Those of you that have read my articles over the past year or so know that I am devoted to my 11 year old – soon to be 12 – Golden Retriever, named Buddy. He was definitely my deceased husband’s dog and I feel like he is the last remaining link between Bob and I. Yes, I have three daughters, but they are the product of my first marriage and Bob and I had no children between us.
When Buddy was a pup, I told Bob that we should have named him “Shadow” because he followed him everywhere. But our previous dog – another Golden – was named “Pal” and Bob wanted something close to that name. Hence “Buddy”.
Unless you are a dog lover you will not understand what I am about to say, but if you are a lover this will make perfect sense to you. When Bob died, almost 3 ½ years ago, Buddy mourned as much as I did. His “security blanket” has always been the swimming pool, maybe because he and Bob spent many hours swimming together. He would go and sit on the steps, maybe swim a lap or two, for hours on end. It was as if he was waiting for Bob to come out of the house and jump into the pool. Day after day that dog would wait for his master to come home. The house smelled like a locker room, because a hairy wet dog does not smell good – to anyone except maybe another dog.
As Bob became sicker and weaker – he died of lung cancer – I took over some of the duties that Bob had always done, particularly taking him to the” Ocean Beach Dog Wash” once or twice a month to give him his bath. Bob and Buddy had a favorite tub, and if I couldn’t get “their” tub Buddy almost refused to walk up the steps to another tub.
Last November I could no longer give Buddy his monthly bath. I had “trigger finger” surgery in October and did not have the strength in my hand to be able to bathe this 116 pound dog adequately. Additionally, I had trigger fingers on the other hand and was awaiting surgery for that hand also. A neighbor told me that she took her chocolate lab to “PETCO” to have her dog groomed and I decided to do the same thing.
The cost of the grooming was more than the 5 baths I usually buy from OBDW (in fact it was twice the cost), but I did not feel I had an alternative and he needed a bath. (I should point out that I called the two mobile dog groomers – one I had used before – and I was told they no longer come to zip code 92107! I said I did not live in OB proper – rather I was on the south end of Ocean Beach, but that made no difference.)
Besides the high cost of the wash and grooming, Buddy looked like a new dog and after he began talking to me again – 6 hours of silence – he was fine. The groomer seemed to love him as much as I do, and I looked forward to bringing him back at a later time.
Well, the “later time” was last week. Again, trouble with my hand not healing, and with a new problem of lymphedema setting in, 17 years after my breast cancer surgery, I have little, if any strength in my hands and felt it was time for Buddy to be groomed again. He had begun to shed all over the house; and it was time to think about canning and jamming again. No one likes jam with dog hair in it! I made an appointment to see the groomer and asked for the same lady as before.
While registering Buddy for his bath, I noticed that PETCO had a special “spa” package for dogs. It included, among other things, a dental cleaning. Not where they knock the dog out, but a gentle tooth brushing. That was something Bob did because Buddy would let him, but the one time I tried it Buddy would not “unseal” his lips for me and I never tried it again. When I asked how much the tooth brushing was without the package, I was told it was $13. The spa package was $22 and it included having his nails ground down with a dremel, instead of having them cut.
I remember Bob and our trainer, Lee Wells, always saying that the grinding was better than cutting. In fact, when I would have his nails cut at the Ocean Beach Dog Wash they also ground down the nail. A “facial” was included, and even though I don’t like facials, I thought Buddy should have an opportunity to have one. The shampoo and conditioner used in the package was “upgraded” as well. So I took it. This was $22 over and above the regular bath and grooming. And it was my downfall.
Many Golden Retrievers have allergies. I hear more so than any other breed of dogs. Buddy – and Pal – were no exception to this rule. Buddy has been taking prednisone for years to calm down his allergies. He has been gluten free long before it became a fad for humans. And, for the most part, it has kept his allergies in check.
Until this bath. I did not realize that the “upgraded” shampoo that would be used had a fragrance in it. Who knows what was in that fragrance but if I tell you that when I picked him up and put him in the car, I was sure he had visited a French Whorehouse because he smelled so strong. Not a bad smell – a “manly” smell. But so strong that I had to open the windows to stop my own eyes from tearing. And I didn’t give it a second thought, until I heard him licking and scratching all night long.
When it was daylight and I could see what he was licking and scratching I found that he was in a small pool of blood. I called PETCO and was very upset. I felt that somehow, in grooming him, the groomer had nicked or cut him because I was not aware of any sores on him before taking him for grooming. He loves to be petted, and if I am not petting him one of my two students are, and where this lesion was was exactly where he likes to be petted. The Assistant Manager was very nice; told me to do what I had to do, and let her know how Buddy was when I had a report from the Vet. Unfortunately this was on a Sunday and I had to wait an additional day before taking Buddy for treatment.
When we were finally seen by the Vet – a new person to the Vet Hospital in Pt. Loma that we have taken our dogs for years – after another vet killed Pal – she took her time examining him. She could not say for sure what caused the problem, but felt that it definitely could have been from the shampoo exacerbating the allergies that Buddy has, causing a flare-up that spread to his entire body.
Perhaps the rubbing, the scrubbing, the toweling only made matters worse, because his ears were now red (they weren’t before taking him in; little bumps were developing across his skin, etc.). The simple change of a new shampoo with ingredients that he was allergic to were making this loving dog miserable. And, in cleaning up the area, the skin burst, and a hole developed where the problem began.
Now I was faced with a new set of problems. I could elect to try to treat the problem with antibiotics; antibiotic creams; and pain medicine. Or I could elect to have surgery; put him under the knife after knocking him out, and having repairs made to the area. What a dilemma. And I hate to say that my decision was based on the cost of the two alternatives. The examination, the cleaning of the wound site, the antibiotics, creams, and pain medicine came to $282.02 with my “Senior Citizen” discount. The cost of the surgery would be close to $500.
I had already had them take a blood sample to see if he had a thyroid deficiency – he seems so sluggish – that ran over $150! (Yeah, for a blood test) I had noticed a 1cc lump above the sternum that I wanted checked out – it was benign – and the total bill, without the surgery, was approximately $531. Add the surgery to that and I was looking at more money than I take home from my social security check in one month.
When I arrived home I called PETCO and I have to give them credit. Even though we cannot be 100% sure of the cause of the problem, they offered to pay the bill. However, because I am not sure if the grooming was the cause I felt wrong in accepting the payment. Instead, we agreed to split the $282 bill even though we cannot prove that PETCO was at fault. I am amazed at their willingness to help, and will be a customer of theirs as long as I have animals.
So…my grooming bill – $85 – including tip – and my Vet Bill – $521.33 – (less PETCO $141.01) came to a whopping $465.32 and that is only if Buddy does not need surgery come Friday. Meanwhile, I change the dressing on his side 3 times a day; change his “shirt” 3 times a day, and hold that dog close while I pray to anyone and every thing that he will be OK.
You can’t be a poor person and still have an animal. The unconditional love they give you you must give back to them, even if it means a struggle, financially, on your side. Just look at those eyes and love. How could I turn down the surgery if needed?