[Guest article for y'all today by Grayson of DebtRoundup.com]
I am sure most of you have heard the old saying “when it rains, it pours!” Well, that happens to also be the story of my life, at least when I was deep in credit card debt. I had just come to grips with my massive debt load and was working toward a solution to dig myself out. With a full time job, a freelancer career, and a new part-time job, I was extremely busy. I was also extremely motivated to be debt free. Things were going well at first, but I was still living paycheck to paycheck after my debt payments were made. While “going well” is up for interpretation, what happens next will probably swing your vote.
We are a Dog Family for Sure
What can I say, we love dogs. I have had one ever since I was a child. My wife is the same way. I am partial to dogs because I am highly allergic to cats. They won’t ever come in our house, not even for a minute. When we bought our new house, we had to replace all of the carpet and clean out the entire HVAC system, so I wouldn’t blow up like a balloon! So, yeah, no cats!
Anyway, my wife and I got our first dog when we were dating in college. He stayed at my place and all was good. When we bought our first home, my wife wanted another one. “Sure, why not” I said. So, two dogs in and a few years later, we got the itch. I don’t think it was fleas, but we definitely got the itch. Both of our dogs were rescued, so we went for another. Our animal control had a ton of dogs and I have a weak spot for those little ones. One day I asked my wife what she thought and she said sure. A few hours later, we had another dog in our house. Talk about chaos!
Our dogs lived together for a full year in harmony. They played with each other, went on many walks, and slept in the same room. They were enjoying life, or so we thought. That all changed one day when I came from from work on a whim before going to my second job.
The Backyard Massacre
I typically didn’t go home before my second job, but I didn’t pack my dinner. After a full day at work, I was hungry. I drove home planning on jumping in and eating some leftovers. Well, that was the plan anyway. I went in the front door and started getting my dinner ready. Our backyard was fenced, so the dogs spent their day outside. Everything was peachy keen until I realized only one dog was at the door wanting to come in. I looked at her through the glass door and noticed red on her face. “Hmm…that doesn’t seem right” went through my head.
I put down my food and walked toward the door hoping to see the other two. Unfortunately, I didn’t see them at first. After scanning the backyard, I noticed one in the doghouse, but still no sign of the other. Things didn’t feel right and they certainly weren’t. After stepping outside, I noticed the carnage.
**NOTICE: This next part could be graphic for some**
There was blood all over our concrete patio, up the siding, and throughout the grass. There was blood on three sides of the house. I could quickly tell the one dog at the door was fine. She just had blood on her face, but it was from one of the other dogs. The second dog was cowering in the dog house. I could see from a distance her face was all puffed up. I just couldn’t locate the last dog.
I ran around the corner and my heart skipped a beat. My only male dog and our first was lying there motionless in the grass. I called out his name, but got no response. I started to panic a bit. After running over to him, I could see he was breathing slightly, very slightly. He couldn’t move, but he did move his eyes. When he saw me, he started to whimper. Tears started to roll down my face*.
He was covered in blood and I could see puncture wounds all over his legs and torso. He was losing blood fast. I had to do something and quick. I ran back inside to grab a towel and called the vet at the same time. They were about to close, so I told them I would be there in a few minutes with an emergency. I scooped up my dog and put him in the back of the car. I drove like a bat out of hell to the vet. I didn’t care who was in my way. On my way, I called my sister-in-law to come pick up the other dog as I figured she was in pain. I quickly checked her over before I left and she had some noticeable issues.
The Vet Comes to the Rescue…Sort of!
I squealed into the vet parking lot like a NASCAR driver and grabbed my dog out of the car. I kicked (literally) the door open to the waiting room and they knew what to do. The vet staff grabbed him and put him in the back. That was when I was able to start processing what happened. There was a whirlwind of emotion for sure. That feeling didn’t last long since my sister-in-law came in a few minutes later with the other dog. The vet staff took her in the back and started checking her out.
We were only there for 20 minutes before our vet came out and told us we would need to take the dogs to an emergency clinic that has overnight hours. It was 25 minutes away and they were aware of our situation. By this time, my wife had gotten off work and drove over. As we were loading the two dogs into our car, I asked the vet what she saw on the dogs. All she could tell me is she noticed puncture wounds, which they shaved and cleaned. She also gave both dogs an IV of a saline solution to keep them hydrated. I told them to bill me after I got done at the other clinic.
The Emergency Clinic Does the Job
When we arrived at the emergency clinic, they were all very nice and super supportive. They have seen some of the worst injuries, so this didn’t seem to bother them. They took both dogs in the back and started to work. They asked us questions about what happened. Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell them much as I wasn’t there. After about 30 minutes, the main vet came out to give us the low-down. She indicated that the female dog had two broken teeth and several facial lacerations. They would have to pull the teeth out and repair some of her gum line. She was the lucky one.
Our male dog didn’t fare so well. He had bite marks all over his neck and body. He also had severe bites on one of his legs. It was so bad that he had lost blood flow to the leg. Their only solution was to amputate his leg. My dog was going to be a tri-pod. My wife and I told her to do what she needed to and that is what they did. The female dog stayed at the vet overnight along with the male. She got released the next day. Our male dog had to stay at the vet for 3 more nights in order to get treatment and learn how to walk with three legs. It was a long and stress filled journey. That was just the beginning!
Money, Money, and More Money
I didn’t start thinking about how much money this whole ordeal was going to cost until the emergency vet asked how we were going to pay for the treatments. They provided us with a bill every night with the updated total. It was a staggering amount. Something I never thought I would pay.
Since I was already maxed out with my regular credit cards, we had to resort to applying for a Care Credit card. These cards provide funding for people who need to get medical treatments or expensive vet treatments. They didn’t give me much credit, so my wife had to apply as well. Yea! We always needed more credit cards. The only good thing was they provided us with 14 months of interest free financing. I will take the little wins.
In the end, the vet bill from the emergency clinic alone totaled a little over $8,000! Yes, I said $8,000. We had to fund that bill on both Care Credit cards and add to our overall debt. On top of that bill, our regular vet charged us nearly $900 for 20 minutes of work. Oh yes, $900!
A Dog Fight Worth $9,000
After the bills stopped coming in the mail and we had to figure out what went wrong, we were staring at nearly $9,000 in vet bills. That event put me in a dark place as I had no idea how we were going to pay for the services. Before you ask if we had pet insurance, we did have it for the female dog, but they ended up covering nothing. They gave us some excuse about how the dog was a pitbull, so they wouldn’t cover the bill. Yes, we had a pitbull, but the insurance company knew the breed. They charged us extra for it. They also indicated they likely wouldn’t cover but a few hundred for the other dog because of the pitbull. That day, I canceled the insurance and never thought about it again. Waste of money and full of excuses to not pay!
Though I was looking at a large bill, I realized I need to try and negotiate some of the costs. This was especially true with our regular vet. I can’t see how you can justify a $900 bill for 20 minutes of work. They itemized the bill for me, which gave me more than enough information to fight the charges.
I went into the vet office and asked to speak with whomever would go over the bill. For 30 minutes, I told them I would not pay their crazy prices. They charged us $200 per dog just for shaving their wounds. They used a freaking electric razor! It took them a few minutes to do each dog. The emergency clinic even told me they had to do it again because the shave was not good. Nope, not paying full price!
They also charged us $100 just for prepping the IV on each dog. So, they charged me $100 just to stick a needle in their their leg, each! Probably another minute or two. Then came the saline bags. One dog needed one bag and the other needed three. Each bag cost us $40. Yes, bags of saline solution cost $160. Luckily, my wife told me how much her hospital pays for each of their bags, which are larger. Let’s just say it is much less than what they charged. The rest of their bill were just over inflated charges for supplies.
I told them I would pay a fee that is justifiable. Their rate was not right in my mind. After some back and forth, along with a manager coming out, I was able to reduce the bill from $900 to $450. While it was not a real win, it was much better than it was before. I didn’t have such luck at the emergency clinic. They stayed strong with their rates. Most of the $8,000 bill came from the overnight stays. They wouldn’t even budge on the outrageous disposal fee. What is that you ask? It cost us $400 just for them to bag up and throw out the dog leg into their medical waste. Yes, they wouldn’t come down from that crazy one. I didn’t know it was so labor intensive to put a dog leg into a bag and throw it into the trash. Who knew?
How the Dog Fight Affected Us
Beyond the fact our dogs were involved in an internal fight and one lost the leg, we had to deal with some other issues as well. After the fight, the two dogs wouldn’t coexist together any longer. We never figured out who started the fight or how it happened, but we definitely know who won. In the end, we decided to give away our pitbull to my sister-in-law. She wanted a dog and loved the Pit. They have been good ever since and the dog really is a sweetheart. She doesn’t show aggression toward others, so we don’t know what happened to instigate the fight.
Since we only had a 14-month promotional period on the new credit cards, we decided to stop paying extra on our other debt and kill off the vet debt. We were able to pay it all off within the 14 months, but it put our original plan back 14 months. When it rains, it pours!
One thing that I took out of the whole fight was how important it is to have some type of emergency fund. I don’t care if you call it that or a rainy day fund. You can even call it a dogfight fund. Doesn’t matter. Just have something. When in debt, I didn’t think about having such a fund. I wanted to put everything I had into my debt payments. Boy did my mindset quickly change. After we started paying on our vet bill debt, I started my debt/saving allocation method and was able to slowly build an emergency fund. Now I will always make sure I have something in the bank to keep me afloat when tragedy strikes.
I also learned to never accept a crazy bill without looking it over and getting an explanation. You would be surprised how easy it can be to get companies to come down. Never be afraid to negotiate with your creditors or for any thing you own money on. I have seen people negotiate with retailers about a price and get it reduced. When you think something doesn’t look right, take some time and figure out why and then get answers. The worst they can say is no.
Grayson is a business owner, offering management and content services to blog owners. He also runs the personal finance blog Debt Roundup and a few others. When he isn’t online, he is conquering DIY work and maintaining his Jeep Wrangler.
*Yes, I am a man, yet when it comes to my dogs, they are part of my family.
photo courtesy of expert Infantry