Friday, May 08, 2009

The cost of a broken heart: $1,071.50

It's a bit strange to say "three years ago I wrote," but it turns I've had the blog that long. Time goes fast. Life goes faster.

The day I moved into my first post-college apartment, I went to the animal shelter to get my first post-college cat. Ever since I was a kid, I've been a cat nut -- I spent about five years pestering my parents before they cracked and, right around my 11th birthday, let me get a cat. My dad and I went to the shelter and returned with Max, who slept on my bed every night until I headed off to college. Max stayed in Maryland when I moved to New York, but there was little question that as soon as I left the dorms and had pet-friendly accommodations, I'd be procuring a cat.

As soon as I got that apartment, I went and adopted River, who came home with me in October 1999, when she was about three months old. David moved in about a month later, and even though I had her first, River instantly decided she was his girl -- I often referred to myself as her Emergency Backup Human.

Three years ago I wrote about the financial cost of pets, including the inevitable whopping vet bills.

Monday, we noticed River was sniffling a bit, and she had an accident on our bed. I thought she had a bladder infection and maybe a cold. I called and made a vet appointment for Tuesday morning.

River had a panic attack on the way to the vet, and started panting in a way we'd never seen before. The vet seemed more worried about her panting than any of her other symptoms, which initially struck me as strange. Three hours and two X-rays later, the vet was proved right: What I'd thought was a cold was a massive tumor filling River's chest and pushing on all of her organs. By the end of the day, she couldn't breathe well without an oxygen tent.

Wednesday we found out it was lymphoma, inoperable and incurable. Only 48 hours after we realized our cat was sick, we had to say goodbye to our girl.

It cost just over $1,000 in vet medical bills to lose River. We would have paid any multiple of that to save her. As one of my friends said about two years ago on the night he lost his own cat -- "It's the price you pay. They're guaranteed to break your heart at some point."

David and I had River as long as we'd been together. We knew she'd be gone someday, but she was only nine, and we didn't expect it so soon. It's kind of a new milestone for us. Our family, without River.

Pets. One of the most expensive, devastating --and rewarding -- investments you can make. We've spent the last few days giving our younger cat a massive overdose of snuggling.