt so much thinking that our next few days with her could be our last.
The next day, we already had standing plans to stay at a hotel in Half Moon Bay with Speckles. We decided to put all this aside and just enjoy our time with her as much as possible. We took a ton of pictures. Speckles was so sore from the vet pulling and pushing her muscles that she mostly just laid down. We were kind of irked at that vet for being so rough.
At one point, I picked her up from the back of the car and gently put her down. Suddenly, Speckles started to yelp like crazy for a good 1-2 minutes straight. Even other hotel guests were opening their doors to find out what was going on. My husband picked her up and brought her to our room. As I rolled her on her back, she wouldn’t even extend her hind leg. We went into hysterics! In a panic I called several places, hoping to get an appointment right away. It’s amazing how cold some receptionists can be when you’re trying to explain the situation but can barely talk without sobbing uncontrollably.
We finally got an appointment with a veterinary clinic I had taken Speckles to before, Whipple Avenue Pet Hospital in Redwood City. I loved the vet we saw here previously, but it was a bit far for regular visits. That didn’t matter now. They had an open appointment just two hours later and called the previous vets we visited to obtained more information on her leg. Dr. Stiglich walked in and said, “So, I see you saw Dr. So-and-So, our new VCA president…” Uh-oh, were we in trouble now?
She proceeded to clearly explain the diagnosis the last vet gave and the tests he did. She verified that the steps taken were just right and that x-rays, the same ones suggested earlier, were needed. We told Dr. Stiglich that we left the other office thinking we’d had to put Speckles down. She said, “No, there’s no reason that your dog can’t live a happy and full life.” That alone caused my husband and I a huge sign of relief. She said that were tons of reasonably-priced options to care for her, including treatment at renowned university. The vet put everything in layman terms for us but was not being overly simplistic or condescending. She said that she explains things to her patients the way she would her own mother. We truly appreciated that. She really had a wonderful bedside manner.
Without forcing us or even making us FEEL we were being forced, she asked us what we’d like to do. We realized that we HAD to get now and asked for a quote. Their quote was a good $150 less and they could see Speckles on Monday (they were closed on the weekend). In the meantime, she offered to prescribe pain and anti-inflammatory medication just to help her for the next couple of days. As we could get the meds at a discount at Walgreens, she kindly wrote the prescriptions out so we could get them filled there. That alone saved us a bundle as well.
Today (Monday) I’ll be bringing Speckles in for her x-rays. We have no idea what they will reveal or if further tests will be needed. Hopefully, everything will turn out okay.