When I was five my family got our first dog, she was a tiny ball of yellow fluff that they assured us would grow into a Labrador. We picked her up when she was eight weeks old and after much debate, named her Rosie. As first-time dog owners we watched Rosie grow, learning the rules of being good owners as she learned the rules of living in our home.
By the time she was one, Rosie had already become my four-legged shadow. She would follow me everywhere. She’d stand at the gate when I left for school, and she’d be waiting there when I came home. She’d lie with me when I was sick. She let me cry on her through my first heartbreak, the death of my Grandfather and all the other pains a teenager goes through. She was my best friend, my partner in crime and a member of my family.
She was ten when we first noticed her limping and as time went by it became progressively worse. The vet’s diagnosis didn’t come as a surprise, Labradors—like many pedigree dogs—are prone to arthritis. The medication was expensive but luckily for us, and for Rosie, my Dad had taken out pet insurance when Rosie was a puppy. The medication made an immediate impact; she moved more freely and we didn’t have to worry that we’d need to carry her home from a walk. Over the following four years the vet visits became more frequent; the list of medications grew, and the costs spiraled. Every month, without fail, the insurance picked up the cost. When she needed emergency care over one Christmas period, the insurance paid for it. So when we finally made the decision that her quality of life was suffering, and it was time to let her go, we knew it was because there was nothing more that we could do. She’d had the best care possible; care that my family could never have afforded without insurance.
When the time came for me to get my own dog, I questioned the need for insurance. It was a monthly expense that I couldn’t see a return on. It wasn’t buying me a service that I used every day, and there was no immediate benefit. I read articles on self-insuring that told me it made more financial sense to put money into an account every month. They said that by the time she was ten I could have nearly five thousand dollars and that potentially I’d never need to spend it on veterinarian costs. That sounded great, who wouldn’t want to save money instead of paying it to someone else. I decided to do more research; I looked into emergency care costs and was shocked at how expensive they could be. So I did some calculations—if I self-insured I’d only have saved enough money to pay for an emergency operation by the time my dog was seven. What was I meant to do for the first seven years? There was no way I’d be able to find thousands of dollars at the drop of a hat; it just wasn’t feasible at that time in my life. I thought back to how hard it had been to make the decision to euthanize Rosie, knowing that we’d done everything we could for her. I couldn’t imagine how much harder that would be if I had to do it for economic reasons. I’ll admit that I’m not the most self-disciplined person when it comes to voluntarily saving money. I knew how easy it would be for me to find a reason not to pay into my “self-insurance” account each month. So, I opted to take out cover for Cleo.
Pet insurance for Labradors is readily available, but the costs can vary greatly as their heritage, like many other pedigree breeds, has left them susceptible to a variety of illnesses. I chose a fully comprehensive policy; it wasn’t the cheapest option, but it covered the things I was most concerned about. It’s not an insignificant amount, but it is affordable and fits my needs.
My dog is now ten and the symptoms of old age are starting to set in. As sad as it makes me to see her body start to deteriorate I know that I don’t need to worry about the costs of any treatment she may or may not need. There’s a huge temptation to see pet insurance as something that should provide us with a quantifiable return on our investment. But even if Cleo never needs any treatment, just knowing that she has insurance leaves me free to enjoy my time with her, and for me that is priceless.