Monday, March 19, 2012

The Bea's Knees

When you have a 49-year-old dog named Bea Arthur, you're not surprised when the vet tells you she has arthritis.

We assume Bea is almost 7 - we got her last summer, and she was 6. But we don't know how far into 6 she was. She was a street dog, so her age is probably just the best guess of a vet, and not the exact count of how many rings she has inside. I always thought that counting rings was such a cruel way to tell how old a tree was, because you can't count til it's dead. "Happy birthday! It's your last one."

We've been taking Bea to the same vet since we got her. They're a few blocks away, and since there's never available street parking in Manhattan, a vet we could walk to seemed like a great option. But the more Bea had to go to the vet, the more it became apparent that we'd be better off driving to Connecticut if we had to.

For the last several months, Bea has been limping. It's not constant, but it's often - she will hop without putting weight on her right hind leg. As adorable as a bunny hop can be, it was clear Bea was hopping because she was in pain, so we wanted to get it fixed as soon as possible. When it started, we brought Bea to our vet (let's call her Dr. A), who looked at the leg and said it clearly didn't pain her, so no problem. Um, okay.

I noticed the limp getting worse recently, so when I took Bea in for shots last week, I brought it up again. Dr. A suggested Bea might have arthritis, which seemed like a reasonable guess. Reasonable, sure, but also a guess. What a great way to diagnose a problem.

"Doctor, I have a headache."

"Maybe you have the flu?"


"Okay. Lupus?"

There were no tests other than Dr. A touching Bea's leg to see if she'd yank it away in pain. Which is silly; Bea is a tough girl. She'll get in the face of dogs three times her size without blinking - I don't think she'd yank her leg away if it was trapped in a thresher (which, thankfully, it is not).

Dr. A gave us some glucosamine (marked up, of course), and said to feed her one cube a day for 3 months to see if it works. That's a hell of a racket. By the time we're done with that experiment, we're $150 in.

Sara wasn't satisfied with the diagnosis, and I don't blame her. Dr. A seemed to be the kind of vet that is great for routine shots, but anything complicated was out of her knowledge base.

A woman in the park told Sara about an animal clinic in Chelsea that does a laser treatment, which allegedly worked on her dog. We went in for a consult on Saturday - and within 5 minutes, that vet (Dr. B) diagnosed Bea with a luxating patella, apparently a common problem for small dogs. The more we read about it, the more obvious it seemed. Perhaps Dr. A was sick the day they covered L illnesses in vet school.

A luxating patella means a patella that luxates back and forth. Okay, so that's not really a thing, but Bea's back knees pop out of place. The two possibilities for correction are laser treatments that cost about $600 or surgery that costs about a million dollars. Okay, so about $5K, but that's close.

Dr. B suggested the laser treatment, which confirmed our suspicion that he is responsible. Or maybe, knowing the lasers won't work, he's going for the slow play where he gets $600 now and $5,000 later.

I'm guessing the former, since we've already noticed Bea limping less after just two treatments. We went in for the second treatment today, which was difficult to do by subway. Even in her adorable makeshift travel bag, on the subway Bea shakes like an iPhone on vibrate. We ended up walking the last mile because we couldn't take how scared she was. And if there's anything that will calm a frightened dog, it is walking through midtown Manhattan during rush hour. Oops. Wednesday, we drive - If I have to, I'll stay in the car or pay for a garage.

The upside is that while we lose the comedy of a 49-year-old named Bea Arthur having arthritis, we gain the much funnier idea of a 49-year-old named Bea Arthur having an addiction to laser tag.

It is amazing how quickly I've become okay with spending money and time on Bea. A year ago, I didn't think I'd ever have a dog. Now I have one that I spend hours and hours with each week that's already cost us $6K (and we're not even a year in). The treatments don't just cost $600, they also take time. We have to take her in 3 days a week for the next month, and then once a month after that. Hell, I'm the kind of guy who doesn't like getting haircuts because they take too much time out of my schedule. But when you fall in love, you're willing to go the extra mile. Even if it's in midtown Manhattan in rush hour.

How can you look at her and say no?


  1. Thanks, Steve. We enjoyed you when you played Scottsdale, and, as dog lovers, nice to follow Bea's blog whenever it comes out. You know what some celebs (okay, heiresses) haven't, which is dogs are not toys or fashion accessories. BTW, the long duration before determining whether glucosamine works (or doesn't) is true for humans, too, so maybe still not the worst idea (is it working? haven't had another vet trip for a sprain or whatever that was on our pooch). It's trite to say it but thanks for sharing.

  2. My cat is on glucosamine. He is almost 17 and has arthritis. My vet (who is my friend) told us just to buy it at the drug store/grocery store. My cat is about 17 lbs and he is to take 250 mg (half a tablet) crushed up in his food once a day. I am sure this is a cheaper option then "vet" bought ones. My vet also cautioned that it may not work, to give it a few weeks and if we didn't see a difference to stop it.
    (It does seem to help. Our biggest challenge has been finding a food he likes it in, turns out he will only eat it in our dog's food!)

    Hope this helps!