Jones, modeling his new Bite Not. I don't think he likes it.
Jones, modeling his new Bite Not. I don’t think he likes it.

That, over there, is Jones the dog. He’s wearing that contraption, a cone alternative called the Bite Not, because he’s chewing the hell out of his hindquarters. He’s on antibiotics and prednisone for the third time since we rescued him six months ago. In two weeks, I will take him to a dog dermatologist. He’s itchy.

Just for fun, I thought I’d tally up what I’ve spent at the vet in the past six months. Are you ready for this? $1,405.91. And that’s not including the private sessions with the trainer, or the obedience classes he’s in now. Or all the treats, or the Chuckit to replace the one he gnawed past the point of usefulness.

Our Jones is a particularly expensive family member, although he doesn’t hold a candle to Sophie, our German Shepherd who passed away in March (and shattered my heart into a million pieces). Her vet folder is seriously four inches thick. For Sophie, we did acupuncture and dog massage and aquatherapy. We took her spleen out. I took her to a dog opthamologist, even though she was four months into a terminal cancer diagnosis that the vets said would give us six months, max. What can I say? She was my best friend.

Both Jones and Sophie (and our cat Dexter, for that matter) came to us with problems. Sophie, a Hurricane Katrina rescue, had five different types of worms, including heartworms. Jones’ first vet visit revealed hypothyroidism, giardia and a skin infection. Dexter, who was not named for the HBO-series serial killer, had pneumonia when we adopted him. I remember calling the rescue organization, furious, but it’s not like I was going to give him back. I already loved the little guy. For the first two weeks, Dexter was quarantined in our spare room and our other cat, Jinx, tormented him with the paw-under-the-door thing. (Jinx’s vet file, by contrast, is very, very slim. Jinx will outlive us all.)

Dexter had pneumonia when we adopted him. But he was too cute to give back.
Dexter had pneumonia when we adopted him. But he was too cute to give back.

Actually, I’m glad I didn’t know about Jones’ myriad health issues when we rescued him. I might have passed him over, and I don’t like to even think about that possibility. Jones had been in rescue for nine months, and when I say “rescue,” I’m being generous. The organization is actually a woman who loves dogs and has a lot of property and asks her adult kids to help out. She’s overwhelmed, with 30-something dogs running around. Once the word gets out that you’re a rescue organization, people just dump their animals at your doorstep.

And so, for the nine months that he was in rescue, nobody inquired about Jones, who was originally named Popeye. The only reason I found him was because they changed his name to Anderson, in an attempt to get him more attention on Petfinder. It worked: The alphabetical search put him at the top of my list. Once I met him, I was in love, and stopping me when I love an animal is like trying to hold back a speeding freight train. It just ain’t gonna happen.

My beautiful Sophie. I loved her so much.
My beautiful Sophie. I loved her so much.

We needed Jones as much as he needed us. Sophie was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma a year ago, and her final months were agonizing. I never knew, when I woke up in the morning, if I would find her dead on her heated dog bed. She would rally, and then falter. It was devastating for everyone. And when Sophie died, it left a giant, gaping hole in our family. It was too big to stay vacant.

Jones brought happiness to the house again, with his goofy demeanor, his floppy ears and his happy, half-Pit, half-Lab smile. I find it incredibly calming to throw him the orange Chuckit ball, over and over and over. He loves to go on long walks and hikes. He hops up on the couch and rests his head on Steve’s lap most nights. He likes broccoli and apples and kale. He hates celery, like me. (Look, there is NO WAY I could have influenced a dog to hate celery. He’s just smart.) He’s terribly flatulent, but it’s almost endearing. He’s a different dog than Sophie, but I adore him. We all do.

I wrote this post because I bought my dog a cone alternative for $47.98 this week, and it had me questioning my sanity. But also, because my friends lost their miniature Italian Greyhound, Joey, on Sunday. She was a fighter, and they fought for her, until the point where her little body was exhausted. I know they’re heartbroken. I know their vet bills surpass even mine. But I also know that they’d do it all over again, many times over.

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