“Cat Lovers Killed Cat Fancy”

by Dish Staff

That’s what Abraham Riesman concludes in his post-mortem for the magazine:

In their defense, they had no idea they were doing it. But in recent years, the nature of cat adoration (and I must offer full disclosure here: I am the parent of two cats) has changed 2078985468504005137f9404728566c1radically. Though Cat Fancy tried to adapt, it never totally broke free from its origins in a different era of cat enthusiasm. To understand the seismic shift in cat culture, you can start by picking apart Cat Fancy‘s name. It used to be much more than a whimsical reference to the enjoyment of felines. When the magazine launched in 1965, animal lovers were very familiar with something called “the cat fancy.” The term referred to a connoisseurlike approach to cats: following professional cat shows, maintaining directories of cat breeders, and recognizing the importance of purebred bloodlines. “Back then, the people who had all the knowledge tended to be the people who were showing cats, breeding cats, everything like that,” said Melissa Kauffman, senior editorial director for I-5. …

[R]eaders of Cat Fancy in its early decades would likely be aghast at the shape of today’s cat passions. Modern feline icons like Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub are mutts with genetic deformities. They wouldn’t have made it past the front door at a Golden Age cat show. And their many public appearances are filled with fans who would disdain anyone who gets a cat from a breeder rather than a shelter.

Here’s what Cat Fancy‘s replacement, Catster, looks like:

Riesman again:

But beyond the covers, what will Catster the magazine be? Much of that won’t be clear until the first issue hits stands in February, but all evidence indicates that it will be extremely photo-oriented, very lighthearted, filled with lists and confessionals, and committed to treating cat ownership as a lifestyle rather than a hobby or a medical burden.

Catster is for the cat-selfie generation,” Huey-Steiner said. “It’s for people who consider cats an integral part of their social lives. It’s about fun things and knowing that cats rule the roost.” That means lists like “19 Crazy Cat Superstitions” and “Litter-Box Accidents Waiting to Happen,” as well as pieces like “How to Cat-ify Your Cubicle.” There will still be some breed information and veterinary advice, but neither will be a major focus. And then there’s the celebrity aspect. “We want to capitalize on the role that cats play in the lives of celebrities, whether that’s somebody like a Taylor Swift and how she talks about her cats or someone else,” Huey-Steiner said. “You’d never see that in Cat Fancy.”

(Image of Cat Fancy‘s cover from February 1969)

The Strangeness Of Our Love Of Our Pets, Ctd

Sophie Flack details Matthew Gilbert’s memoir, Off the Leash: A Year at the Dog Park:

A neurotic, death-obsessed, and socially uncomfortable television critic for the Boston Globe, Gilbert describes his evolution into a more open-hearted, playful person, thanks to his yellow photo.PNGlab, Toby, and the cast of characters who frequent the Armory Dog Park in Brookline, Massachusetts. Despite his initial efforts to distance himself, Gilbert not only becomes friends with the dog park freaks, he surrenders to becoming one himself.

While Off the Leash largely takes place in the dog park, its focus is primarily on human interactions and on Gilbert’s development as a dog owner: how his paternal instincts kick in when Toby is attacked by an aggressive dog; the awkwardness of seeing his sweet puppy being mounted by another dog for the first time; the politics of ball-sharing and picking up after your dog; coming to terms with the grim reality that he will probably outlive his beloved (canine) companion. It’s not until Gilbert embraces the playful recklessness of his dog that he’s ultimately able to open himself up to the messiness of human relationships.

Meanwhile, a reader joins the previous ones:

I’ve been contemplating this thread recently, as we recently lost our beloved, 11-year-old boxer to a brain tumor. He was such an empathic dog; he could have been a therapy dog.

He could sense our moods and would comfort us when we were down, play along with us when we were happy and was an all-around good dog. His deteriorating health and his death made me contemplate the relationship and love for our pets much more in-depth, especially as I lost my father earlier in the year. I was gauging my response to the boxer’s death versus my father. There was a similar but different intensity.

My thought is that the innocence of animals in general and our pets in particular really frames our relationships with them. Yes, children are also innocent, but not in the way animals are.  People with a love of animals will do anything to protect them because in our eyes they are innocent, perfect and it’s our responsibility to love and protect them. Similarly, I think those who wish to do animals harm or abuse them likely do so also because of their innocence. They feel threatened by the purity they see in animals and their own impurity they see in their reflection. I can’t say I’ve fully developed my theory here, but it struck a chord with me as I contemplated it.

Another reader:

I heard this poem by Garrison Keillor a while ago. It’s a keeper:

She was very old, our old dame,
Our cat, 17, Meiko was her name.
On Friday she was not herself at all.
She lay, her face turned to the wall
Silent and subdued
Saturday, she did not touch her food.
On Sunday she paced back and forth
Across the bedroom floor
And did not brush our leg or purr
Or make a sound. We petted her
And she seemed very far away.
We knelt by the bed where she lay
And felt desolate and sad
And told her, Good cat, good cat
And then this delicate creature
Of an affectionate nature
Had to be carried outside
And taken for a short melancholy ride
To the vet’s office where with gentle affection
She was given the merciful injection
As we stroked her and said,
“Good cat. Good cat.” And she lay down her head
On our lap
And took her nap.

We miss her gentleness and grace,
The little eyes, the solemn face,
The tail flicking where she lay
In a square of sun on a summer day.
It’s childish, to feel such grief
For an animal whose life is brief.

And if it is foolish, so it be.
She was good company,
And we miss that gift
Of cat affection while she lived.
Her sweet civility.
A cat has not much utility
But beauty is beauty: that’s
Why the Lord created cats.
We miss our cat of 17 years
And if you’ll sit down by my side
I’ll scratch you up behind your ears
Until you are well satisfied
And then bring you a plate of fish
And figs and dates fresh off the tree
Or any treat that you may wish,
In our old cat’s sweet memory.

Lullaby little cat, wherever you’re at
May you lie in the sun and be loved by someone
May you curl up and rest, with a quilt for a nest
May you run, may you leap, and be young in your sleep.

(Photo of Sophie Flack’s pup, Zeus)

The Strangeness Of Our Love Of Our Pets, Ctd

A reader is moved by this post:

I have sat in the waiting room of my vet’s office three times a week for the last two months, waiting while my beautiful Maine Coon gets subcutaneous fluids for his failing kidneys. I have seen an entire cross section of the population – all ages, all economic levels, many races, and definitely an abundance of both genders. It has been so heart-opening for me to watch people with their sick pets. There is an attachment that I don’t even see as I sit in the pediatricians office. The look of sweetness and aching pain on the faces of owners as they try to comfort their dog or cat is a lesson in pure love.

But what has struck me is the realization of that universal desire to love and be loved, to need to be cared for and to want to care for others. From the cranky old man in tears over his sick poodle to the hassled moms with the limping giant dog and crying toddlers, to the teenager cradling her sick cat fearing maybe the first loss in her life, the love and the care is the same. It’s such a beautiful window into our humanity. It has been quite the gift to my life to see it all.

Another reader shares his own relationship:

Thank you for sharing the post on pets and recovering from addictions. While I have some doubts about the efficacy of dolphin or wolf therapy (especially as a primary component of therapy), I can testify that pets can, and for me have, played a very helpful role in my ongoing treatment.

In March of this year I was at the end of my rope with depression and anxiety, had been feeling emotionally and physically isolated and was drinking too much. I tried to kill myself, and fortunately, had second thoughts and instead reached out to family for help. In the days immediately following I began a course of medication and therapy, as well as abstaining from alcohol. The first few weeks were, as you’d expect, tough. My primary focus was on taking my meds, making my therapy appointments and maintaining sobriety. But as I began to put pick up and reassemble the other parts of my life (like going back to work) I received a call from my brother-in-law one Saturday asking me if I wanted to get out of the house and go with him to the local animal shelter.

I did not have any intention of adopting a cat when I walked into the shelter. I was going with my bogey in a boxbrother-in-law because he and my sister were looking for a kitten. It was maybe a month after my suicide attempt, so I figured going with him would at least get me out of the house for a few hours. As soon as we walked into the room with the younger cats and kittens, he was chirping and mewing at us from his crate, rubbing up against the sides to be petted. All of the other cats/kittens remained sleeping or seemed a little skittish. But not this little black cat. He didn’t quite meet what my brother-in-law and sister were looking for, since he was a he and he was a little old to truly still be considered a kitten. But we asked if we could take him out of the crate and pet him. He was great, continuing to make his little cat chirps and purrs while batting at our hands.

I went home that day and mentioned to my mom what a great little cat I had seen. I told her that if I was going to get a cat, I’d want one like that. She and my father and I discussed it, and we all decided that, why not get a cat? If I liked this one so much and could provide him with a good home, why wouldn’t I adopt him?

So the next day I went back to the ASPCA, filled out the paperwork and within a day or two, I was taking the little guy home. Since that day in April, the cat, who I named Bogey, has become such a positive influence on my life and my recovery. Taking care of him provides a structure to my days, companionship in the moments where I feel lonely, but above all, and I cannot say it any better than you did; “[he can] break my spell of narcissism.” Bogey gives me something to care about and for every day that is bigger than me. There have been nights where I might be tempted to drink, and see him, and decide not to for his sake – not for mine.

I still am on medication and I still see my therapist each week. But I have 260 days of sobriety and without attempts at self-harm, and I don’t know if I could say that if I didn’t have that little face looking at me every day and his weird (he is a cat, after all) fits of insanity to make me laugh. Thank you for letting me share this.

Update from a reader:

This thread really hits home. I put my 13-year-old Belgian Malinois down in early June. Less than two weeks later, our newest and third dog Casey, who had been with us just over the year, went out one day and never came back. Three weeks ago we adopted a new dog to keep Miss Annie company. (One is never enough.) Today I called my vet to bring my oldest feline friend Tux to the vet tomorrow to say goodbye. I love my pets but damn, it’s been a rough year.

For much more along those lines, check out what was perhaps our most popular thread last year, “The Last Lesson We Learn From Our Pets“.

The Strangeness Of Our Love Of Our Pets

Virginia Hughes looks at the science on why people have pets:

If pet-keeping were a purely (or even largely) biologically driven trait, it would be difficult to explain why its popularity has spiked in the last 200 years, and particularly since World War II — bowie-lapa tiny blip on the timeline of human evolution. As a rough marker of this change [psychology professor Harold] Herzog turns to Google Ngram, a tool that tracks the frequency of words published in books. If you put the word “pet” into Google Ngram, you’ll see a sharp rise since about 1960.

Similarly, if pet-keeping were biological you’d expect all human cultures to do it. While it’s true that most human cultures have pets in their home, the way they interact with them is remarkably variable. Herzog cites a study published in 2011 comparing pet-keeping practices in 60 societies around the world. The study found a large variety of species of pets, including some that seem quite odd from a Western perspective: ostriches, tortoises, bears, bats. The most common pet species is the dog, but even then, people are very different in the way they keep dogs.

Of the 60 cultures surveyed, 53 have dogs, but only 22 consider dogs to be pets. Even then, pet dogs are usually used for specific purposes such as hunting or herding. Just seven cultures regularly feed their dogs and let them live inside the house, and only three cultures play with dogs. The study’s general conclusion, as Herzog puts it: “The affection and resources lavished upon pets in the United States and Europe today is a cultural anomaly.”

Meanwhile, Kaleigh Rogers flags research on the role of animals in helping humans overcome addiction:

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is not a new concept. Most of us can imagine how having a therapy dog wagging around a group session helps chill people out and enables them to open up (and there’s  ​plenty of ​research to ​back that ​up). But do we really think that Lassie can help us kick a crack addiction? And when expensive, in-patient treatment facilities are upgrading from a golden retriever to a tank full of dolphins, is it based on research evidence or just a marketing gimmick to stand out from the pack?

Research on the effects of AAT specifically in the treatment of substance dependency is limited, but there is a bit of scientific evidence to back up the claims addiction centers make. In 2009, Dr. Martin Wesley, dean of the School of Counseling at the University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky, was inspired to study the effects of animals on addiction therapy while working at a residential treatment center. He noticed how much his patients took an interest in the critters around the facility. “I would see how the clients would respond to squirrels outside and the cats that would come by and even raccoons,” he said in a recent phone chat. “Someone would bring their dog and these hardened individuals would melt.”

I have to say I understand. My dogs do one thing for me every day: they break my spell of narcissism; they take me out of an exclusively human sphere and force me to see the world, even briefly, from the point of view of another species – which seems, as each day goes by, vastly superior to my own. For this, they trip us out of our ruts of thought as surely as meditation does. Because they are themselves a kind of permanent, living form of meditation: that the universe is about far more than us, if we look up a little, and if, occasionally, we also look down.

Dogs vs Cats: The Great Debate, Ctd

by Dish Staff

In response to this post, a reader writes:

Domestic cats are very diffident companions indeed, but they are still the most popular pet in the world. Probably because they require less maintenance than dogs both psychically and physically. This makes them one of the most successful mammalian species on Earth in terms of population. They are thought to be the only animal to self domesticate. As a predator small enough to be prey they scoped the opportunity represented by humans early on and some of the Felis genus threw in their lot with us. Some behaviorists have said that cats hang around humans simply because we have better food and we share it.

Some see total opportunism in all a cat’s actions. Manipulations masked as affection so we give them what they want. It is a highly successful strategy. They probably work and/or sacrifice the least for their standard of living than any other creature on Earth. The best last word on cats was summed up by a refrigerator magnet that said “Dogs have Owners, Cats have Staff”. Cats are wired differently than dogs for sure but, in spite of their obvious temperamental differences, are also known to defend a human when retreat would be the wiser course. Maybe they value us for something more than the obvious food, warmth and safety we offer after all.

To underscore that point, the reader sends the above video of a badass cat confronting a despicable dog. Another cat lover:

Rilke was describing a cat that was also an outside hunter.  Those who have indoor cats enjoy a completely different experience.  I’ve shared the last 25 years of my life with two separate felines.

Although having completely different personalities (and I consciously do not put quotation marks around that word), they were and have been nothing but completely devoted.  It’s been very easy to read their their “emotions”, and it is very clear that most of the time they have been very attuned to mine.  My first cat, Charcot, could easily tell when I was displeased and gave me plenty of verbal sass.  In fact, it got to the point that a simple gesture on my part would result in back talk.  I even thought of trying to get her in commercials, because I could elicit that talk with a simple hand movement.

My current cat, Merlot, is the most affectionate cat I have ever met.  Upon my arrival home she greets me with a loud and extensive welcome.  When I retire at night, she is quickly up on the bed after verbally announcing her intent to jump up and join me.  And then, every night, upon arrival, she pussy-foots up to my face and starts licking the tip of my nose until I start to giggle from the “tough love” from her rough tongue.  EVERY night!  When she awakens from what I call one of her “night terrors” after a daytime nap, she begins to make crying sounds, and crawls toward me while still half-asleep, then jumps up into my arms for comfort.  Where did she learn these behaviors/responses?  While they have obviously been reinforced, they had to start on their own from somewhere.  (BTW, my ex knew better than to try and take this cat from me when we split.)

Today, people who denounce cats for their “aloofness” have no one to blame but themselves.  It’s obvious to cat lovers that these people have taken very little, if any, time and effort in creating a bond.  Dogs will bond with their owners in spite of horrendous treatment.  They are a species whose behavior very easily demonstrates the Stockholm Syndrome.  Blind loyalty, or loyalty earned?  While many appreciate the former, I’ll take the latter every time.

Dogs vs Cats: The Great Debate, Ctd

by Dish Staff

Henri Cole cites Rilke’s thoughts on the age-old divide:

Look at the dogs: their confident and admiring attitude is such that some of them appear to have renounced the oldest traditions of dogdom in order to worship our own customs and even our foibles. It is just this which renders them tragic and sublime. Their choice to accept us forces them to dwell, so to speak, at the limits of their real natures, which they continually transcend with their human gazes and melancholy snouts.

But what is the demeanor of cats?—Cats are cats, briefly put, and their world is the world of cats through and through. They look at us, you say? But can you ever really know if they deign to hold your insignificant image for even a moment at the back of their retinas. Fixating on us, might they in fact be magically erasing us from their already full pupils? It is true that some of us let ourselves be taken in by their insistent and electric caresses. But these people should remember the strange, abrupt manner in which their favorite animal, distracted, turns off these effusions, which they’d presumed to be reciprocal. Even the privileged few, allowed close to cats, are rejected and disavowed many times.

Montaigne’s take:

“When I play with my cat”, he wrote, “who knows if I am not a pastime to her more than she is to me?”

He borrowed her point of view in relation to him just as readily as he occupied his own in relation to her. And, as he watched his dog twitching in sleep, he imagined the dog creating a disembodied hare to chase in its dreams – “a hare without fur or bones”, just as real in the dog’s mind as Montaigne’s own images of Paris or Rome were when he dreamed about those cities. The dog had its inner world, as Montaigne did, furnished with things that interested him.

Meanwhile, Jessica Love ponders why dogs are “so good at reading our nonverbal cues—so much better, even, than chimpanzees and bonobos, to whom we’re more closely related”:

Researchers now believe that dogs’ ability likely evolved during domestication, probably due to selective breeding. There’s some disagreement about whether our own ancestors were selecting for communicative skills specifically (perhaps to create better hunters, retrievers, or herders), or whether this prowess was merely a by-product of selecting for something else, like tameness.

But though the sensitivity dogs exhibit is truly impressive, it nonetheless falls short of what humans—even very young ones—are capable of. Infants will communicate information to their adults when they know that it is of interest to the caregivers; dogs will only do so if they are the ones interested. Young children also pick up on information conveyed to a third party; dogs, not so much. And a brand new study finds that two-year-old humans are much better than dogs at gauging from a situation whether a communicative signal is unintentional (and thus ignorable).

Meanwhile, the cat—mere feet away from a tuna treat, and despite the best efforts of an insistent pointing hand—does nothing.

Thoughts from Andrew and Dish readers here.

Putting A Price On Your Pet’s Life, Ctd

A reader adds to the growing thread:

When our late cockapoo was 10 years old, he was diagnosed with diabetes and very shortly after went blind. This meant two shots of insulin a day for the rest of his life, and our choice of a blind dog or a $3,200 cataract operation that would restore his sight. After several months of watching him getting increasingly more depressed about his blindness (and suffering our own depression from it), we sprung for the cataract surgery. Without doubt, it was the best $3,200 we ever spent. The look on his face the day after the surgery, when we took him out for the first time, was priceless. Like a puppy! The psychic relief that it gave my wife and me, and our two daughters, was priceless.


And despite the inconvenience of dealing with a diabetic dog (injecting him with insulin twice a day, other geriatric illnesses and conditions that flow from diabetes, urinary incontinence that got worse over time, inability to board him for vacations, and so forth), he lived five more years, all but the last six months or so of it with a very high quality of life. We put him to sleep at 15 1/2, when we knew he was giving up and would be gone within a few weeks, and it was still the toughest day of our collective lives.

I mention this because, when I tell this story to friends who are from rural areas, they laugh and tell me what a bunch of softies we are, that they would never spend $3,200 on an operation for a dog, that dogs will adapt to blindness. They see spending $3,200 on cataract surgery for a dog as nothing short of preposterous. But I can’t imagine living with him being blind, knowing we could do something about it.

A reader shares a resource for those facing life-or-death decisions for their pets:

Since I don’t have children, I sense that I would likely go overboard to care for my border collie. When I came across this quality-of-life scale for pets a few years ago, I bookmarked it so I could be more objective when the time comes. I hope other Dishheads may find it helpful.

Another raises an eyebrow:

I’m surprised your reader thinks that giving a dog chemotherapy will make it “very sick” and is “like torture.” Actually, at least with the kind given to my dog – which gave us another 15 months of very high quality life with her – it is very rare that an animal will get sick, or indeed suffer any side effects whatsoever. Mine had none. I’m sure a vet or two will weigh on the subject, but I just wanted to make this point.

Another nods, with many other readers sharing their stories and photos:

A reader pointed out that “chemo is awful” when discussing why he or she would not subject her family cat to it. I would suggest that she talk with her veterinarian about it before assuming that human chemotherapy treatment and pet chemotherapy treatments are perfectly analogous. In general, the side effects of pet chemotherapy are much, much less severe. My dog lost his leg to cancer about 20 years ago, and we put him on chemotherapy at the time. Of course we can never truly know what was going on in his head, but externally he was as happy, goofy, and active as ever during his treatment, and he loved going to the treatment center. And he ended up living three more years (his pre-chemo prognosis was three to six months).

Another updates us on his dog’s chemo experience, chronicled in “The Last Lesson We Learn From Our Pets”:

1044795_10201205134237952_1267167286_nLast summer I wrote to you about my dog Jack, who had recently completed chemo. At the time of treatment, we were told that our investment would likely get us a year, give or take, with the dog. A year came and went this past October, and Jack continues to be the happy, goofy, if old dog we had hoped he’d become. You may remember him from the photo that ran last summer [seen to the right].

Since then – and this is where we tie into the current thread – we’ve had to euthanize both cats in the house. The first cat became very ill, very quickly. The vet recommended tests, surgery, and ultimately a feeding tube. All of this was done with the understanding the cat would recover and live for several more years. Instead, we subjected the cat to incredible suffering for the better part of a week before we had to call it quits. My wife and I vowed that we would not repeat this.

When the other cat began his downhill slide, we discussed with the vet that our focus was on quality of life, not quantity of treatment. She was completely on board with this, and the cat had a glorious last week. One of the things we did was let him out in the yard to hunt, under supervision, and let his inner warrior get a one long, wonderful taste of life. When it was time to end things with this pet, we knew the suffering had been minimized, and therefore the experience was much, much easier. We have no regrets, and have planned a similar sendoff for the dog.

Another reader:

Several weeks ago, our beloved nine-year-old dog was diagnosed with a melanoma tumor in her mouth. As you know, this is one of the most aggressive cancers. We live on one of the Neighbor Islands in Hawaii, and our vet told us we would have to fly her to Honolulu for specialty treatment as there were no facilities for the required surgery where we live. Within two days we were on a plane to Honolulu with Gwendolyn to meet with the doggie oncologist at the specialty hospital.


Following examination, including a cat scan, the doctors determined that it was in the early stages and gave us the option of surgical removal of part of the bone and teeth in her upper jaw. The surgery was performed and she was back home and feeling fine two days later. She is also receiving a very promising new melanoma vaccine that is used for both canines and humans. So far her prognosis is excellent. Other than a slight dent in the side of her face, you would never know she had had such a procedure. She has fully recovered.

So far the treatment, including travel, has cost in excess of $13,000. We are very fortunate that we can afford it and consider the cost about the equivalent to a really nice vacation. We will enjoy whatever time we have with Gwennie far more than that. We are realistic enough to know that if the cancer recurs we will most likely not pursue this course further, but we felt we had to give her the chance for more life. As a life-long animal lover, I know that there can be no greater pain for some of us than losing a well-loved pet. I also wish that we humans were treated with the same compassion when our time comes as we extend to our furry family members.

An equally loving pet owner chose the opposite approach:

PupsI have two 13-year-old dogs who are as dear to me as any family member (more so than a few). A recent trip to the vet with revealed congestive heart failure in one and possible Cushing’s disease in the other. The dog with congestive heart failure also has bad teeth that if treated would cost between $700 and $800. Both diagnosing and treating Cushing’s disease would require multiple trips to the vet. I am lucky to have a vet who understood completely why I declined treatment for both dogs.

I have been down this road before, once spending $700 on an ill and elderly rabbit who died on the operating table. I also spent $1,300 on a guinea pig’s teeth until realizing I would be shelling out $500 every six months. The guinea pig was euthanized.

I love my pets and cherish the way they have enhanced my life. But the sad truth is that they are approaching an age from which they will surely die of something. I doubt it will be either tooth decay or Cushing’s disease. I am not poor and could probably afford the treatments for my dogs with some economizing. But they are comfortable, they are treated for pain twice a day, and I will do all I can to make the last years of their lives comfortable. For me, declining treatment is an act of love and acceptance.

Another takes issue with the reader who wrote, “I understand that there is a sentimental component to the decision to forego a $5,000 operation for your pet, but from a moral standpoint I have no hesitation. Given that there is an oversupply of dogs and cats, putting one down simply means you can drive to the humane society and save another”:

Intellectually, I agree 100-percent with this. However, until it happens to you, you just cannot know to what lengths you will go for a pet. One of my dogs suffered a back injury. He was in great pain. I took him to a specialist who, after a $2,500 MRI, determined that he was a good candidate for successful back surgery. There were no guarantees, needless to say, but Homer was only six and a half years old at the time. I decided he was worth it and took money out of my retirement savings to get him the surgery.

Yes, he was on the end of a six-foot leash for two months. He didn’t like it. I slept with him on the living room floor for the first six weeks, then we built some kick-ass stairs for him to walk up to the mattress on my platform bed, where I tied a scarf around my wrist to his collar and he continued recuperating without being allowed to jump down, and believe me, his personality would dictate that he jump down. He has recovered beautifully, and even seems to have learned the benefit of using the stairs to get up and down from my too-high bed.


Would I do it again? I don’t know. My other two dogs are just fine. I do get them dentals as needed, and they do go to the vet more than your average dogs. Homer has developed seizures, so we’re working through medications and dosages to keep them at a minimum.

I guess the answer on just how far you will go for your pets is so personal and individual that there might not be all that much point in discussing it. If someone told me to my face that I was stupid for spending the money that I spent on him (we call Homer the “Eight-Thousand-Dollar Dog,” though altogether I am sure I spent more like $10,000), I would call them something far worse than stupid.  Certainly financial circumstances can change enough as I get closer to retirement that the choice will be taken from me.  For now, I’m happy to spend the money to keep any one of my dogs happy and healthy and with me.

Where Fur Babies Come From


Tim Kreider suspects that Americans’ high spending on their pets “may be symptomatic of the same chronic deprivation as are the billion-dollar industries in romance novels and porn”:

I’ve speculated that people have a certain reservoir of affection that they need to express, and in the absence of any more appropriate object– a child or a lover, a parent or a friend – they will lavish that same devotion on a pug or a Manx or a cockatiel, even on something neurologically incapable of reciprocating that emotion, like a monitor lizard or a day trader or an aloe plant. Konrad Lorenz confirms this suspicion in his book On Aggression, in which he describes how, in the absence of the appropriate triggering stimulus for an instinct, the threshold of stimulus for that instinct is gradually lowered; for instance, a male dove deprived of female doves will attempt to initiate mating with a stuffed pigeon, a rolled-up cloth or any vaguely bird-shaped object, and, eventually, with an empty corner of its cage.

(Photo by Nate Pesce)

Putting A Price On Your Pet’s Life, Ctd

Readers lend their perspectives to this post:

There is another lens through which to view expensive and invasive veterinary procedures: 2013-05-199514_33_15__perfectlyclear_0002quality of life. If vets counseled their clients about the chances of treatment’s success and the potential impact on the pet’s remaining life, it may make the wrenching choice to forego treatment easier.  Your dog has cancer?  Sure, Vets ‘R Us can offer chemo and radiation for $10,000, but Fido will be very sick for eight weeks with no understanding of why you are subjecting him to this torturous process and there is only a 30% chance of your beloved pet surviving six months.

But we aren’t even having these discussions about treatment for ourselves, so I hold out little hope it will happen for our pets.

Another is on the same page:

Chemo is awful. It’s painful, draining and generally unpleasant. But as humans, we go into it with an appreciation of our own mortality – yes, this is really going to suck, but it will be worth it if I can get an extra 2, 3 or 10 years out of it to spend with my family. But our dogs and cats have no such knowledge of their mortality. To them, they’re essentially being tortured for no apparent reason. Our lovable, sassy, fat cat has a family history of cancer, and to my wife and I, the only humane option if she falls victim is to put her down gently so she doesn’t suffer.

A few more readers:

Last week I almost sent the Dish an email hoping you would present my difficulty coming to a decision about having an operation on a growth next to my dog’s nose.

It emerged rather quickly in June. So I took her to the vet to see what it was. I didn’t get her usual vet at the two-person clinic; I got the one with whom I have a disconnect. Because the animal can’t verbalize what’s going on, communication with their health professional and you is important.

After a scrape of the skin cells, the vet came to me and indicated that she saw round cells, and with the growth’s “aggressiveness” she recommended excision. Since my dog would be out for this procedure, we should do a dental cleaning and perhaps extraction. She had an estimate in hand, which put the range at $700 to $1000. I left thinking I would move quickly and have this done, but I soon began questioning whether I wanted to put a 14-year-seven-month-old dog through this.

Days later I was able to talk to her regular vet, who framed the situation more realistically: “Do I want to put her through this and gain X amount of time? Or do I see this as the beginning of the end?” I brought my dog back to the vet for x-rays of her lungs (the most likely place for a primary cancer), and there was nothing to indicate something else was going on that would bring her down. My stress over whether to act ratcheted up. If what was on her face was cancer, did I want a tumor to keep growing on her face? Would it enter the bone?

As a freelance writer, I wasn’t able to focus on work. Finally last week, a black piece of skin came off her crusty nose, and I returned to the vet, after a discussion of biopsy … could it be a fungal infection? The vet looked at my dog and said that the original growth had healed nicely and she was no longer concerned. Perhaps it had even been a bee or wasp sting. I was delighted but also an emotional puddle.

In reading David Grimm’s piece, I acknowledge that his topic is one that speaks to a lot of people, but I would like to add another element to the discussion: even if one can afford the cost, is the treatment always something that we want to put our beloved pets through? I had always told myself that I wouldn’t take extreme measures – that I wouldn’t initiate chemotherapy treatments, for example – but this was something that fell short of that and yet could be the first sign of her decline and death. How was I to make the right decision based on her quality of life?

Another considers another calculus:

I understand that there is a sentimental component to the decision to forego a $5,000 operation for your pet, but from a moral standpoint I have no hesitation. Given that there is an oversupply of dogs and cats, putting one down simply means you can drive to the humane society and save another from being euthanized. Sure, it may be more painful for you, but from a broader perspective of the worldwide dog or cat population, and even from a personal karma perspective, you come out even to slightly ahead.

(Photo of a reader’s dying dog from one of our most popular threads last year, “The Last Lesson We Learn From Our Pets“)

Putting A Price On Your Pet’s Life


David Grimm ponders the moral dilemmas created by recent advances in veterinary medicine:

When our dogs and cats used to get very sick, we could justify putting them to sleep because it was the only option. Now, in an age of kidney transplants for cats and chemotherapy for dogs, euthanasia has begun to seem like a cruel way out.

Yet not everyone can afford to save their pets. And some go bankrupt trying. … “It’s wonderful that people are willing to spend $10,000 or $20,000 to deal with their sick pet, but ethically it puts us in quicksand,” says Douglas Aspros, the former president of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the manager of a veterinary clinic in White Plains, New York. “If a client wants me to do a $20,000 surgery on a cat, the practicality has to go beyond, ‘There’s someone willing to pay for it.’ As a society, should we be promoting that?” Some vets, says Aspros, have started to use companies that offer credit to people with marginal incomes—just so they can afford their vet expenses—and the pet owners end up paying very high interest rates. “How much responsibility do we have for getting them into that?”

(Photo of a Dish reader and her dying dog from one of your most popular threads last year, “The Last Lesson We Learn From Our Pets“)