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Day eighteen

November 18, 2016

Thinking this morning of my friend Jane – and not just because, as I write, there is a loaf of bread from her recipe baking in the oven.

Jane is the friend I mentioned last week, who told me that her best tool for beating off the blues was her little black dog. She also inserted a comment at the bottom of my cat vs dog entry, stating that cats and dogs could get along, recommending I try to find a shelter dog in need of a home who came from a household with cats. I responded, saying even if that was true, I didn’t think I could afford another pet. As I wrote, I was thinking merely about having to buy separate food for cats and dogs. She responded, saying she understood, that vet bills were a killer. She’d more than once had to max out a credit card to pay vet bills for one of the animals in her home. If she was lucky, she’d manage to pay down the credit card before it took its next beating from the vet.

Right. Vet bills. I do live in dread of Roxie, who is an older cat, getting sick. That awful moment when you are faced with making a life or death decision on a purely financial basis.

Back in the 1990s, Crazy Clancy got very sick. Quite what the illness was is now lost in the mists of memory. What I do clearly remember is telling the vet to keep going until I hit the $2000 limit on my credit card. I’ve loved every animal who has ever been in my life, but I have to honest, there was something truly special about Clancy. The thought of losing him kept me in tears for a week. I’m not religious, but in my own way I was praying that the treatment would work, that the last item on the vet’s growing bill was not going to be the cost of putting him to sleep. The treatment did work and Clancy came home. It didn’t cost $2000, but it came close. God knows how long it took me to pay off the bill, but that didn’t matter. All that mattered was Clancy was back in my lap.

Yesterday Jane was forced to do something she couldn’t have imagined herself ever doing. Her beloved cat Enzo has been diagnosed with feline AIDS. There is a treatment available, which may or may not work, but is Enzo’s only chance. The treatment will cost at least $1500 – money Jane simply does not have. So she launched an appeal. I know exactly how humiliating that feels, although my appeal was not life or death. (“I’m depressed and it would help me a lot if for my birthday I could afford a haircut, a bottle of prosecco, some books and maybe even a chance to start getting some exercise at the gym.”) My situation wasn’t really desperate, as much as it may have felt that way when I wrote the appeal. Jane’s situation really is, so, dear readers, if you are in a position to donate a few dollars to help save Enzo’s life, please do so.

This may seem like another non sequitur, but bear with me.

At the beginning of the panto rehearsal last night I felt what I thought was the beginnings of a tooth ache. The thought terrified me, because, as I have previously written, as far as I am concerned Canadian dentists are money grubbing pricks whose services should have been rolled into government health coverage, as they are in the UK. Except dentists, of course, fought tooth and nail to prevent that. The thought of some dental problem which would doubtless cost hundreds of dollars I don’t have to fix filled me with dread. More money added to (or I suppose subtracted from) the line of credit.

Happily, by the time I went to bed last night the dental twinge had disappeared and there is no sign of it this morning. Phew. Dodged a bullet.

It got me thinking about being poor.

Like many other things, being poor is relative. I’ve just looked up the meaning of the word, which is, according to the Oxford dictionary, “lacking sufficient money to live at a comfortable or normal standard”. (This immediately begs the question of what a “normal” standard is, but I’ll let that go.) Despite having absolutely no wiggle room for vet bills or dental bills or car repair (or even the odd night out, let alone ever having another vacation), I would say my day to day existence is not uncomfortable. I have a roof over my head. I can afford to feed myself. I can even afford to have some cheap wine in the fridge for a spritzer or two of an evening. That said, by any Canadian’s definition, I am poor. Not completely impoverished, but certainly poor.

As I said, this is relative. I am not the grinding dollar-a-day poor of so many of the planet’s inhabitants. I still clearly remember the first day back in my flat in London after spending time in Nigeria. Turning a tap and having water flow out of it. Flicking a switch and having the room light up. Realising how lucky I was to be a Westerner.

Oh, bloody hell. I have no idea where I’m going with this.

Suffice to say, if I ruled the world (or even Canada), dental care would be part of government health services and everyone who gave a cat or a dog a loving home would be automatically enrolled in a low-cost pet insurance plan. (I confess that probably isn’t the first thing I would do if I ruled the world, but, trust me, it would get done.)

Now, if you can spare a few dollars, please help Jane – and Enzo – out.



From → Black dog diary

  1. janeshead permalink

    Thank you SO MUCH! Of all the many cats in my life, three have been the truly special kind, like your Clancy, those cats bursting with personality: Clyde, and Jasper, and now Enzo. Clyde and Jasper were kittens when they came to me, and of course a kitten’s going to love you, but Enzo wasn’t. Enzo was an adult cat, and it was love at first sight. For both of us, I believe! The woman who’d been fostering him told me not to expect too much, as he’d hidden under her bed for the first week she had him, but he was curled up on my chest purring like an outboard engine within an hour of arriving at my house. He greets me at the door with the dogs when I come home, he’s the first to greet me in the morning when I get up, he spends his evenings wedged between Clara and me on the couch… He’s GOT to survive.

  2. janeshead permalink

    Also, about the relativity of poverty – exactly! We live on a knife edge. Fine for the day to day – roof over head, food on the table – but no extras, and the littlest thing can be catastrophic. Vet bills, Jesus, vet bills are the worst! But in a way, easier to ask for help with – an animal’s life is at stake, people want to help. But what if, say, the fridge dies? What if my COMPUTER dies? It’s 10 years old! Doesn’t bear thinking about really. And though I do have dental insurance from work, it only covers 50% of major things like crowns and I need two of those. Just gonna keep shoring those teeth up with fillings till they fall out, I guess! Poverty sucks, it grinds you down, even if it’s not the global-desperate-poverty that you mention.

    • When I was with Mike, I was on his university dental plan, which did cover 90% of costs. Truth be told, when the bill came in he paid the outstanding 10%, so it was like free dental care. When I was back in the UK, of course, I made an appointment whenever I was sent a reminder about my check up and cleaning. Here on the island it costs over $100 (which I can’t spare) to have your teeth cleaned. Once a year one of the clinics offers free cleaning to poor folks. Ha! By the time you find out about it, all the available appointments are long gone.

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