Handling the Tooth

My fascination with dachshunds began when I was a toddler.  As my mother tells it, I watched Disney’s The Ugly Dachshund.  Although it’s about a great dane who thinks he’s a dachshund, my two-year-old self thought the dachshunds stole the show.  “I want one of those dogs!” I insisted, and nothing else would do.

They got me a tiny red female shorthair named Jessie, who my mother trained to say her prayers with me every night.  “Let’s say our prayers, Jessie,” prompted the little dog to fold her front paws one over the other and stick her little nose between them, as if to bow her head.

Honestly, I don’t remember Jessie saying her prayers or sleeping with me or even watching movies with me.  What I do remember is seeing her wander into the street and get hit by a motorcycle.  I remember watching her struggle for breath.  And I remember seeing my dad walking back to the house carrying a shovel and a bath towel, his head down and shoulders slumped.  Somewhere in all of that, I decided that in my life, whenever possible, I would always have and would always take care of dachshunds.

I got to thinking today about how much money that decision has cost me.

There are the big expenses, of course, like the time Laverne went head to head with a copperhead and ended up in the puppy emergency room after hours.  She was fine after the vet administered a $500 shot of Benadryl.  The silver lining in that cloud was that we learned dachshunds have some sort of  superhero copperhead anti-venom in their blood.  A copperhead bite, in other words, will only cause them to swell up and foam at the mouth.  It won’t kill them.

I’ve paid thousands to install Invisible Fences at my last three homes.  Then there was the expensive speeding ticket I couldn’t talk my way out of because the dachshunds were barking ferociously and lunging at the cop. And I don’t even want to talk about how much it cost me to board them for the ten days they were under Henry County, Georgia, “house arrest” for biting a tax assessor.

The costs were mounting as I added up the everyday expenses, like vet bills, dog food, and Shirley’s thyroid medication.   And I had to pay $75 to get Laverne’s ear stapled back together her last fight with Shirley.

I don’t begrudge my dachshunds most of the money I’ve spent on their well-being.  I signed up for it, and they repay me with affection and appreciation.  And regular looks that say, “Bite me.”

There is one canine expense that makes me rabid — the doggie dentist bill.  It costs more to have my dogs’ teeth cleaned than it does to have mine cleaned, even without dental insurance.   In addition, I once paid several hundred dollars to have a stick removed from Shirley’s mouth after it got stuck and the tissue in her mouth began to grow around it.

During Shirley’s last checkup, the veterinarian looked in her mouth and gave me the same speech the dentist did when my daughter was three, something along the lines of, “Your child has a cavity because you don’t brush her teeth for her.”

I’d rather read Snooki’s book than try to brush a dachshund’s teeth, so I scheduled a dental cleaning for her the next morning.  When I picked her up that afternoon, the receptionist handed me a little bag with four tiny teeth in it, the bad ones that had to be extracted.  “Some people want to keep their dog’s teeth when they lose them,” she explained.

“Why?  Is there a tooth fairy for dogs?”  I joked.

“That’s $300 for the cleaning,” the receptionist said.

I handed her my American Express card and said, “I think I just answered my own question.”

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