The Bean Blog (currently on hiatus)

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Five Thousand Dollar Dog

It might have been three months ago to the day that my dog, a yellow lab named Chester, wrecked his right knee. Chester has one obsession: playing fetch. As Tony Kornheiser would say, "That's it! That's the list!" Like any good ball player, Chester tore his ACL, a stabilizing ligament in the knee. I took him to our vet, and he said, "This dog needs to go to an orthopedic specialist." Huh? I said. I didn't even know such things existed for dogs. About $2200 later, a piece of nylon was in Chester's knee instead of the ripped in half, worthless ligament. The surgeon told me that there was a 60% chance that Chester would wreck the other knee within the next year or two. Apparently, the lifespan of a ligament is genetically predetermined. For Chester, an ACL lasts about 9 and 1/2 years. I know this because this past Sunday, he wrecked the other knee, formerly known as the Good Knee and now known as the Worse Knee since we still consider the recently repaired knee to be the Bad Knee. This means, yes, that we will be shelling out another $2200 on Chester, which basically raises his value to $5000 when you figure in food and other routine vet visits.

I don't think that I've mentioned that we haven't even had Chester for a year. We got him from the humane society last August. I like adopting older dogs because I think most people walk right by them, and I'm a sucker for the down-trodden. I also like that older dogs have usually been house trained and have learned a few other social skills. In addition to all this, they are generally quieter and tend to sleep a good deal of the day away. I had no problem with adopting a dog who was closing in on 9 years old (at the time). But it sure is hard to spend $5000 on a dog that you've had for 8-10 months.

When I tell some of my neighbors about Chester's injury, they usually ask how much it costs to fix, and I tell them. Almost all of them advocate putting the dog down. I can't say that we didn't think about it when the first knee got wrecked. But it was a fleeting thought that was never seriously considered. It would be one thing if he had cancer or some other disease, and he was in pain and there wasn't much to do about it. But this surgery has a 95% success rate and the repair almost always last for the lifetime of the dog. Now that we've put $2500 into him, we didn't even consider whether or not we would do it again. After all, he's now an investment.

And he's a good dog--sweet, kind, not a bad bone in his body. He lived with one family for 8 years, and they gave him to some friends when they moved. I can't understand how you can have a dog for 8 years and then just give him away. Their "friends" barely kept Chester for a week before taking him to the humane society. He stayed there for about 6 months (it's a no-kill shelter) before the Bread Winner and I adopted him last August.

Soon there will be a cast on his left leg just like there was one on his right leg three months ago. On the first cast, I wrote, "Live by the Ball, Wreck Your Knee by the Ball." On this cast, I'm going to write, "$5000 Dog."


  • I've had labs all my life, and I still get weepy when I remember my yellow lab Kippins. A lab breeder in my area has shared her ACL story on the web. You can read about it here if you're interested:

    Good luck!

    By Blogger Whimsy Chick, at 3:51 PM, July 06, 2004  

  • Thanks for the link--I checked it out. I did a different surgery than she did--the "cheaper" one. I have to tell you, I've always considered myself a fairly dramatic person, but that woman takes the cake. I didn't worry nearly as much about Chester as she did about Darby. I never stayed up "sick with worry" or even once prayed to God or thanked Blessed Jesus. LOL

    By Blogger Oz, at 5:33 PM, July 06, 2004  

  • Yeah, she's definitely... um, different. Her dogs are her children. Great for the dogs, kinda weird for the rest of us. But you have to admit, it was an interesting read. :)

    By Blogger Whimsy Chick, at 7:24 PM, July 06, 2004  

  • Finding a good dog that's part of the family is worth their weight in gold :)

    By Blogger Esther, at 7:29 AM, July 07, 2004  

  • I have a yellow lab-cocker spaniel cross who's now about 11 years old. I got her when she was only 4 weeks, so she really is my baby.

    She doesn't fetch, but she does play soccer, and loves any ball she can carry or dribble with her paws.

    I got one dog after her as a pup, and that's it- I will never get another pup again! Give me an old pound dog anyday, because by them, you've got trust issues to work on, but the hard and messy work has usually been done already.. not to mention everyone walks by them without a second look.

    Tell that dogg of yours to be careful! He's still got some years left in him, and you can't afford to replace a part very year! :p

    By Blogger Debra, at 8:33 AM, July 08, 2004  

  • Esther, Hmm, what's the going rate for gold? Chester weighs 67 pounds. 5000/67=74.6...well, he's not quite worth his weight in gold, but he's getting there!

    Debra, I've never had a puppy, but I know lots of people who have, and it looks very painful LOL. Jeez, if Chester would just wreck some part of his body once a year, I wouldn't mind THAT much. But two serious injuries in 3 months--that's pretty hard on the checkbook....

    By Blogger Oz, at 12:21 PM, July 08, 2004  

  • I was riuned for puppies with my yellow dog. Even at 4 weeks of age, sh could hold her bladder over night, and never messe din the house. She only lived in the house a few weeks til she was big enough not to be carried off by owls and hawks, but that was plenty of time to ruin me.

    She never dug holes, didn't whine, didn't get out of fences, didn't chew thigns up. If it's a puppy behavior, she never had it.

    Now Berry on the other hand... she's almost 5 and still does all those and more. Painful doesn't even begin to cover Its like being up against a super genious who wants to make your life a living hell and never has to do anything specific. It just makes you crazy.

    By Blogger Debra, at 5:48 AM, July 09, 2004  

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