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Loss of beloved pet hits Oklahoman columnist's heart, pocketbook

Caring for dogs costs about $1,649 a year, thousands over their lifetimes, according to the American Pet Products Association.
by Paula Burkes Modified: June 11, 2014 at 6:00 pm •  Published: June 10, 2014

A source once told me seniors on Medicare receive 80 percent of the total benefits they use under the government health insurance program in the last six months of their lives.

I believe it. Health care costs, and life-and-death issues, came acutely into focus last week, when I put down my beloved 14-year-old husky mix, Eddie. The end-of-life decision, and the parallel between human life and the life of a pet, was gut-wrenching.

Edmond’s animal shelter quoted $20 for euthanasia and disposal, but if I went that route, I couldn’t be with Eddie when he died. And I felt I owed him that.

Before my best friend, Martha Collar, died of leukemia in November 2007, she gave Eddie to me and my daughter, Jessica. Jess, who’ll turn 13 next month, considered Eddie her brother. He’d walk her to the school bus every morning, stay glued to her side in the afternoons and sleep in her bed.

For me, Eddie was a daily reminder of my friendship with Martha, a loyal companion and, for several years, an off-leash running partner.

In September 2010, when Eddie was 9, he ruptured a ligament in his back left knee, to the tune of a $3,000 repair surgery. Two years later — when he was the human equivalent of 77 — he injured the other knee, and my mother insisted on paying that time.

Putting Eddie down then wasn’t an option for me, because he didn’t have a terminal illness — and still had so much to teach Jess and me about unconditional love.

Though I felt Eddie’s deteriorating quality of life justified euthanasia, last week’s decision was more than heartbreaking. I paid $224 for my vet to put down Eddie at home and cover cremation. The doctor gave Eddie a high dose of a sedative, and he was sleeping deeply within a minute. After several pets and goodbyes, my vet administered a drug that shut down Eddie’s brain, before all other organs, so he felt no pain. He passed instantly.

Foolishly, I worried I might not be sad enough. I sobbed and have felt off-kilter since; mostly, in my comings and goings, or when I’m eating something — and used to feel his piercing ice-blue eyes upon me.

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by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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