If you read to the bottom of this post, there’s an adorable photo of a puppy to reward you.
When cornered and asked to justify my choice not to have children, I have a list of prepared responses. Top among them is that kids are expensive, and I don’t make that kind of money. You need a car seat, stroller, changing table, crib, clothes, diapers, daycare (because you both have to work to afford children), interactive learning games, a Baby Bjorn, diaper bag, toys, and a bigger house. And that will just get you through the first year. College is mind-blowingly expensive, and worse every year. I’m amazed that anyone can be financially prepared for all this.
Instead, we choose dogs. They eat a predictable amount of food, they don’t need clothes, they are endlessly occupied by tennis balls and frisbees, and we don’t have to worry about the expense of college (although Ursula is Ivy League material).
But here’s where the balance tips in favor of kids: children are covered by health insurance. Dogs are not.
Ursula came down with something over two weeks ago. Here’s the short version: diarrhea, vomiting, icky inflamed skin infection on her forearms, listlessness, decreased appetite, ear yeast infection. After waiting it out for a few days (during which time the little trooper climbed a few mountains) and seeing her get worse, we took her to the vet.
The hard thing about taking a dog to the vet is that they can’t talk. The vet has to rely on what he can see, and what the dog’s human companion can relate about changes in behavior. It’s a tough job. I often feel like my own medical problems are guesswork by my doctor; it’s even more so with dogs. His first theory was a staff infection, possibly from a trip to the groomer 3 weeks before the symptoms started. Second theory was a food allergy, which was corroborated by the presence of the yeast infection in her ears.
Do you know what you have to do for a dog with an unknown food allergy? An elimination diet, just like for people. Except that dog kibble contains like a thousand ingredients, so you’d never know which one was causing the problem, so you have to put your dog on something really stringent with very limited and unusual ingredients, like frozen raw wild kangaroo and quinoa. I’m not kidding. Kangaroo dog food is a thing. It takes 10 weeks to clear a dog’s system of the allergy. If symptoms subside, congratulations! Your dog isn’t allergic to kangaroo! Then you can try adding one normal ingredient at a time, like chicken, or rice, or lamb. Then wait 2-3 weeks to see if there’s a reaction. This process can take YEARS to identify the allergens. A balanced raw food dog food diet costs approximately $30-$45 a week. If we had to do this for a whole year, I’d need a second job.
We were really, really hopeful that it was a nasty creepy crawly parasite and not a food allergy.
After a 5-day trial of antibiotics failed to make any difference, the vet recommended a skin biopsy, which involved punching out a plug of skin from the inflamed area on both forearms. The lab would be able to culture any existing bacteria, identify parasites, do a pathology report, detect any autoimmune problems, and identify if the problem was an allergic dermatitis. Given the alternative trial-and-error method of treating the unknown problem, we gulped and handed over our credit card. Ursula was obviously sick, and had been for nearly two weeks. We were worried.
The up side of the skin biopsy (in addition to a definitive diagnosis) was that she got to wear a little T-shirt for 10 days while the stitches healed (Joshua would never allow this under normal circumstances), which also prevented her from licking the wound. And she looked adorable.
Many hundreds of dollars later, the results were in: a mildly resistant staff infection. With the right medications, she rebounded quickly and is back to stalking the cat and barking at the neighbors.
But dogs are way easier than kids, right? RIGHT?