When Caring for Animals Gets Confused With Not Caring for Humans

Hugging a dog

Imagine that you’ve had a spate of bad luck with one of your pets. That rescue pup who showed up on your doorstep one fine day six years ago has proven to be quite the expensive adoptee.

When he first arrived, he had mange, hookworms and ticks galore, which cost about $400 to treat. Then his mouthiness got him into serious trouble, when he burned his snout while chewing through an electrical cord, adding $950 to the tally.

One windy day, he got something in his eye, and he rubbed at it so hard that he scratched his cornea. The simple lesion turned into a corneal ulcer, which took forever to heal. It ended in lots of vet visits, including a couple of consults with a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist. That bill: $1,600.

Since then, he’s been otherwise healthy — until now.

Within a matter of days, he’s started to look like he’s getting old really fast. He’s not eating well. He’s tired all of the time. It's almost as if he has a horrible flu.

You take him to the vet, who gives you the most upsetting news yet: If you want to do everything possible to make him well, you need to see a veterinary oncologist . . . today!

It turns out that he’s got lymphoma, a devastating blood cancer. It’s highly treatable, but it’s going to be really expensive. And you’ve got no significant savings because the first of your two kids just started college, which is what you’ve been saving up for forever.

Sadly, the prospect of a $5,000 to $10,000 vet bill over the next six months is not in your budget. But you agree, anyway. You will find a way to make it work. He’s family, after all.

Unfortunately, there’s more to this story than your own sadness, personal financial stress and self-possessed determination. You’ve got other people to contend with because your closest ally — your spouse — is accusing you of caring more about your family pet than your own children!

Why Caring for Animals Is Not a Bad Thing in My Book

This isn't my story, but that of a personal friend. Yet it's a pretty universal one in the culture that we currently inhabit — so much so that many of us can picture ourselves making the exact same grueling decision.

If we’re lucky enough to have many pets throughout our lives, we’ll almost inevitably find ourselves in a position to stand, credit card in hand, wondering whether we’re making the right decision on behalf of a beloved pet — and worrying about how our life partners and dependents will fare in the process.

This kind of thinking is why a growing number of us have suffered through the experience of being accused by someone we love of caring for animals more than humans.

So here’s where I have to ask: How far would you go to get your sick pet well? How much would you spend? What would you sacrifice?

Although detractors may call us wastrels for spending big bucks on an animal, when so many humans starve all over the world, I reject such specious arguments by pointing to luxury cars and other frills that we defend with economy-pumping consumerist claims.

I'd rather go broke paying for my pets than rack up bills on things like plasma screens and cable TV. Call me crazy, but I consider some things more indispensable than others.

As for being accused of caring more for animals than humans, it only bothers me when the claim comes from someone I respect, cherish and love. That's when it hurts — and only then will I bend my ear. Everyone else be damned!

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