Pet Insurance – Such a Scam

As you may know, my precious little Obi has been suffering from CHF (Congestive Heart Failure).  I wrote about his symptoms back in February, and detailed how this came about in my blog entitled Anticipating the End.  I am happy to say as of right now, he is doing quite well.  I am very thankful that for the most part, even at 9 years old, he acts like a puppy, and you would never know he has a medical problem.

At the time this started, I was thankful that I had purchased Nationwide Pet Insurance through my employer.  After all, it seemed to be useful a few years back when we had a tumor removed from his leg, after which he proceeded to open his stitches up twice over a holiday weekend, forcing us to the vet multiple times.  The tumor turned out to be benign by the way.  After that incident, there were a few times that I contemplated the need for paying the high cost of having this insurance.  After all, premiums of $76.08 per month add up to a whopping $912.96 for a year!  And it seems that I am never reimbursed an amount equal to what I have paid in premiums – or even equal to my complete vet expenses!  In all actually, it seems that more times than not, my claims were denied for some frivolous reason.  So I started to think about cancelling this insurance just a month prior to learning of Obi’s CHF, but for some reason, I did not.  And, as I said, when I learned he had CHF, knowing that he would have to go through several expensive tests and possible future treatments, I was relieved that I still had the insurance.  But then the insurance hassles began.

From the initial onset of his disease, I was very prompt in submitting my insurance claims for reimbursement.  Nationwide Pet Insurance, however, has been anything but prompt in the processing of my claims.  In most cases, they are quick to deny.  Below I am going to share with you how ridiculous having pet insurance is, in the hopes of saving anyone else the trouble of taking on this monthly bill.  Instead, it would be much more cost-effective to just put money aside every month for possible vet expenses; a better alternative to throwing your hard-earned money away to this company.

Included  Charge  Amount Reimbursed  Reimbursement Pending
12/14/2016 Vet visit – Annual vaccinations, Skin test for hair loss (initial CHF problem??)  $                   196.96  $            51.50
12/29/2016 12/14 visit denied due to lack of diagnosis
12/30/2017 12/14 claim resubmitted claim with diagnosis
1/11/2017 12/14 claim denied again – waiting for diagnosis
1/12/2017 Diagnosis for 12/14 claim submitted again
1/25/2017 Vet visit – Radiographs Series & Interpretation, Salix Injection, Salix Tablets, Benazepril Tablets, Vetmedin Pill  $                    325.17
1/31/2017 12/14 claim denied stating “behavior modification”
1/31/2017 Phone call arguing 12/14 claim and the fact that my dog does not have a behavioral problem, he has a heart problem – they want a new diagnosis
2/1/2017 Resubmitted 12/14 claim with new diagnosis of dilated Cardiomyopathy
2/1/2017 Vet visit – ultrasound of Obi’s heart  $                  260.00  Denied
2/2/2017 Received letter requesting Vet Records
2/3/2017 Requested update on status of 12/14 claim – no response
2/3/2017 Unable to read vet records – 1/25 claim denied again
2/3/2017 Requested update on status of 1/25 claim
2/8/2017 Resubmitted 12/14 claim with new diagnosis again
2/21/2017 Vet records sent a second time  for 1/25 visit
2/24/2017 Refill of Medication  $                   145.62  Denied
2/28/2017 Letter denying ultrasound from 2/1
3/3/2017 Received letter stating only part of 12/14 claim will be reimbursed  $             128.57
3/3/2017 Received letter stating only part of 1/25 visit will be reimbursed for Cardiomyopathy, but won’t cover CHF  $             275.00
 $                  927.75  $          51.50  $            403.57
 Expenses since 12/16  Reimbursed  Pending

As you can see, No matter how much my vet bills will amount to, having these ridiculous caps on each disease or illness, I will never recoup the cost of my yearly premiums ($912.96).  So take a tip from me, don’t buy pet insurance, at least not from Nationwide (although I don’t expect any other company would be any better!).  Save that money instead! If you are lucky, you will never need it, and if you do, you just may come out ahead paying cash to the vet instead of paying it to an insurance company that won’t reimburse!

 

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He’s Just a Dog…

I think I’m becoming one of those annoying people that love their dog way too much.  Wait a minute, I guess I’ve always been one of those annoying people.  Sort of.  Well at least to some extent.

It started with my “first” dog, Stanley.  I call him my first, because he was MY first dog – owned and cared for by me as an adult.  We got Stanley before we had kids.  So he was my first “baby”.  A very smart, adorable black lab puppy.  We lived in Colorado at the time, and I had friends who lived way out in the middle of nowhere with several acres.  Because I visited these friends often, because I couldn’t just leave my puppy at home for extended hours at a time (especially after working long hours and leaving him alone all week long), and because they had several acres, they allowed me to bring him out to their ranch to run and play with their dogs – actually I think it was their idea first.  It was great for socializing and exercise for my beloved Stanley.  When he got older, and much much bigger, he started to wear out his welcome when he developed a digging habit.  So I understood when I was asked not to bring him to visit any longer – sort of.  They had several of their own dogs tearing up the yard, as well as horses.  Did one more small dog hole really matter?  In the end, I valued my friends enough to stop taking my Stanley to visit them.  After all, he was a dog, and not a child.

Over time, we moved back “home” to Ohio, My parents also had several acres.  Because poor Stanley was a big dog, living in a small apartment with us (until we purchased a home that is), I took him whenever I visited my parents so he could run free and enjoy life as a dog should.  My parents loved Stanley too.  As my kids came along, Stanley started getting treated more and more like a dog, and not my baby.  But he still got around, as we moved through several states during his life – the last being Tennessee.  Each time we visited family back in Ohio, he would go with us.  When we moved here, we were once again in an apartment until we were able to find a house.  An injustice to a big dog, if you ask me.  So, I was logical about it and asked my parents to care for him until we purchased another house.  They did so.  He was happy, and they were happy with him.  My mom even said she hated to give him back to me when we purchased our house.  😉

A few years later, we got Obi.  Obi is way more rambunctious than Stanley ever was.  A very intelligent, strong, huge Doberman puppy.  Don’t be confused with the Doberman stereotype – they are great protectors, but also extremely goofy and loveable dogs for their family; not the vicious animals that are portrayed in many movies.  When we got Obi, Stanley was already 12 years old.  While still loving, he had the temperament of a grumpy old man with a toddler towards Obi.  Another injustice to Stanley.  So we decided to let Stanley “retire” to my parents’ place where he could live out his final days in peace, with lots of room to run (if he could).

So now for the past four years, Obi has taken up a big part of our family life.  He is very much a member of our family, and my biggest “baby” yet.  He is still very rambunctious (especially around company), but oh so super loveable.  He is more loveable than any other animal I have had in my life.  He is definitely a “pack” animal, and I feel guilty every time I leave him home alone.  I know he hates it, but the joy I am greeted with each day when I return home cannot be compared.  My kids don’t even greet me like that any longer.  Again, I love to take him with me to visit my parents, because they have acreage.  A big dog needs acreage.  We have a small, yet sufficient, yard.  A visit to Ohio is a superb vacation for Obi.  He can run and play with my parents’ dogs.  He can get plenty of much needed exercise.  And most importantly, my little family-loving, pack animal doesn’t feel as if I am ripping his heart out and abandoning him permanently by my leaving him behind at home or in a cold teeny tiny kennel in a boarding shelter where an unfounded, uneducated fear of his breed will keep him from getting any love and attention during my departure.  Sadly, I am once again faced with the turmoil of a giant puppy, who has worn out his welcome.  You see, my parents are very much dog-loving animals.  So much, that when my father had a dog (Blue) that managed to bite almost everyone of his grandchildren, he sided with the dog and not with the child.  Yes, it was wrong, but I do understand his love for “his dog”.  A dog is very much a part of the family, and a dog parent can’t help but be protective of their pooch as if they are one of the kids.  Still, it made me angry each time another incident took place and another child was bitten.  That dog eventually had to be put down, but was quickly replaced with another….five dogs.  Yes, I said five.  One was my beloved Stanley, one (Cleo) was the dog of a friend who was going through chemotherapy and couldn’t care for her, two (Midnight and Murphy) were old ones from a shelter, and one was a puppy (Rusty) that was found in a park.  Several of these dogs overlapped and were around while Blue was still around.  My parents actually had four dogs at the same time, but little by little, they all passed away due old age – except the Rusty.  So where did my Obi manage to go wrong in a house that catered to dogs?  Well, last year, when my parents were down to just Cleo and Rusty, they watched Obi while I went on vacation for a week.  Obi has not been neutered.  He is a pure-bred dog, and my husband always had hopes of breeding him.  We never have, but not we just can’t bring ourselves to doing “the deed”.  As Obi has matured, he has had a tendency to do the doggly deed of checking people out by smelling them.  Sometimes with a little more enthusiasm than they like – especially my dad.  On top of that, he was at the ripe age of three during this vacation, and around a female dog.  He gave Cleo way more attention than she wanted.  This would upset Cleo, which in turn upset Rusty, and that ultimately upset my dad.  Rusty and Obi had it out.  Obi won, but ultimately he lost.  He was no longer welcome in their home.  I had only been on vacation a day, and my parents already didn’t want my dog there any longer.  Not news you want to hear from another country.  My kids were staying with my parents as well, and they were upset.  The whole incident had been blown to proportions greater than necessary.  Tempers flared.  Feelings were hurt.

Fast forward a year.  Things have long calmed down (maybe out of absence).  Cleo is gone.  Obi is still maturing, but has calmed down some, and now I want to visit my family for Easter this year.  Once again, I would like it to be a family venture….Obi included.  Unfortunately, due to my husband’s job, he is not able to join us.  He will remain home so he can continue to work 14-15 hour days.  Yuck!!  Another reason I would like to take Obi with me.  This would be a much-needed vacation for him to run and burn off excess energy, instead of him being locked up extra long hours all weekend.  But I have been asked not to bring him.

Now if this same issue were happening to someone else, I would say, “What’s the big deal?” or “Have a friend watch him.”  But it’s happening to me.  My baby is being banned.  I am being asked to leave my dog locked up extra long hours all weekend.  My initial response was denial; wait until closer to the date to even worry about it; things will change.  Now we are a week out.  My instant reaction is pain.  First I think, “then I won’t go.”  But that’s stupidly irrational, isn’t it?  I know it is.  I love my family dearly.  I miss my parents so much.  Why would I let a stupid dog interfere with that?  Why?  Because he’s my baby.  He needs me and relies on me.  He loves me unconditionally.  Hell, I believe he loves me more than my kids most days.  But I love my parents, and ultimately, he’s just a dog.  A goofy,faithful and lovable part of my family, but still just a Dog.

Things My Dog Has Eaten

I have a big, goofy, lovable, 100 lb. doberman. He is nothing like people imagine when they are presented with the word DOBERMAN.  Actually, anyone, that knows anything about this breed of dog, would know that those stories just aren’t true.  How did they get a bad name?  Namely movies, but it could be because they do have one trait, the fact that they will lay down their life for their “family”, that may help give this negative image of this breed.

Anyway, one little problem with my doberman….he does get a little anxious when we leave him alone.  When he was a puppy, he would chew everything up (like a typical puppy), so we were smart about it and kept him in a kennel when we weren’t home.  Over time he outgrew that, and we were able to retire the kennel.  He did great for about a year.  Then it started back up.  A piece of paper here, a piece of paper there.  Until, one day my husband noticed a trend.  If the last person to leave the house for the day walked out without saying anything to the dog, nothing would get torn up.  If the dog was talked to (doesn’t everyone say goodbye to their dogs like they are family members?), then he would tear something up.  It seemed saying anything was code for “we are leaving you forever….go to town”, whereas not saying goodbye was more like “running outside for a minute, but will be right back in”.  So we stopped talking to the dog before leaving, and kept everything picked up out of his reach.  It was working.  And then it wasn’t.  He started venturing upstairs to the kids territory.  Goodbye books.

So in an effort to keep from bringing the monstrous kennel back into our living space (remember, he’s a BIG dog), we put a baby gate up on the stairs to keep him downstairs, and started keeping everything picked up downstairs….namely paper.  Again, that was working (for a while).  Then last night we discovered another glitch in the plan.  After being good for nine hours while everyone was at school and work, I had to leave again to take my kids to gymnastics.  We were gone for one hour and 30 minutes.  I guess he hates when we leave a second time after doing his nine hour stretch.  We came home to a shredded text book.  My daughter swore it was in her backpack and it was zipped up.  Oh, is he now venturing into trying to find things?  He also chewed up a brush that was “put up high”.  I watched Virginia put it up.  So now he is putting effort into his revenge.  Sadly, I guess this means this is the end of his free-reign in the house.

So far…things my dogs has eaten include (over the course of his life, not just recently, and in no particular order):

  1. Tubes of Toothpaste (2)
  2. Toothbrushes
  3. A loaf of bread
  4. Several toys – I don’t even recall what they were
  5. Numerous, numerous, numerous receipts
  6. Hairbrushes (2)
  7. Grapes (yes they are poisonous to dogs)
  8. Dog Beds (3)
  9. Several towels (used in the kennel to replace the dog beds)
  10. Boxes of Tissues (several)
  11. A Pillow
  12. A Pair of Shoes – they were uncomfortable, so I forgave that one
  13. A digital thermometer
  14. CD’s
  15. A notebook – actually several
  16. My daughter’s homework – yes this really does happen
  17. A Leather-Bound Alice in Wonderland Book
  18. Carpet (yes, wall-to-wall carpet) – that was expensive to replace, since we had to buy it for the whole room
  19. A cable remote – luckily the cable company replaced it for free
  20. A Cell Phone – $50 to replace…only because of the insurance
  21. A Bose Stereo Remote – $88 to replace
  22. A Social Studies Text Book – $50 to replace
  23. My Prozac – I bet that one made him feel good….maybe I should get him his own prescription and he won’t have so much separation anxiety.

I think that just about sums it up.  Yep, I truly love my dog, but it’s time to bring the freaking kennel back in.

    

Jack

We used to have a puppy named Jack. For some reason I feel compelled to write about him today, even though as I write this I can feel all the sad emotions coming back.

Jack was a lovable doberman puppy that we received free from a friend who got him from an acquaintance. This acquaintance was supposedly a breeder, who was leaving the country so he had to give this four or five-month-old puppy up. We received Jack not knowing his exact age, either because my friend didn’t ask specific enough questions or because the breeder wasn’t a very good breeder. I am going with the latter. Why? Because we were told Jack was neutered, had all his shots and was dewormed. When we got poor, frightened little Jack, not only did we find out he wasn’t neutered or dewormed (and probably didn’t have all his shots), but he was afraid of people. Not a good sign. A well loved puppy should be playful and love people. He also did not look very healthy.

We cared for Jack and fell in love with him. He remained people shy, but my girls could lay on him and do whatever they wanted to dear lovable Jack and he would let them. He loved them back. Dobermans have been mislabeled as viscous dogs due to inaccurate portrayals in film and TV. In fact, Virginia was so obsessed with Jack that she read book after book on Dobermans and we learned the true loyal, faithful, tolerant nature that these magnificent creatures have for “their pack” (us). They are true “Family” dogs. They would lay down their life for their family. Perhaps this is where their bad reputation stems from.

We had a little over a wonderful year with Jack. However, we did notice that as he lay in bed with my husband and I at night that he would let out tiny, little whimpers.

The last week in March, 2008, Jack started throwing up. He couldn’t keep down any food or water. On April 1, 2008, my husband took Jack to the vet. After x-rays, we were told he had a blockage and they had to operate. My husband had to take an exam, and I had to work, so we left Jack at the vet. Sometime around mid-morning I received a phone call from the vet. Jack did not have a blockage at all. When they opened him up, they discovered that what appeared on the x-rays as a blockage were really cancerous lesions that ran throughout his intestines. Most likely pancreatic cancer, we were told. Like cancer in children, it is rare for a puppy to have it, but it can still happen. As tears welled in my eyes and I tried to maintain my composure sitting in my office, I listened as the vet told me that they could not, in good conscience, bring him out of anesthesia and let him live what they feel would be a very painful, and still relatively short life. They asked for permission to put him down. Facing this question, I realized just how much Jack meant to me. I couldn’t make that choice without speaking with my husband first. I asked them to hold on until we could get there. I left message after message for my husband to call me. He finally finished his exam and called, and I had him pick me up immediately.

We drove as quickly as we could to the vet’s office – as a person may if they were rushing to the ER for a loved one. We were rushing for a loved one. When we got to the vet’s office, there lay my sweet adorable puppy on the operating table. The vet offered to show us the lesions. I could not look, but for peace of mind, my husband did. He agreed – they were too bad for any operation. We had to let him go. At that moment, I cried like I’ve never cried before. This was the hardest day of my life. But it was about to get harder. I had to go home and tell my two young children that the dog they loved so dearly wasn’t coming home from the vet.

At this point, Virginia and Klara didn’t even know that Jack needed an operation. They only knew he went to the vet because he kept throwing up. We picked them up from school without saying anything. When we got home, we were immediately confronted with their curiosity on Jack’s whereabouts. As we broke the news, I watched as Virginia’s world caved in around her. Klara understood, and did cry, but in a somber tone, she said “April Fool”. It was April Fool’s Day – how ironic. Sadly, she knew it wasn’t an April fool. “Baby, I wish it were an April Fool,” I said as we all cried together.

It was a hard day for all of us, but the hardest on Virginia, whose tears went well into the night. But, as the saying goes, life goes on. We participated in regular little rituals…..every time we went out to a restaurant that offered the kids balloons, they would take the balloon outside and release it up to Heaven for Jack. We slowly were able to let Jack go. The biggest healing moment came the following following school year, when Virginia had the opportunity to publish a book in the 3rd Grade. In her book she wrote about Jack and his final days. Great, I was destined to relive one of the hardest moments of my life forever, immortalized through a book. But she used a wonderfully creative outlet to finally let go of her pain.

We miss you Jack.

My Obi

Dogs are filthy, disgusting animals.    So why do humans keep them around?

About a week ago, I came home from work to an unwelcoming aroma that penetrated through the walls, through the garage and out into the driveway.  I knew that smell instantly and dreaded going into the house. My beloved 95 lb. puppy…yes he is only two so technically still a puppy…was sick.  Because he is a puppy, we keep him in a large kennel in our kitchen while we aren’t home.  If we didn’t, we would come home to the aftermath of his playtime adventures alone.  Usually this equates to bits of paper that may have once been something important, like a bill or a library book.  One time it was my husband’s cell phone.  Another time it was a stereo remote that cost $80 to replace.  And unfortunately one time it was a nice hole in the family room carpet.  We learned after several expensive losses that our big baby needed the security of a little home when he is alone.  Welcome the kennel.

Wanting to be good “parents”, and feeling guilty for the time we leave him alone , we shared a little of our steak dinner with him.  His delicate system is still like that of a puppy and does not usually do so well with our rich diet, but it had been a while since he had been “sick”, so it seemed that perhaps his little tummy was toughening up.  Enter steak. So now I have to enter the house the day after his delicious meal, knowing full well that the steak was a bad idea.  The kids refused to go in.  Daddy was working late.  It was all up to me.  I held my breath as I walked up the stairs and into the house.  There he stood, almost as if on tippy toe, if that were possible.  Whining, “please help me, please let me out out.”  But I was not prepared for what lay before me.  He tried so hard to keep the filth away from himself.  So hard, that it seems he has learned the talent of projectile diarrhea.  Yes, diarrhea lay three feet away from the kennel.  It was on the floor.  It was on the walls.  It was on my curtains.  As far as the smell was concerned, it was everywhere.

He wanted out of his kennel as badly as I wanted it all to disappear.  I had to grab a hold of him and usher him out the door to keep him from tracking more of this disgusting film through the house.  The kennel had to leave the house as well.  It sits right next to the back door, but when put together, it will not fit through the back door.  I had to get it out the front door.  Did I mention my puppy weighs 95 lbs.?  That’s a large kennel.  I needed help.  It was going to cost me money — even a 10-year-old has a price.  I put on rubber gloves, giving Virginia the “clean side”.  Was there a clean side?  Hmmm, I really don’t know.  We did manage to get the kennel out the front door.  Virginia then proceeded to hose it down while I went back in to tackle the kitchen.

God only knows how long “it” lay on the floor and the walls, because under the gooey, watery, slimy yuck, there was a dried layer.  Of course this couldn’t be easy.  I had to clean up the mushy stuff.  Then I had to scrub the hard stuff. Then I had to mop.  Then I had to mop again.  Repeat same on the walls.  Curtains had to come down.  Dry clean only?!  Go figure.  Kitchen cleaning accomplished.  Wait, I think I need to mop a third time, after all, God only knows how many invisible germs are still there.  Oh, but I have to clean the dog first.  Then I can tackle the kitchen again.

The dog was traumatized with the hose.  That wasn’t good enough.  I could still see it.  I could still smell it.  He needed a bath.  Could I think at the time to wash the dog with shampoo and the works outside?  Of course not!  Instead, with two little helpers, he was escorted to the bathroom.  Now how do you get a stinky, poo-covered, 95 lb. dog to voluntarily get into the tub?  Still I am so exhausted I can’t think of the obvious, which I can so clearly see in hindsight…bribe him with food.  No, at the time, someone had to pick him up to get him in the tub.  I’m the only one big enough.  Uuuggghh.  I don’t want to touch THAT.  Eeeeewwww.  Once he was in the tub, the rest was smooth sailing.  Unfortunately, his face stinks.  I can’t use shampoo on a dog’s face!  So I scrubbed his face with a washcloth.  Still smells.  Scrubbed again.  Still smells.  Scrubbed a third time.  Still smells.  Maybe it’s just my imagination.  Mission complete I guess.  Time to give him some Imodium AD and let him relax.

Oh now the bathroom is trashed.  Dog hair is coating the tub, clogging the drain, and all over the floor.  Did I mention I just walked in the door from work?  I’m tired and hungry.  I wasn’t planning on cleaning my entire house this evening.  Oh, and we did walk through the living room to the front door and to the bathroom.  Guess I’d better run a quick mop over that floor as well.

Two hours after I walked in the door.  The house is clean.  The dog is clean.  His face still smells, so I scrub it one last time.  Now it doesn’t smell any longer.  I can relax.  Then guess who walks through the door — my dear loving spouse, and he has BEER!  BUT wait…I DON’T DRINK BEER!  Thanks to my little text messages keeping him up to date, he knew what terrible endeavor I had before me, and he came home with beer.  Where’s my drink?  You don’t drink he tells me?  WHAATTT?!  Since when?  I love a good margarita; and if I didn’t drink, tonight would have been a great time to start!

Like I said, dogs are disgusting and filthy.  But I love my dog.  If I didn’t, I don’t think I could have been able to make it through the horrendous ordeal I just tackled.  Who else gives me unconditional love; listens to me without complaining or telling me I’m an idiot.  Who is there for me when I need to snuggle, or when the bed is cold at night when my hubby is working late?  My goofy, smart, gentle and oh so lovable dog.  My Obi.