How Far Would You Go To Keep Your Dog Alive?

I’ve written before about the high cost of veterinary care. A pair of opinion artciles in the Wall Street Journal discuss how much people are willing to spend on pet health care. The author ponders:

[These days] [v]ets do aggressive cancer surgery and hip replacements. They pump dogs full of expensive drugs for various maladies. In short, dogs get many of the same procedures we humans get. But it’s not cheap, and if it’s anything like human medicine, it’s going to get more expensive as vets take increasingly sophisticated and heroic measures to keep dogs alive.
I’m not here to say this is good or bad. We live in a very rich country, and if people want to spend thousands of dollars on their dogs, so be it.
But should the willingness to pay for expensive procedures be a prerequisite for getting a dog, as some of the emails to me seemed to suggest? I question that. That would pretty much mean that poor people, or their children, couldn’t own dogs. That doesn’t seem right.
Even people with the wherewithal to pay for expensive dog care are going to draw the line differently

In principle, I don’t believe in paying thousands of dollars on pet health care. Due to my country upbringing, I see a distinct line between pets and people.
In practice, however, things are not always so clear cut. A few months ago, Penny tore her ACL and meniscus (there are other veterinary terms for the injuries, but those are the human equivalents). The vet told us that if we did not do surgery she would be in pain for the rest of her life. The surgery, of course, would cost about $1500.
After doing due diligence to determine that there were no other alternatives to surgery, I suggested that we should ask the vet if there were cheaper procedures that would relieve the pain but not necessarily return her knee joint to its original function, such as fusing the joint or even amputation. Boy, did that cause an uproar in our household.
In the end, we didn’t ask about other alternatives, and we proceeded with the surgery. Penny seems to have made a full recovery.

On the other hand, we’ve made different choices with Tippie, our 14-year-old Shepsky. We recently stopped giving her heartworm medication ($18/month). There’s very little chance she’ll get heart worms, and even if she did, she’s still likely to die of old age before the heart worms could harm her. And we’ve been giving her Ibuprofen for her aching joints, even though this runs the risk of harming her liver. Our goal is to make her comfortable for her remaining time with us, not to extend that time as long as possible.

Good news and bad news

We lived in an 1880s house in the country in New Jersey for several years in the 1990s. The house was on a hill rising from the street. It had a short driveway and a long sidewalk up to the house (which was good in terms of snow shoveling).
The remnants of a hurricane blew through one night (it must have been hurricane Opal), bringing rain and relatively high winds. The storm woke me in the middle of the night, and I could see the dome light on in the car down the hill. Shit, I told Katie, I must have left the door ajar in the Camry, and it’s raining.
So, I put on my raincoat and ran down to the driveway to fix the situation. When I came back to the bedroom, I told Katie: the good news is, I didn’t leave the door ajar; the bad news, the car has been crushed by a tree branch.
Man, we loved that car.


Every time I drive past downtown Austin and look out over the many new luxury condo towers, I comment that the developers of those condos must be ‘shitting bricks’ with the economic downturn.
Well, the Austin Business Journal reports today that “At least 700 condominiums — almost a dozen buildings — slated to be built in Central Austin are either on hold indefinitely or scrapped altogether.” Gee, who’d have thought?!
At least those developers can get out while the getting is good. The developers of projects that are already in development or completed aren’t so lucky.

1500 grouchy geeks

I spent most of last week at the Agile 2008 conference, which was held at the Sheraton Centre Hotel in Toronto.
In my opinion, this hotel was an epic fail in regard to internet access.
The rooms offered only wired internet access with per-day charges (which is pretty standard for business hotels), but the jack in my room didn’t work. When I informed the desk of the problem, they sent someone up to give me a new network cable, which, of course, didn’t help. After that, I just didn’t bother with internet access in my room. I didn’t feel like trying to get it fixed and then having to pay for the access.
The hotel offered two wireless access networks in all the public areas of the hotel and conference center. Both networks were unsecured, which didn’t thrill me considering I was among 1500 geeks. But that was a secondary concern: the networks were both unreliable; sometimes I just couldn’t get an IP address from them, and other times, I could connect but not get any internet access.
Because of the situation in the rooms, every evening, the lobby was completely full of geeks using their laptops, including me (when the wireless worked).
You would think that business hotels and conference centers would be getting these things right by now.

The swimming hole

In my last blog entry, I mentioned that I grew up in the Texas hill country. In the course of writing that entry, I ran across this photo of the swimming hole where I spent most of my summers.
This swimming hole is on Rebecca Creek, located about a mile from my house. In the photo, you can see a concrete platform with a ladder out of the water and a very large cypress tree next to it. When I was young, there was a platform about 8 feet above the concrete platform, though it was cut down when I was a teenager.
The swimming hole is about ten feet deep, and when I was growing up, there were 2×4 steps nailed up the cypress tree. The first branch over the water is at about 35 feet with an awesome rope swing hanging from it. Originally, you could swing off the platform, but after that was gone, we just climbed a few steps up the tree to swing. A rope swing that long makes for a nice wide arc over the water.
You could also jump directly from the tree, either from any step or by climbing up to the first limb. I still remember the first time I jumped from the limb. I was probably eight or nine years old.
The steps led to two higher branches, maybe 45 and 55 feet, but I never went up to those branches–not because I was afraid of jumping from those heights, but because it was more difficult to get from the steps out onto the branches. That part scared me.
In the summer, there were always people at the swimming hole–if not swimmers, then teenagers hanging out, drinking, and/or smoking pot. I didn’t partake, but I was known to be ‘cool’ about it.
There were a lot of disadvantages to living in such a remote location–the solitude and loneliness, the 1-2 hour bus rides each way to school, etc.–but all in all, I consider myself pretty damn lucky to have lived in such a place, and the swimming hole was a big part of it.