Mud On the Road

we're about to go shopping in Salisbury...

Season of Myrtle

Posted by Deborah Courtnell

Season of Myrtle & Blackberries & Vet Bills

    I suppose there's a kind of serendipity in the fact that the Myrtle-dog has come into season at the same time as the blackberries.

     I'm walking her up and down Marsh Court Lane - on the lead and away from other dogs - which means I get to pick and eat the first blackberries as they ripen; blackberry bushes proliferating as they do along Marsh Court Lane.

     At the moment it's the odd one here and there but fairly soon I expect to be staggering back to the homestead gorged and sated and terrifying Shedley with my black-stained mouth and teeth and black vampire-juice dribbling down my chin and that annoying and deeply unattractive pips-between-teeth look.

     The taste and variety of every blackberry differs from bush to bush. Or should that be bramble to bramble? Or maybe even briar to briar? 

(How come I've lived in the countryside for seven years and I still know diddly squat about these things? Too much sun has fermented my mind and not in a good way.)

     I do know that the bigger the black beads on each fruit the blander and less spicy the taste. Similarly if the berries are small and tight the taste tends towards sour and dry as if the particular variety is niggardly by nature. Whereas the middle one...So far so Goldilocks and the three blackberry bushes.

     Anyhow. Not a single wild bramble that I've ever seen, sports the berries on sale in the shops which are large, egg-shaped, taste nothing like normal, old-fashioned blackberries and cost a small fortune.

     The first blackberries signal the passing of what has been a magnificent Summer. Though, just as a every cloud has a silver lining so every ray of sunshine casts its shadow. At a domestic level we've had our fair share of tribulations in the shape of veterinary bills and more veterinary bills and yet more veterinary bills.

     Of course sensible people will say, 'What do you expect if you have three dogs.' But even our vet, who we admire and like enormously, felt moved to comment recently that we have been rather unlucky with our three boxer dogs despite the very great care we take of them.

          Myrtle is on a special and expensive diet to keep the dreaded Pancreatitis at bay and she has two different medicines daily to bolster impaired kidney function. Because she got sick just before she was due to be spade in February we all agreed she was way too ill to undergo such an operation and it was postponed indefinitely.

     She's made a good but not complete recovery since then; routine blood tests still show signs of Pancreatitis so in August the vet decided it would be wise to X-ray and scan her to make sure there are no underlying tumours or other problems to account for her condition.

     As Myrtle came out of the surgery and general anaesthetic so George went in and under – to have the ugly cyst on his head removed; nothing sinister but it had grown and was showing an awful lot of bare skin to the hot sun and that skin was becoming scuffed and abraded.

          That operation went well but meant three weeks of George crashing about the house and into the backs of our knees with a plastic lampshade on his head and a very sorrowful look on his face as we all waited, some of us more patiently than others, for the incision to heal.

     Are you bored? It's not over.

     No sooner did George emerge, less-than-butterfly-like, from his extended pupation, than our darling Cally quite literally went down with a suspected slipped disc.

          An X-ray under sedation ruled out a spinal infection and a tumour but revealed spinal osteo-arthritis. Her condition having worsened over the bank holiday weekend Cally is now in 'dog-hospital' (sic) in Swindon where she is 'resting under observation.'
She's had a rather inconclusive CT scan and the spectre was raised of her having an MRI scan at £1,200. 


     I'm frequently asked if the dogs are insured. Yes, of course they are. Well, that's alright then surely? But no it's not entirely alright.

     Because, depending on your insurance, there is a ceiling either per condition or per year and pet insurance and vet costs in the UK are astronomical and soaring. 

       Is that why we have pet insurance or is it the other way round?

     An average trip to the vet in the UK costs far more than the same trip to a vet in Germany. Consultation with a vet in Hampshire: average £30; cost of consultation with a vet in Germany: average £16.*

      A single course of antibiotics could set you back another £20 - £30 and other medications cost far more.  If a follow-up consultation is required you're heading fast towards £100, never mind blood tests, scans or surgery.

     More and more expensive hi-tech and sophisticated diagnostic gadgetry is available to vets. And the shame of it is that fewer and fewer people whose own health and well-being would  benefit from the companionship of a pet now dare take on an animal for fear of the costs of either the insurance or the vet or both. 

     Worse, people take on animals without understanding the financial implications and then either neglect or abandon them. 

    Any claims you have made on your pet insurance trigger an automatic hike in the next year's premium. The only way of, marginally, off-setting the yearly price hike is to accept an even higher increase in the amount of excess you pay. 
     There is no such thing as a 'no claims' bonus which makes sense for the welfare of the animal. But why should the premiums increase willy-nilly each year simply because the animal is ageing? 

     So, having been lured in with a low rate to begin you are then stuck with spiralling increases. And unlike car insurance, when your premium comes up for annual renewal you may not shop around for a better deal because no new deal will cover  pre-existing conditions.

          We recently paid over £500 for a consultation, sedation, blood test, X-Ray, antibiotics and painkillers and that was before Cally and her slipped disc had even gone into dog hospital.

     Now it's me who needs painkillers and sedation. 

    But when a vet suggests that the best thing for your dog would be an MRI scan you don't say no. Because she's a dog not a car. She's a member of your family not an insurance write-off.

      And we are wholly confident that the vet is doing his very best by the animal. So if a £1,200 MRI scan is what is required who are we to gainsay him.

  Pet health insurance in the UK works in the same way as human health insurance in the USA. The more treatments and tests are available, the higher the price of the premiums. The medics charge more so people take out more insurance; the insurers pay out ever higher bills and so put the premiums up and the vet charges (vets pay insurance too) go up again. The ultimate vicious circle.

     Ownership of a small domestic pet is becoming a luxury. Our animal rescue centres bulge with animals abandoned by owners who suddenly realised they could manage the dog food bills but not the vet bills.

      In countries like France, the elderly seem able to maintain dogs, the ownership of which keeps them fit and active and very likely reduces their blood pressure and for those who live alone offers them companionship. 

     Presumably they know they won't have to go without their daily baguette if Mimi cuts her paw.


  Happily today, the specialist vet recommended conservative care i.e. a protracted period of rest and physiotherapy, as the best cure for Cally. Phew! But if he had suggested a trip to the moon we would have agreed.

    She's to stay in hospital a tad longer where, we are assured, in twice daily telephone reports, she is receiving lots of TLC and attention. She is also having her bladder manually squeezed.

     Shedley also suffers from the odd back twinge and a bit of muscle fatigue, especially after lifting 32 kilo-tonnes of semi-inert boxer dog in and out of the back of the car and up and down steps, multiple times in the last few weeks.

     Last night he was heard to mutter plaintively after the evening progress report from a delightful and female junior vet in Swindon, that he wouldn't mind a few days observed rest 'on a very large and comfortable mattress' in a private hospital; somewhere, ANYWHERE. And he wouldn't say no to a couple of extremely expensive tests to rule out anything sinister... and, come to that, having his bladder manually squeezed by a delightful and female junior vet.

     That's extremely unlikely to happen because, unlike our dogs, we don't have private health care...

Cally aka 'Calamity Jane'
Cally before she slipped a disc

Sleepy head Myrtle

George The Lamp
Poor George but he's better now.

I Love the M3
I Love the M3
Eggs, by Floyd
The Good Workman 
Myrtle in the Man-shed
Dog Fox, Lady Boxer 
In the pink, May
Aprés Le Cirque 

No comments: