POOR BENNY DESERVED MUCH BETTER.
I learned in Journalism 101 that when something horrible happens to me, it's a tragedy. But when it happens to me and somebody else, it's news. So here is the news: Our dog Benny has died.
We adopted Benny 12 years ago from a pet rescue in Sun Valley. He was a miniature dachshund, which is German for ``badger hound.'' The Spanish word for badger is ``tejon.'' We learned that when we took Benny up to Fort Tejon. Our little three-pound beast was dancing in happy circles over a mole track in the parade ground. Every instinct in his gene pool suddenly made sense to him. He wasn't shaped like a hot dog, he was shaped like a badger's tunnel.
That's why, when we had walked into the pet rescue, he had been barking so loudly. If you're going to pull a badger out of his tunnel, you had better be up for a fight. Of course, most potential owners were put off by his snarling. But when Benny ran down the hallway and jumped directly into my arms, we were all immediately in love.
Benny was 19 when he died. He was blind and deaf. He had a tendency to walk into walls and get stuck in corners. Sometimes he had ``accidents'' in the house. And he snapped at us whenever we woke him up. But we forgave him all of that. After all, he was an old man and someday soon we'd be old and have accidents and be cranky, too. Crankiness is one of the few privileges of being old. But being that old also meant that Benny's death was not unanticipated. It was the way he died that was a tragedy.
Last Friday morning, blind Benny wandered through a railing and fell eight feet. I heard him hit the tile floor of our entryway. He didn't look badly injured. He struggled to stand up. And if he was willing to fight, I couldn't abandon him. So I rushed him to the nearest veterinary hospital. They took X-rays and found no broken bones. They took blood, gave him oxygen and agreed to watch him overnight. They also asked for a $1,000 deposit, but I understood that and wrote a check. Medical care even for a dog is expensive.
The next morning Benny was still alive. However, even though he was heavily sedated, he was seizing. It might take a week to see a change, explained the vet, at $1,000 a day. So when the blood tests indicated Benny was also suffering from liver failure, we agreed we had to let him go.
But before the vet would put Benny to sleep, the staff insisted we must first pay our outstanding bill, $500. We explained that because of a convergence of events on that particular end-of-the-month Saturday, we didn't have another $500 in our checking account, and temporarily we didn't have a credit card. I offered to write a post-dated check. I even filled out a credit application without my reading glasses.
Nothing seemed to move them. People who had seemed caring were now holding our sick little dog hostage. They were willing to let him seize and vibrate on the exam table until they got their money.
We spent an hour in that room watching Benny shake and shudder. My wife sobbed. And how could I explain to Benny that he had to suffer because a computer at the credit-card company had added a one to our address, the card had been returned and canceled, and Fed Ex would not deliver the replacement until Monday. It didn't even make sense to me.
My wife finally walked into the waiting room and began to loudly explain our treatment to the waiting customers. And only then did the vet finally appear and injected Benny with 15 cents worth of chemicals. He went limp in my arms and we took him home for burial.
When our neighbor heard our story, she explained that a year before at the same pet hospital she had gone through the same thing with her dying cat. They wouldn't put him to sleep until she paid her bill in full. And although it emptied her account, luckily she had the money.
I now suspect there are a lot of people who have been treated the same way by the same hospital. Please let me know if you have. Because Benny, and all those other suffering creatures, deserved better. And so did those who loved them.