‘Care, cost and cuddles: Why I’m willing to go broke for my furry companions’

Oct 03, 2021
Getting older is make that bit easier with a furry friend by your side, says this writer. Source: Getty Images

I have had two toy poodles for the past 12 years and they have kept me company all that time. They are half brothers (same dad different mums) and Gordon (who is the grey boy) is four months older than his younger brother, Pepe Le Pew, who is a white toy.

As they are now older they’ve started to suffer from various ailments and we have been beating the path to the door of the vet clinic quite often.

Over the past four years I’ve spent about $8,000 on their vet fees, which keeps me poor, but I believe my companions need to be looked after properly. They have a ‘trust fund’ I put in money into every fortnight and they have a credit card (I don’t even have a card myself), which makes it easier to pay the fees.

I’ve had to get help from a friend to get them to the vet as I no longer drive. She has been amazing taking them when they have needed treatment over the past few years, but recently I had to take Pepe myself.

I live in New Zealand and we are under lockdown Level 4. My friend had to have. Covid-19 test.

We had to go into the parking lot under the building and put Pepe in a cage. The vet nurse came down and collected him.

Pepe seemed to have had an allergic reaction to something in his food (that is the current theory) and had very bad skin and itching. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable it has been for him. The vet prescribed a shampoo for bathing him every three days and antibiotics to help with the healing of his almost ripped skin (he has been scratching so much it was red raw and he was miserable).

So surreal was the experience. I waited in the parking lot for the vet to do the consultation and then you talk to them via your mobile phone about the consult and what needs to be done. It’s really unusual, but it works well and everything is non-contact.

Pepe has no teeth at all and only one eye left — he is the dog that has had the most trouble and has had the most work done on him over the past couple of years so he is very used to travelling to the vet and he has had a number of operations. Gordon is in much better shape, though he has bitten the vet at just about every session we have seen him/her.

I do not know what I would do without these furry companions. They are so different in personalities. I adore them with all my heart and as they are getting older in dog years they have finally surpassed me (I’m 72) and they are now 77 in human years.

Their first owner wasn’t a very nice man and didn’t look after them very well. They came to me with various behaviour issues, which was a battle in the first year. Most of their insecurities and troubles have now gone and they are two little old lady dogs now.

Every older person should have a pet in my view. They’ve kept me grounded and help me to stay happy, especially since the pandemic started. It’s one of the reasons I go the extra mile to keep them as comfortable as possible. With their constant maintenance it does mean that they will last a lot longer than most poodles, which I am so pleased about. I don’t know what I will do when they are gone.

Of course, I might go before them and we have a plan for that as well. My friend will take them and look after them for me.

Over the past 50 years I have had different pets – cats, dogs, fish and a pet rat. At one point I had four cats and a Jack Russell (who lasted 16 years), so I have never been lonely. Pets are a great way to combat those feelings of loneliness and isolation.

My advice for anyone over-60 considering a pet is to consider what that might mean for your lifestyle, if you aren’t open to a lifestyle change then getting a pet might not be the best idea for you. If you have limited mobility or are concerned about finances, pets such as birds or fish are great options. If finances aren’t an issue, but you’re not outgoing or energetic then a cat might be a better option than a dog.

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