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Can You Love Your Dog Too Much?

Love Your Dog

A New York Timesarticle poses an interesting question in its headline: “Old Dog Needs $6,000 Surgery. What Do You Do?”

The story, written by Roz Warren, describes the affection and often irrational love one can feel for a dog. “Of course, there are no average bichons. Each one is extraordinary and irreplaceable. Especially if he’s your dog,” she writes.

In the article, Warren outlines how she was paying for emergency gallbladder surgery on her son’s 13-year-old Bichon Frise.

There was a 30 percent chance of life-threatening complications and the procedure came with a $6,000 price tag.

If successful, it would buy the dog, named Max, about two more years of life.

So what do you do?

In Warren’s case, there was never any doubt: you pay. As she explains, “…when a beloved family member needs life-saving surgery, you don’t sit back and ‘let nature take its course.’ You take him to a hospital.”

Putting a Price Tag on a Family Member

That’s just it, isn’t it? Dogs are “beloved family members” and it is hard to put a price tag on their well being, even if it may be a matter of complications or just a couple of years. It’s never an easy decision to do what Warren decided to do and it’s hard to say there are right and wrong answers, but the mindset of a dog lover is different and the choice is always an agonizing one – especially if money is tight.

In the comment section of the New York Times article, the opinion is mixed. Some suggest, with clear moral intentions, that it is wrong to spend that kind of money on a mere dog when people are out there unable to get reasonable health care. Others suggest, with similarly clear moral intentions, that you do the procedure no matter what the cost.

For some dog owners, I suppose there are limits to how much you can love your dog. There are price tags that exist outside the realm of financial possibilities, there are amounts and odds they aren’t willing to accept. I can’t judge those dog owners; they have their own rules, their own realities.

But can you love your dog too much? Can you spend too much money, too much time, on your dog?

There are limits to everything, I’d imagine. In Warren’s case, there may be limits as well. But in her view (and mine), how she treats Max represents how she treats others she cares about and loves. It’s hard to put a dollar sign on that and say “There we go, that’s as far as I’ll go.”

Unfortunately, today’s world seems to have attached financial value to everything. I understand there are various reasons for this. This reality demands we often have to make tough choices, like choices between spending $6,000 on surgical care that might buy us two more years with our older dog and not spending that money.

So what would you do? Is there a dollar amount that’s too high? Are there odds to consider? And can you love your dog too much?

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