Let Inga Tell You: Welcome to the house of decrepitude

Lily's an unhappy dog post knee surgery.

This year started really inauspiciously for us when, 11 hours into the new year, our dog, Lily, went charging out to our front gate to ward off a Big Black Dog (her nemesis) and ruptured her right ACL (knee).

When she ruptured her left ACL in May 2020, we were warned that she would have a 60 percent chance of doing the same to the other one. We were desperately hoping to be in the lucky 40 percent, but that does not seem to be God’s plan for us. God’s plan for us is to make veterinarians’ Mercedes payments.

On Feb. 3, Lily got her new knee. The surgeon’s instructions read, “For the first six weeks, do not allow the dog to run or to jump on (or off) furniture.”

Does he realize we are talking about a dog? Who lives to chase balls and jump on (and off) furniture?

When we dropped off Lily the morning of the surgery, among the tech’s questions was what our “financial cap is for today.” Huh? The tech guy continued, “Sometimes we run into unexpected problems ... and need to know if the client has a cap on services should that occur.” Our dog is, after all, 12½ and has a heart murmur.

What, they’re asking for a cap on the life of our fur child? The one who gives us endless unconditional love, unlike our two human children who most definitely don’t? I mean, we know our adult children love us, but the days of them gazing adoringly at us with their little pink tongues hanging out is long past. (I concede this is probably a good thing.)

And we know from friends’ pets that surgical outcomes for elderly pets can most definitely go awry.

Friends of ours with no human children had a much-adored 13-year-old dog that developed a brain tumor. Once upon a time, there would have been no choice but to put the animal down. But now there is nothing you can do medically for a human that you can’t also do for an animal. Kitty dialysis, for example, is now a major industry.

Anyway, the friends went for an $8,000 surgery that required a canine neurosurgeon and not one but two canine anesthesiologists. While the surgery seemed to go well, the dog never seemed to recognize them again. After 40 days in the veterinary ICU with no improvement and increasing deterioration, the dog was removed from life support. Total cost: $15,000.

So this cap question isn’t unreasonable. Still, a stop-loss order on the dog seemed a tad, well, cold. My perverse mind went into overdrive. So let’s say I said $6,000. I had already approved a multi-thousand-dollar surgical estimate. But is there a meter running in the operating room? Maybe that heart murmur turns out to be more serious than expected. Do they say, “OK, team, we’re at $6,000. Stop the compressions!” Would they lament afterward, “We were so close to restarting Lily’s heart. If you’d only given us another $50, we could have saved her!”

Let me just apologize right now to our vet, whom we totally adore and who saw us through endless medical woes of our much-missed English bulldog, Winston. Our vet had told us that in veterinary school they had a bumper sticker that read, “Buy a bulldog. Support a vet.” She was so right.

We were so devastated at losing the pricey but beloved Winston that we swore we’d never get another dog. Then a rescue agency asked us to do emergency foster care — one week maximum — for an 8-year-old bichon-poodle mix named Lily. Four years later, she’s still with us and now on her second ACL surgery. (Did I mention the $1,500 for her rotten teeth?)

Of course, Lily is not the only disabled individual in the house. In June, my left shoulder kept getting more and more painful and I was ultimately diagnosed in November via MRI with a torn rotator cuff (more specifically supraspinatus). The puzzling part is that I didn’t actually do anything to my shoulder. Spontaneous decrepitude has to be the most annoying part of getting older.

But I really don’t want surgery. Remember where I mentioned that whatever you can do for a person you can now do for an animal? It turns out that my wonderful physical therapist is also certified for dogs. Yes, really. While we were waiting the five weeks for the canine ACL surgeon, my PT person came to the house to help Lily keep some mobility in her stiffened right hip joint. It’s not easy to hop around on three legs.

I confess I love using the line “My dog’s and my physical therapist.” As a writer, I can’t let such a wonderful conversation starter go to waste. And I’m secretly hoping that when my Medicare PT benefits run out, I can work out a twofer.

Inga’s lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in the La Jolla Light. Reach her at ◆