Category Archives: Pets

How We’re Preparing Financially for Pet Emergencies

I used to have a very logical and frugal plan for my pets’ veterinary care in old age: if they were diagnosed with anything terminal, I would keep them comfortable but not treat the illness. After all, only crazy people spend thousands to prolong their pet’s life, right?

This past fall I had to eat my words when my dog Charlie was diagnosed with cancer. Looking your beloved pet in the face and thinking of dollar signs is so incredibly painful. My entire perspective shifted, and I handed over the credit card because I wasn’t ready to lose Charlie.

My husband and I paid for all of Charlie’s care with cash from our emergency funds, but the treatment cost more than we would have predicted. I’m going to share the cold, hard numbers today, even though they’re scary, in the hopes that my experience can help some of you be more prepared than we were. . . .

Continue reading at Budget Blonde, where I had the honor of sharing this guest post last week.

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Don’t Forget The Other Dog

The day after we said goodbye to Charlie, I had to run some errands.  Maybe I just had to get out of the house.  Either way, I took Merlin with me.Merlin in Grass

When we got home, Merlin dashed excitedly through the house.  First into the bedroom, followed by my office.  Then back into the living room, and into the kitchen.  He pranced at the back door, so I let him out to circle the yard.

Coming back into the house, Merlin sat down in front of me with his silky black ears flipped forward, his head cocked to one side, and his brown and blue eyes each looking at me questioningly.

“What’s going on?” I asked him.

He panted at me and proceeded to repeat the home inspection.  When he returned to my side a second time to sit down and look confused, I realized what was happening.

Merlin was looking for Charlie, excited to see her after being out on a special adventure with me. It was then I remembered how he always raced into the house to see her.

The next day I went out for more errands, again taking Merlin with me.  I was reluctant to leave him home, and having him along for the ride was a nice distraction.  The Looking for Charlie process repeated when we returned home, so I grabbed some treats and gave Merlin some extra attention.

Merlin’s confusion across those two days was a good reminder for me.  In the midst of my personal grief, I’d failed to think of how our three remaining pets might be affected.   When Merlin came into my life as a wriggling 3 month old puppy, Charlie was there to mother him, play with him, and let him know she was the alpha dog.

Ryan and I were devastated at the loss of Charlie, but we couldn’t retreat completely into it.  We had three other critters who still needed us, maybe even more now than before.

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This is the hardest blog post I’ve ever written.  I can’t bear to edit the grammar or the flow but hopefully it still makes sense.

From the day I found her, emaciated on a street, Charlie worked so hard to do what I asked of her.  And on Christmas day she was still trying to fulfill the last request I made of her when she was diagnosed with cancer in October.  We said “We’ll be happy if she makes it through Christmas.”

Maybe we should have asked that she make it past Christmas.

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On Christmas day Ryan and I had a wonderful morning and afternoon at my parents’ house, with my brother, his wife, and their two amazing little kids joining us for a big family Christmas.


After they left, however, the harsh reality set in.  Charlie’s cancer was winning the battle.  She hadn’t eaten in at least 4 days, and her abdomen was swollen with fluid.  Her back legs were so weak they slid out from under her when she tried to walk. We were carrying her outside so she could pee.

Wilmington NC Charlie2

Charlie on a better Christmas, about 7 years ago.

What had happened?  Until 5 days before Christmas, things were going so well.  Charlie was eating and energetic and back, almost, to her pre-cancer self.  But then the Saturday before Christmas we took her to the emergency center because fluid was quickly building up in her abdomen again.

Monday before Christmas, two days after her ER visit, Charlie’s oncologist switched her to a more gentle chemo.  We considered stopping altogether, but didn’t want to mistakenly give up too soon, you know?  She had been doing so well. 

So on Christmas day, once the festivities were over, I just looked at her and knew what we had to do.  I couldn’t bear to see her looking unhappy and unable to really walk.  Ryan agreed.

We drove home to Virginia, and I put Charlie’s bed in the living room.  She collapsed onto it. Ryan and I sat with her, talking about The Decision, and that’s when we both lost it.  What had seemed reasonable on the drive home was suddenly the most terrifying thing.

Our last hour.

Our last hour.

Have you ever had to make the decision to take your pet out of the house and drive them to the hospital where you know they will be put to sleep, never to return home again?  Are you kidding me?!

I have never, ever before wanted to freeze time so badly as I did at that moment.

It must have taken us at least an hour to actually get up the courage to leave for the hospital. Finally Ryan scooped Charlie and her bed up in his arms and carried her out to the car.

I can’t write in detail about the ER visit and all that ensued.

When the time came, I couldn’t even watch. I just held Charlie’s head in my hands, and pressed my forehead against hers, with my eyes squeezed shut.  At this point I was crying and telling her over and over what a good girl she was.

As soon as the doctor said “She’s gone” and quietly left the room, I lost it even more.  I literally wanted to scoop her still-warm body into my arms and just run out of the hospital and never stop running and never stop telling her what a good girl she was.

Wilmington NC Beach Charlie Post1

Because seriously – She was such a good dog.  I know most people would say that about their dogs, but Charlie really was special. To have gone through so much in her early years, and to turn around her aggression quickly when I trained her, and to be such a loyal pup that even in the last few days when her legs were weaker, she would find the energy to still follow me from room to room . . .

I will never, ever have another dog like Charlie.  And I’m still reeling from the fact that suddenly our last 11 years are over, just like that.

Wilmington NC Beach Jane Charlie


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