Saturday, September 26, 2009


What is the value of a dog?

My answer would have been different a week ago. "A dog is just an animal," I would have said. "There is no reason to sink a boatload of money into saving a dog's life." I no longer agree with that week-ago me. I did not know myself.


As a girl - like most girls - I was an animal lover. My mother was not. No dogs allowed. No questions, no arguments, no dogs. Period.

When I was eight, my friend Steph with a 'ph' dared a group of us to go pet her St. Bernard, Peter. We were on our way to a tumbling competition in Illinois, and Steph's was the last stop before we hit the road for the weekend. Peter was outside, leashed to a stake in the ground. I'd been to Steph's house several times and Peter had always been a sweet, drooling fuzzball. I had no reason to suspect that Peter would be any different that fall afternoon. Steph knew though. Peter hated to be on a leash. Peter was dangerous when he was tied up. The other girls must have known too, because they giggled when I took the dare. I was confident in my Dolittlian ability to speak with animals. I took the dare. I approached Peter, and just as I reached my hand out to pat his head, I saw the teeth. There were his teeth and I heard his growl, and I did what any eight year old girl would do. I turned to run away. His front paws grabbed me by the shoulders before I could run, and he bit me. I was wearing a pink cotton t-shirt (not the thin baby tees my kids wear, but the thick 1970's kind of t-shirt that was made to last) and my favorite jean jacket. Steph's dad, a doctor of apparent unDolittle variety, put eight stitches in my back for free.

We went on to Illinois later than expected and I competed the next day. My mom patched up my jacket and I continued to wear it proudly with hope that someone would ask about the stitches in the back. Peter was euthanized after he bit the mailman the second time. I no longer believed in my ability to converse with animals.

And I avoided big dogs.


When we got Caspian five years ago, we decided the following:
1. We were not going to pay for pet insurance.
2. If the dog got cancer or some other expensive condition, we would not treat it. We cannot afford treatment, and we would let him go as comfortably as possible.
3. Probably nothing else would happen.

Five days ago we learned:
1. Pet insurance would have been a good investment.
2. You cannot know ahead of time what you will decide.
3. Other things happen, lung torsion and pyothorax to name just a couple.


It's been eighteen years since I got a degree in Economics, but I still remember the principles of Cost-Benefit Analysis. Life gives plenty of opportunities to practice the principle. A sick dog also gives opportunity. In Cost-Benefit Analysis, the costs of a proposed action and the benefits of the same action are listed, quantified when possible, and compared. The tangibles are easy to identify and quantify, but a decision made on the tangibles is incomplete and can be the wrong decision. It's often the intangibles that can tip the balance and change the perceived net present value of the proposed action. Intangibles are often virtually impossible to quantify.


Caspian's Intangibles:

He barks when people come to the door. Friends, foes (well, I am assuming here), and UPS deliveries are all greeted with barking. He doesn't ever bark at the mailman. I've grown to appreciate the barking as means of telling us that something is happening. I've left my kids alone at home countless times and never worried about their safety. The first few times we left them alone were much easier because I considered the dog to be a protector.

He barks when he smells smoke. He will wake us if there is ever a fire.

He makes Steve exercise. I would say he makes us all exercise, but that is not true. Steve is his man, and Caspian must have a walk, or at minimum a game of catch with Steve or his day is incomplete. Any exercise benefit the rest of us achieve is purely of our own initiative.

He keeps our minds and wits sharp. He is a sneaky, crafty thief. We've learned to think like dogs, and take protective measures to preserve our food, trash, and toilet paper. He has sparked our creativity.

He feels a bit like a monstrous Beany Baby. His black hair is soft and never rejects the moisture of a tear.

He comes when called, mostly.

He knows how to put his ball away in the toybox when playtime is over, he knows his rug is where he receives treats, and he goes to his crate willingly when we leave - as long as peanut butter is there for him.

He still remembers how to bring in the newspaper, even though we cancelled the paper years ago and he only gets to practice with the free paper that comes occasionally. We get to laugh because he happily prances into the house with a shake, shake, shake of the paper, drops it, and runs to the rug for a treat. Job well done.

He's become a member of our family.

I am no longer afraid of dogs.


The intangibles tipped the scales, and Caspian is home.


Call me crazy. I would have.


Tracy P. said...

Yea for Caspian! Yea for all of you! May he live to a very ripe old age.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

Our dog Oliver makes The Husband walk, and my two terriers Bonnie and Duncan make me walk. I'm glad Caspian's home. They light up our life.

angie said...

So glad to hear that Caspian is home!