At House with a Heart, one of our greatest expenses is medical care for our special needs and senior dogs and cats. Many folks have seen various online posts, blogs and videos where we talk about how much the medical expense can be over time for any given resident.
And I imagine some folks are wondering – “how could you possibly spend that much money?” or “I know this may sound horrible, but those dogs are going to a nice place to die, so why are they spending so much money for medications and surgeries?”
In truth, over the life of a senior or special needs dog, the totals can run from $4,000 to $44,000. For House with a Heart, where the starter age for most residents is in the 10 to 12 year-old range, right away we often need to provide regular medication to keep the senior or special needs dog in good health.
And, to get the right medication, we start with excellent vet care. Just like human medical care, there is routine and specialty care needed for every HWAH resident. And just like humans, it’s not the same for any one resident.
However, without the loyal support of our donors, supporters, and grants as well as our own short-term care visitors, we might not be able to care for as many senior and special needs dogs as we have been able to over the years. In the early days, we had a payment plan with the vet just to get by. So, not everyone who chooses a senior or special needs pet can always have the same medical choices we have been able to provide our residents.
Marley was an example of a slow and steady medical expense, but nothing over-the-top until the end.
He came to House with a Heart in July 2021 along with his sister, Minnie. Minnie was taken by Dr. Michelle as a forever foster, but Marley stayed with us. They both had extensive veterinary exams, and both got pretty good reports! Marley had a device implanted just under the skin so we could monitor his diabetes.
In November 2021, our Marley boy had an appointment with the eye specialist to see if he was a candidate for cataract removal surgery! He had been blind due to his diabetes so we were crossing our fingers for good news!! The eye specialist said that Marley’s problems started way too long ago and nothing could be done for him. But Marley didn’t care – he was a happy boy just the way he was! We just wanted more for him.
In May 2023 we said goodbye to Marley. Likely it was a tumor that caused a blockage, and he declined quickly. He joined the many others we have loved and lost…and it was a night with lots of tears at House with a Heart!
Over the time Marley was at the Sanctuary, we spent about $ 9,200, mostly for his insulin medication and pumps and vet consultations.
So, when people ask us, how can you spend that much money on a special needs or senior dog, it’s not really an all-at-once choice. As each medical issue comes up, you ask for the best advice you can get, make an informed judgment, and always, always consider the pain and suffering the treatment may cause the dog.
Over the years at HWAH, we have become more and more conscious of looking at the next steps down the road for the dog, and asking “is the treatment to improve their life or just prolong it?” Everyone begins to hope each treatment will be another way to give them more time with the beloved pet. But at some point, it’s not about just keeping them around; it’s about will they honestly improve with this or that treatment? And ultimately, are they suffering?
At House with a Heart, we are not afraid to ask for monetary support when we have made an informed decision about care for one of our special needs or senior residents. But we always do so with the knowledge that when the time comes to let them go, it is not about the money, it is about them. Letting go is also a part of “Love Lives Here.”