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I’m spending thousands to keep my dog alive, and I wouldn’t change a thing

I’ve learned to avoid the postings on Facebook groups about animal shelters. I can’t logistically adopt another animal, and seeing those little faces staring out at me stabs me right in the heart. But it’s not just the photos. It’s the people who gripe about the expense of adopting an animal.

“$300? For a mutt?” they’ll write. “That’s too expensive.”

Three hundred is too expensive? I wonder what would have happened to my dog, Sawyer, if he’d ended up in a house like that. After all, I spend thousands each year to keep him alive, and at just 4 1/2 years old, I’m hoping he’ll have years more life in him. And I’ll keep paying.

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It’s not that I enjoy shelling out wads of cash that I could just as easily put toward paying down my mortgage or funneling into my daughter’s college fund, but Sawyer is a part of my family and after an ordinary nap ended with his eyes rolled back in his head, his jaw foaming and his body jerking violently, I had to make a hard choice.

Our older dog we’d raised from a puppy had just succumbed to cancer a month before, and my emotions were still raw. Sawyer was the source of comfort our whole family needed. I work at home, so I was just a few feet away when I saw his head jerking during his nap. At first I thought he was dreaming, then I saw the foam coming out of his mouth, the urine spraying.

I screamed and ran to him, crying, “Please, no! Please, I can’t do this again. Please, I can’t lose another one.”

In minutes it was over, and I ran to call the vet’s office. “It sounds like a seizure,” they said, confirming what I’d already guessed. “You’d better bring him in.”

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I clipped a leash to a dazed Sawyer’s collar and took him out to the car for a quick drive to their office. The vet confirmed what the receptionist had said and gave me the option of trying a “let’s see” approach. Epilepsy is common in dogs; however, since sometimes a canine will have one seizure and then never again, she said, there’s no sense putting a dog on expensive medicine if they don’t need it. Relieved, I agreed, and took him home, where he got a long bath (unable to hold his bowels or his urine during the seizure, he stunk to high heaven) and a lot of treats.

A week went by. Then a few more days. We thought he’d be fine.

Then we woke up Sunday morning to find dog pee all over his favorite spot. We guessed that he’d had a seizure that night while we were sleeping. He went on to have three more that day.

One seizure in a dog is OK. Four in one day? Not remotely OK. The Canine Epilepsy Network recommends calling a vet immediately if a dog has three seizures in a day or one seizure that lasts more than five minutes.

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Back to the vet we went, where Sawyer was officially diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy and prescribed an anti-epileptic. He has to take it every day, twice a day, for the rest of his life. Stop dosing him, and the seizures could come back worse than before. And so every day for the past year, he’s gotten two pills, twice a day. They make him sleepy, a little dopey and ravenously hungry. We joke that it’s like pot for dogs.

But getting him his twice-daily fix isn’t cheap.

The first time we picked up his medicine from the pharmacy, we were charged more than $90 for one month’s supply. Usually the rate is around there, sometimes a little less, sometimes a little more. I budget roughly $100 for that and the hot dogs we buy regularly to hide the medicine in (at our vet’s suggestion) so he’ll swallow it.

That alone puts us at around $1,200 a year. Then you add in the other costs customary to caring for a dog on a yearly basis: food, treats, toys, regular vaccines, flea and tick preventatives, and the number is likely pushed over $2,000.

It’s about double the estimated cost of owning a dog for a year, but in the more than 13 months since he started taking the medicine, we’ve watched his eyes roll back, his mouth foam and his body convulse just one time. Every other moment, we’ve had our happy, healthy, goofy dog.

He may be expensive, but he’s ours. And we want to keep him as long as we can.

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