How much is a dog’s life worth?
A Wall Street Journal columnist posed that question recently after hearing from a “sizable” pack of angry readers who took him to task for lamenting how much of his paycheck was being gobbled up by medical care for his dogs.
Neal Templin, author of the Journal’s “Cheapskate” column, focused on his beagle in the original column, and recent vet visits that set him back more than $1,000 each — one of which was to treat his dog for injuries received after he escaped from home and was hit by a car.
“Your dog-owning incompetence is matched only by your lack of journalistic and personal integrity in not taking responsibility for … allowing the dog to escape in the first place,” one reader wrote Templin. “If your dog liked you he probably wouldn’t escape or howl.”
Templin noted that dogs are becoming family — not just backyard denizens.
“When I grew up in the 1960s, you took your dog to the vet for shots or perhaps to have a broken leg set. But if a dog got really sick, it died.
“It’s different today. Vets 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.”
So the answer to the question Templin poses in his aptly-named column depends not on the dog, but on the human that owns it — and on that human’s priorities.
“There are many who think burning 18 grand to keep a dog around for six or 12 extra months is madness,” a Massachusettshe man wrote. “Sometimes I think so, too. But my wife died from lymphoma two years ago, and I have no children. What am I going to do, buy a bigger television set?”