Benny and the Dog Healthcare System

Game of Thrones was back on for its season premier of season seven on July 16, 2017. In the Deem household, this is the biggest TV event of the year and probably the only reason we subscribe to HBO (although I did watch The Wire from start to finish and think it is the greatest TV show of all time). Anyways, as the show starts up, my big black dog, Benny, pulls up to the couch and lets out a long and disgruntled groan. I chalk this up to him not getting enough attention from us and tell him to scoot away so I can pay attention to the show.

Benny collapses with a thud and makes odd noises all through the show. It was odd behavior, but it didn’t at all have me worried yet.

As we all went to the master bedroom for bedtime, Benny followed us in and continued with his odd noises, walked up to my side of the bed, stared into my eyes and cried for awhile. I let him outside to go to the bathroom. I tried going back to bed, but he kept whining and crying and so I took him into the kitchen and poured food into his bowl. He did not eat the food, which could only mean one thing, he was extraordinarily sick (as this was the first documented case of him not eating something). At this point, Benny sat on the kitchen floor to block my path back to the bedroom and earnestly tried to communicate to me, “Hold up bro, you cannot go to bed, this is something serious.”

I was super exhausted and had no desire to take Benny to the 24 hour pet hospital that was sure to be expensive, but Benny pleaded with me and he is been an amazing dog, plus I would feel guilty as heck if he ended up dying and I hadn’t prevented something preventable, so off we went to the 24 hour pet hospital.

We walked up to the receptionist and explained the symptoms, they offered a $90 evaluation to check vital signs and potentially diagnose the issue. That didn’t seem too bad, so I said, “Sure, check out the pup.”

We were told to wait in the waiting area and I sat on a nice comfy couch, Benny jumped up and sat next to me and rested his head on my lap. Benny is about 100 pounds and sheds, so not the type of creature they want on their couch. I told Benny to get down, but he wouldn’t budge, it was extremely rare for him to be insubordinate. No one was hassling us, so I succumbed to his protest and allowed him to rest with me on the couch.

Benny was brought back to an exam room and he looked very uncomfortable, he refused to lay on his stomach.


The doctor came in and was delightful, she did a whole lot of standard tests. Checked his eyes, ears, heartbeat, and poked and prodded his body to see if she could figure out what was wrong with the animal. Eventually she says, “When I push on his stomach, he winces and seems to be in extreme pain. Plus, I can feel something large inside his stomach, perhaps an obstruction.” It was now past 1AM, I was exhausted. I asked what she thought the issue was and how we can quickly remedy it. She said it could be many things, he could have eaten something like a bone or corn cob that got lodged into his intestines (extremely probable) or he could have a birth defect and his intestinal track was tangled or poorly designed (unlikely), but in either case, the only way to know for sure was to do x-rays.

“How much are x-rays?” I asked. The doctor said I need to go back to the waiting room and she will whip up a proposal. Benny and I go back to waiting room, the dog is limping around in horrible pain. I watch the clock ticking, bored, tired, and growing more agitated with my dog who probably ate something he had no business eating. The doctor returns and produces a proposal for $560 in x-rays to diagnose the situation. The situation has now escalated beyond what I initially hoped, but seemed to be guiding us towards a conclusion. I authorized the x-rays and around 2:30AM the doctor comes back and explains that there is something really unusual happening inside Benny’s stomach, but she could not yet determine if it was blockage or a physical abnormality. She proposed that the best way to figure this out once and for all is to get a surgeon here immediately to open up Benny and look around.  I ask how much this costs. The doctor said she will whip up a new proposal.

It is now close to 3AM, I am half asleep, the doctor walks me through a $5,000 to $7,000 estimate to perform emergency surgery on Benny. The range is due to them not knowing precisely what they will find when they open him up. Despite being half asleep, I fully understand that this is an amount of money that I was not prepared or planning on spending tonight. I balk at this proposal and explain that I am not in the position to make a decision like this without consulting my wife. The doctor explains that there is a credit card application and my dog could very well die this night without the surgery. To make a long story short, we decline the surgery, request that they make Benny as comfortable as possible and just watch him throughout the night and I would take him to his ordinary vet the next day on Monday.

We went to bed that night with our fingers crossed that Benny would not die.

The next day we called the 24 hour pet hospital and they said Benny was stable, we promptly retrieved Benny at 8AM and got him to his ordinary vet for surgery. The surgery at the normal vet was only $1,500, a steal by comparison, but was shocked at how much we were spending on an animal.

Around noon I got a call from the vet who said she was in the middle of surgery and it was an unexpected find, Benny did not have a bone or corn cob in his belly, he had a massive tumor! The doctor explained that the tumor was in a difficult location and it was foreseeable that it ended up chocking an artery and that could have caused it to rupture and may have been the source of Benny’s pain the previous night. In any case, it was intertwined with more arteries and the vet said this could not be done by her without severely compromising Benny. She recommended that she sew him back up and refer him to a surgeon. I agreed.

Benny returned to us the next day and was in happy spirits. A month has passed and he seems to be the same old dog, happy as a clam, spoiled, and completely loved. We passed on taking him to a surgeon, I have decided that a tumor at his age is an ominous sign and more could easily follow or the surgery could go sideways. In any event, he seems happy now and has been extra affectionate. When his time comes, we will do our best to make sure we are making him comfortable, he would be the first to tell you that he has been a lucky dog.


One thought on “Benny and the Dog Healthcare System

  1. Aw man. So sorry to hear about Benny!
    It’s amazing how he communicated it to you and you knew something was wrong. Make sure you take him everywhere you go and check off some of the boxes on the doggie bucket list!


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