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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Animal rescue

An interesting dilemma of the modern age: How far should we go to save our pets?

Twenty years ago, we couldn’t have spent that much money if we wanted to. The fancy machines, the complex diagnostics, even the veterinary specialists just weren’t available. Thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, our pets are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. But it has also become much harder to let them go. 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. Meanwhile, vets themselves are struggling with whether to offer such expensive services to clients they know can’t afford them. Every year, our pets become more like family, and in some cases virtual children. Indeed, as I write in my new book, Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship With Cats and Dogs, we have become closer to our pets than at any point in human history. But just how far should we go to save them?

My sister and I occasionally joke that we'd probably be goners in a house fire because we'd be the kind of knuckleheads who run back into the burning building to get our cats, so there is that. As for money, I guess my limit hasn't been tested yet. Pierre, the cat I had before Dutch and Maggie, had a liver problem in his old age, and by the time I'd dealt with that the tab was $1,200.  That goet him two more years of life in relative comfort, so I considered it money well spent. I don't know that I'd go into debt for Dutch and Maggie, but I'd probably do serious damage to my bank account.

I think it is absolutely true that our pets have become like members of the family. I don't know if that is a healthy thing or not, but it's a fact of life. If my cats feel like scratching the couch, well, then, OK. It's just a piece of furniture, not a living thing.