As with most things it is probably not a good idea to talk in generalities. That said, I'm going to do it anyway.
My family has always owned a variety of pets - dogs, cats, birds, fish. Seriously what family hasn't? When I was a child my parents divided up the job of pet care. Dad would take whatever animal that needed it to the vet for shots. Female dogs (which we favored) were spayed. I found out in Dad's last days that he had a strong aversion to castrating male dogs. In my memory we only had one, a pedigreed black poodle. He was the stereotypical miniature that you would love to hate. And he never, ever quit peeing in the house. I know, gross. He was my mother's dog, gifted to her on a birthday. Even when everyone else walked a wide berth around the stinky, flea-bitten, pee-er my mom took good care of him, and probably stretched the definition of love to its maximum potential.
If there was a dirty pet job that needed doing, my mother was the female version of Mike Rowe. She was the pet feeder, cleaner upper, litter box emptier, and midwife. You know when I think back on it, my mother was able to handle most household dirty jobs with a degree of efficiency and grace I never mastered. I used to watch as she'd scoop up the remains of day old 9-Lives moist cat food with her fingers. Truly that is the epitome of grossness - actually it's on a par with cleaning up the not-even digested 9-Lives moist cat food puke. Let's face it, fishy smelling moist cat food is not something that should be touched with a nine foot pole, let alone one's fingers.
Back to generalities. In the years since I've had pets veterinarian medicine has come a long way. Vaccines and birth control are the only the basics. Weight management, dental care, heart worm prevention, cancer treatments, orthopedic procedures, chiropractic medicine and holistic massages are now treatments offered to ordinary dogs, not just those who belong to the rich and famous.
Case in point. Last April Sweetie and I "rescued" Suzi Q from the humane society. Because we are senior citizens the adoption (rescue) fee was waived. All we had to provide was a good home, lots of treats, a comfortable bed (times as many as she chewed into Styrofoam egg-crate pieces), exercise, and lots of love - all of which we were ready and willing to do. We didn't especially appreciate her bathroom habits but have given her the benefit of every doubt. We've gone so far as to blame a cat! Recently Suzi started limping. She never acted like she was in a any pain. In fact she would be limping one minute then chasing through the house like Mighty Dog. She seemed to have the most difficulty when getting up from a resting position. I didn't do much about it at first thinking the limp would leave as mysteriously as it arrived.
When this didn't happen I took her to the vet who, after a physical exam which failed to elicit any cries of pain, handed us some pain medication and the dog equivalent of Celebrex. These are great drugs for making a middle-aged dog sleep like an old dog (or her owner) but never made the limp go away. So we went back to the vet. More drugs. Then back to the vet for X-rays which to her regular vet's eye showed nothing out of the norm. We left with a referral to an orthopedic vet. At this point I will add that while Suzi could easily be the canine version of Welcome Wagon lady, and can be easily bribed with a peanut butter treat, she freaks out when she has to walk across a slick floor into a scary room that smells of alcohol, needles and other dogs. In the same way that brightly lit, sterile delivery rooms have morphed into family birthing rooms with dim lights, spa music, and epidural medication used to trick a woman into believing she is not experiencing the worst pain she'll ever endure, the ortho vet's office looked a lot like a lawyer's waiting room. Soft chairs for the human to sit in, an even softer bed for the dog to lie on, an aquarium full of brightly colored fish to take the patient's mind of its pain/fear, and Dog Fancy magazines for the owner to read while trying to convince the patient that nothing bad was going to happen. I think I might have even said, "this is for your own good" to which Suzi, who ignored the dog bed for a tiny space under the chairs in the farthest corner of the room, refused to comment.
Saying goodbye to my beloved Q-dog as she was taken to the examining room felt a lot like asking for one more moment with my son before he was whisked into the operating room to have his adenoids removed. I had the same nervous stomach that screamed, "how can you let them do this?" As Suzi's shoulder, leg, foot were being examined, I read about Heidi Klum's break up with Seal. Finally the veterinarian version of Doogie Howzer came in and showed me a 2nd set of X-rays. Of course, I had no idea what I was looking at, but I nodded my head as he showed me a tiny little light spot up around the top of her shoulder. In a human it could be considered a rotator cuff problem. In a dog it was described as a stretched (as opposed to torn) ligament. Think football player who is not hurt enough to sit on the bench for the rest of the season, but must spend several weeks on the Injured Reserve list, wearing a leg brace and taking it easy when not doing physical therapy.
The vet says this is the kind of injury that will take time to heal. In one month my free dog has racked up enough medical bills to put me in the poor house. But how can I stand by and do nothing while Suzi resembles one of those limping patriots with a white bandage on his head leaning on a stick crutch as he marches home from war to the tune of Yankee Doodle?
What do you think? Does this dog need a treat or what?
I'm not saying I'm opposed to new and improved medical treatments, but I kind of long for the good old days when Gramps could fix anything from a tractor wheel to a Lassie's broken leg.