Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Cost of Loving Kona

On Tuesday our dog, Kona will have surgery.  Again.

About a year and a half ago she had surgery for a torn ligament in her left knee.  The result of favouring her right knee for so long is that she tore the ligament on that side as well, and now can't walk on it.

When Kona was 5 months old she ate wood chips, because lab puppies are really, really dumb.  Cute, but dumb.  Whatever blood she is mixed with didn't offer much in the way of intelligence boosting.  She blocked her intestines and needed surgery to clear it.  A few years later she had a growth removed from her tongue that thankfully turned out to be again.

As of this surgery, we will be into our little pound puppy to the tune of nearly $10,000 in surgeries alone.  That doesn't count her regular vet bills, food, and all the other costs of keeping a nearly 90-lb chocolate lab.

When I tell people those numbers, I get looks of absolute amazement.  Many people comment that it's a crazy amount of money to spend on a dog.  Yup, it sure is.  We've dubbed her the world's most expensive mutt, and at nearly 7 years old she's still got plenty of years to continue emptying our already pathetic savings.  So why do we do it?

Kona came to us at 3 months old when we were going through fertility treatment.  We got her from the humane society where she had already been through two homes and sent back, for some unfathomable reason as she was already the sweetest dog on the planet.

Kona the day we brought her home

Yes, I admit she was a substitute to fill the hole in my heart from all of the failures to conceive a child.  She was my first baby and her fur absorbed many tears as month after month went by without success.  When we did finally have our first baby through IUI, she was immediately his best friend.  No jealousy, nothing but love for that screaming bundle of what to her was surely dubious joy.

Nolan was born with a cleft lip and palate as most of you know.  He couldn't breastfeed directly as he could not form suction.  So I pumped for him, every three hours, all day and all night.  Who was awake with me, lying on my feet as I sat half awake, delirious with exhaustion attached to the milking machine?  Kona. She was there through Nolan's surgeries and the long nights of his recovery.

Kona with baby Nolan

Then came Aaron, a preemie at 29 weeks.  Again with the pump, and there was Kona, with me through it all.  We got through those times, the dark years we like to dub them, of two under two and so little sleep it's a wonder we survived at all.

The kids grew, and as they did Kona put up with all kinds of baby and toddler-related torture.  Ear pulling, eye-poking, tail-grabbing, attempting to ride her like a horse. She never growled, never snapped at them.  She put up with it with mostly good humour and the occasional baleful glance in our direction for assistance.

Kona after surgery in 2011, wearing the "hemorrhoid pillow of shame".

Kona is just a dog.  Yes, you could say that.  Just a dog, whose needs in life are simple.  Food, a warm place to sleep, a few squirrels to chase, and to be with her people.  She loves her people with that basic, uncomplicated love and loyalty that only dogs are capable of.

She deserves that love and loyalty in return.  $10,000?  Yeah, it's a lot of money, especially to people like us who live basically paycheck to paycheck.  But would we take that money back in exchange for Kona if it was offered to us?  Nope.  Kona has been there for me, in the only way she knows how, and I am going to be there for her, as best I can.

People either get this and feel the same way, or they just don't get it.  I know I can't make them understand, but I felt the need to say it.  The cost of loving Kona is small compare to the joy of loving her, and having her love.