How much is enough when it comes to taking care, medically speaking, of our pets? I wonder because I’ve been driving across town every three days so my son’s leopard gecko can receive anaerobic antibiotic injections for his apparently rare giant-head problem.
We already tried surgery and oral antibiotics. We sent off a tissue sample to a laboratory. Our vet posted photos online.
I was telling the story to some friends, and they were floored that I would spend so much money and time on a lizard, even if it is my kid’s pet. I could buy a new one for $20.
I explained how the gecko, Ziggi, seems healthy except for his enormously swollen head, and that he eats well, even though he appears to have gone blind. We just have to hand feed him every night.
There was a moment of silence. Then one friend responded, sarcastically, “Well, at least you don’t have to tube feed him.”
I said, with enthusiasm, “No. Not anymore.”
This reply, apparently, was the most hilarious thing they’d ever heard. And one of them is a vegetarian. Aren’t they supposed to be tender-hearted?
I have to admit, however, that their response got me thinking about appropriate vet care. So I posted about it on Facebook.
One friend commented: “Anything is too much vet care for a lizard. I realized this after I spent almost $200 on [son] Daniel’s first gecko and then it died anyway. Then I remembered IT WAS A LIZARD!!! Not a dog or a cat or a horse. It’s about like taking a fish to the vet.”
“Why is a lizard less worthy than a mammal?” I challenged her.
“Because they’re bird food,” she wrote. “They don’t love you. They don’t interact with you on an emotional level.”
I won’t reveal the name of this friend because I don’t want her to get death threats from reptile-ophiles. And I don’t know if she is right or wrong about the limitations of a lizard’s emotional range.
But I do know that once any living thing starts depending on you – and comes out from under his rock when you tap on the glass, even if it is just because you have a juicy worm on the end of the extra-long, special, gecko-feeding pliers you bought – that the responsibility is hard to ignore.
I’ve had many chances to learn to harden my heart. My animals, despite attentive care, often contract bizarre diseases. I can tell a good vet from 20 yards off. I know their kids’ names and favorite sports because I see them so often.
Horses are the worst. I’ve had horses that don’t sweat, walk like drunken sailors and need daily shots to breathe. I’ve researched obscure nutraceuticals, tried experimental treatments and sent a horse to Canada for the climate.
I’m not alone. Folks have told me there is no limit to how much they would spend on their beloved pets, even if it’s only proper to gripe about the expense.
Attorney Stephanie Tolson fixed her cat’s leg, but you can tell that she remains a little disgusted. “Mutt cat,” she wrote. “Beaned by Daddy in butt with golf ball. Breaks leg in two. Can’t tell baby that Daddy caused the death of beloved Junior. Thousands of dollars and one leg surgery that results in a bionic leg later, cat is as good as new.”
That reminded me of my Siamese cat, who snapped a ligament right before my wedding. At the time, $1,000 for surgery was out of the budget. But, as my husband puts it, “You don’t kill your fiancée’s cat just before you marry her. That could put a damper on things.” Rama got his surgery.
If I still had that cat, one friend said she would have a use for him. Lou Ann Feser is a sweet, retired schoolteacher who rescues stray mutts and dogsits her daughter’s beloved Lab every day.
“If you have a cat,” she said in her kind voice, “I would let the cat eat the lizard.”
Fortunately for Ziggi, we have no cat. Our gecko’s head remains big, but his tail is fat, which is good. For now, we’ll keep using our coffee grinder to grind the prescription bird food that we feed his worms, and then hand-feed the worms to Ziggi, along with his vitamin E drops.
When we’re not doing that, we’ll be giving our diabetic dog his two insulin injections per day, ordering glucosamine for the horses, and taking care of the stray dog who adopted us a week ago.
Yes, I’ve already taken the new dog to the vet.