Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Dogs With Bad Knees

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published October 21, 2020] ©2020

 It’s been my observation over 11 years and nearly 400 columns that I always get the most response when I write about dogs or my husband, Olof. Olof is trying not take this personally.

 The dog sagas have spanned our gradual acquisition of our granddog, Winston, who came to stay with us for longer and longer times until he never went back home again. We were utterly bereft (and still are) when he died suddenly of a heart attack in our living room at age eight but not before we had invested some $10,000 in his well-chronicled multitude of medical maladies.

 Such was our heartbreak about Winston that we vowed to never have another dog.  Then a cunning rescue agency, recognizing mushballs when they saw them, persuaded us to take a “one-week” emergency foster, Lily, our dog today. She’s a 19-pound bichon-poodle mix, a breed Olof always disparagingly referred to as a “foo-foo dog,” 

 “I would never be seen in public with one of those dogs,” he once scoffed, in Winston days. 

 That 6’3” former Air Force pilot that you see around town with the little white fluffy dog?  That’s Olof.  It took Lily all of three days to worm her way into Olof’s anti-foo-foo heart. He is besotted over this animal.

 When Olof and I adopted Lily, it was clear she was going to need extensive dental work. She had actually been relinquished to the County shelter for this reason.  The County’s medical in-take report was all of four words: “Nice dog. Terrible teeth.” 

 But by this time, after Winston, we already had come to grips with being a canine social service agency. So we alerted our vet that she could go ahead and put a down payment on that new Mercedes as we were adopting another dog. 

 Now you’d think that anybody who has spent this much money on canine medical care would have pet insurance. In fact, we originally did for Winston.  I don’t know if it was just a terrible company but they never paid for anything, insisting that the insurance didn’t cover issues that were endemic to the breed.  With English bulldogs, everything is endemic to the breed.  They are the unhealthiest dogs on the planet. In fact, our vet said that in veterinary school they used to have a bumper sticker that read, “Buy a bulldog.  Support a vet.”

 But maybe we should have revisited the possibility of pet insurance for Lily.  Hindsight is 20-20.  So is stupidity.  Other than allergies and bad teeth, Lily, now 11, has been a pretty healthy dog.  That was until she was running around our front yard in early May chasing an imaginary squirrel and ruptured her cruciate ligament.  She basically blew out her knee. 

 Given all the restrictions of Covid at the time, orthopedic vets were only taking emergency cases. The earliest surgery date we could get for her was weeks away, on June 1, and we were lucky to get it. But her emergency after-hours vet visit, a new knee, x-rays, medications, reactions to the medication, and follow-up care ran to $5,000.

 We were told that once you rupture one knee, there is a 60% chance you will rupture the other.  So maybe time to revisit pet insurance.

 There are cautionary tales out there.  We have friends whose dog has now had THREE of these ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) surgeries. First the dog blew out the left rear knee, then six months later the right one.  Just as the dog was almost recovered from the second surgery, she decided to jump up on a bed, fell off, and had to have the surgery all over again followed by in-home canine physical therapy. The poor animal had by this time become addicted to pain killers requiring the equivalent of Doggie Betty Ford as well. 

We have been very clear that we did not want this scenario for Lily. Our vet said not to let her reinjure herself. But try reasoning with a dog.

Alas, all my calls to pet insurance companies yielded a version of "Do we look like we were born yesterday?"  ACL problems are considered bilateral and it is not a secret to pet insurers that if you do this once, you can easily do it again - in fact, will likely do it again - on the other leg. And this time, they said, you want us to pay? Dream on, sister!

So future ACL surgeries are permanently excluded from coverage for her. 

Ditto her allergy treatments (her immunotherapy shots and Apoquel) which were variously excluded as "pre-existing conditions" or "incurable."  They only cover curable conditions. Well, that are not knees.

And alas, none of the pet insurance companies pay for psychotherapy for the owners after the dog needs ACL surgery. For that alone, I'd sign up. It was really stressful. For maybe time to start a health savings account for the dog. 

                       Extremely unhappy post-op dog

Monday, October 12, 2020

Living On Through The Master List

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published October 14, 2020] ©2020

 My sons have teased me for years that I’ve spent my life “rehearsing for death.” But just wait til I’m actually dead and they need to get the streetlight out front fixed.  Actually, it won’t be the kids’ problem since they no longer live in town but my husband Olof is clear that all he’ll ever need after my untimely demise is a file on my desktop (and a copy printed by the phone) called Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About This House.

 This document has been my (adult) life’s work.  As much as I’ve complained about technology, this information all used to be kept on 3x5 cards in a little metal box.  It was a laborious way to keep – or find – information.

 As for that phantom streetlight, which I’ve written about before not only in my Light column but in a story for San Diego Magazine, both SD G&E and the City insist that there IS no streetlight in front of our home. It doesn’t show on their maps and therefore isn’t their problem if the light is broken.  You can only imagine how hard it is to get a non-existent streetlight fixed. 

 But this saga and its resolution is now saved for posterity in my EYEWTKATH document.

 For years, I had probably the best collection of San Diego City phone numbers in the entire county: Numbers related to trash problems, tree roots, tree trimming, postal issues, water meters, rat control, parking problems, sidewalk repairs, and yes, dead streetlights.  These were numbers that people actually answered as opposed to the ones that were listed in the phone book for such services which rang in perpetuity and never picked up.  In fact, I fantasied that those city numbers actually forwarded to a deserted bunker in Montana. 

 You knew you had a good number when someone answered with “HOW DID YOU GET THIS NUMBER?” But getting those numbers required considerable guile and cunning, never mind Herculean persistence. I possessed all of those.

 Decades of complaints from the populace about the failure of anyone in the city entrusted with fixing city problems ever answering city phones (never mind fixing any problems) has finally led to the admirable Get It Done app on the city’s website which, remarkably, often really does get it done.  So my list of actual city service numbers is becoming obsolete.

 But my desktop file is so much more.  It lists info you rarely need until you do, like your SD G&E Circuit and Block numbers. Your postal route number. Endless customer codes and security codes that on-line customer service people hope to stump you with and therefore use as an excuse to not help you.  Medical record numbers for multiple institutions.  Our interior and exterior paint colors. The name of pretty much every doctor we’ve seen in the last 20 years. Newspaper account numbers and the personal cell number of our newspaper delivery guy.  Never ever throw out a phone number.

 One of the longer sections of my document lists vendors we’ve used for every possible service. Writing down who you used before saves a lot of time wracking your brain trying to remember the name of that great carpet cleaner or hardwood floor repairer or HVAC person you used three years ago. I often add people recommended on Next Door for services I don’t need now but may well in the future. 

 I will fully admit that this file could be a lot shorter if I could avoid the editorial comments that as a writer I feel compelled to add.  In fact, am incapable of not adding. So instead of just noting: “use again” or “don’t use again,” my file reads:

 About a recent locksmith: “Very competent.  Also very chatty. Is a conspiracy theorist and insisted on giving me literature about (a) The Rapture (it’s imminent) and (b) the government is planning to use the Covid vaccine as a ruse to implant microchips to control people’s minds. Didn’t ask how they get the microchip in that little tiny needle. But front door lock now works perfectly!”

 Painter: “After he painted bathroom and laundry room – great job! – he re-hooked up the washer but switched the water lines which boiled my cold-wash-only stuff into munchkin size. Definitely use again but leave the rest to a plumber.”

 City Dead Animal Recovery: “They will NOT remove a dead possum from private property! Don rubber gloves and get enough momentum to heave possum over fence into street.  Call back and deny being previous caller about dead possum in that location.” 

 So kids (and Olof), long after I’m gone, you’ll never have to wonder who we use – and especially don’t use – for dozens of services. So if you hire that pool filter-cleaning guy who left the filter apart overnight allowing heavily chlorinated water to pump out and kill an entire lawn, it’s on you.