Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Ok, so we're professional ACL sufferers around here.  Seriously.  Beve did his back in our Olympic Penninsula days, playing a pick-up basketball game with a bunch of other old athletes.  Beve's older brother, B, had torn his ACL back in the 70s, when the repair meant surgery and a hip-to-toe cast for three months.  B's knee never really recovered from the whole ordeal; it became stiff and immobile and gives him trouble when the weather changes.  Fortunately, 20 years meant that great strides had taken place in such surgeries.  Beve went to the U of W for his surgery, and worked with the best sports medicine people in the state to help him rehabilitate.  When he got home from his knee surgery, J, who was about six at the time, insisted we wrap his knee in an ace bandage so he could limp around like his Daddy.  It was more prophetic than any of us knew--J had his own knee surgery two years ago, and this summer, when 360 pounds of meat fell on the same knee at work, he had to put another brace on that knee, re-injuring his MCL. 

And we watched plenty of E's teammates writhing in pain during the long hoop-playing years (a friend, and mother of one of the sufferers, believes there's a strong corrolation between a girl's cycle and ACL injuries, but I don't think that's been scientifically documented).  One of the most talented girl E ever played with did one knee, rehabbed that for a year, then did the other about the second game back on the court.  And she wasn't a shy, quiet type, that young girl.  Let me tell you, I heard a stream of words coming out of her mouth right there in the high school gym that I've didn't know actually went together.  Screaming for her mother and swearing like a sailor all at once.  I was shocked, not only by the volume and language, but by the pain that clearly necessitated it.

But now our big lug, Jackson, has ruptured his ACL (or the equivalent in canine terms, which I don't remember at the moment), and though there's a 'brilliant' surgery available to repair it, our vet doesn't do it.  Jackson's a large dog--and enormous 110 lb. dog--and it takes a specialist in Seattle to do it.  For 3500 bucks. Or 'over in Pullman--that's on the east side of the state,' the vet said, 'they have a vet school...' I started laughing. 'I grew up there,' I told her. 'We took our dogs there...'
Anyway, she said it's a lot cheaper there--like 1200 $ cheaper!  Oh quick, only 2300 bucks now. Why just today's tests alone were more than we'd intended to spend.

Dang it!  Long ago, we decided we wouldn't be those kind of pet people who made emotional decisions about their dogs. We'd decide well ahead of time how much we'd be willing to spend on them, and stick to it...But you see how well that worked today.  Beve put me in charge and I made one emotional decision after another until I racked up that 500$ bill.  Beve, as you might guess, was not pleased with me.  Not one bit.  Yep, I'm officially in the doghouse, if we actually had a dog house, instead of allowing our spoiled big lug to sleep wherever he pleases in our house, while Jamaica gets locked into her kennel so she doesn't sleep on our heads!  But the worst of it is that I get it.  I get that Beve's upset.  I am ruled by my heart, you see.  And money is math and I don't do math well at all.  And I knew--I knew!--that I should have asked how much these tests would cost, but I just went along with the vet's recommendations.

And the vet will always recommend surgeries.  At least it seems that way.  I have a whole lot of friends who have had expensive procedures done for their pets.  And trust me, I get it.  Ask Beve!  But Jackson's nine, and has already begun to slow down.  I recognize that I'm trying to justify the decision not to do this surgery, but I guess I have to.  Dr. Barron told me that when this happens in one knee, it is likely to happen to the other as well.  If that happens, and we've done nothing about this knee, he won't be able to move at all.  But two such surgeries?  On an old dog?  Especially when that amount of money isn't exactly lying around in our lives.  If Jackson lived out on the farm with my sister and brother-in-law, he'd limp around, learn to survive this way, and if he got to the place where he couldn't move, would be put out of his misery.  No question about it.

But for me, it's not an easy thing.  I don't have a theology of pets, you see.  I wish I did.  I'd like to think I'd see all the beloved dogs of my life again someday.  And maybe I will.  Maybe Jemima, Caspian and Misty are chasing balls in heaven.  But I really have no idea.  What I believe is that we love our pets here, can even consider them part of our pack and grieve extravagantly for them when they die. But our priorities must be people.  And our money as well.  We have finite resources.  And must spend it wisely.

So I'm sorry, Jackson, buddy.  I love you--as is your due, as Cornelia in King Lear said.  But no more than that.  What is reserved for the Beve and E,J, and SK must be saved for them. It's the the order God gave us in the beginning. That's all I have to say about this today. As I said, I'm sorry.

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