Saturday, June 20, 2015

Sad day today

It must be hard being honest when filling out an adoption form.

Let me back up a bit.  A chinchilla went home the other day.  They noticed next day, it seemed a little tired, but didn't really think anything of it.  Called me yesterday (several days later), saying she was acting a bit off, I said see if she was still that way today, and if so, give me a call and we'd go from there.

They called in the early evening, the chin still wasn't acting right.  They said she was worse than yesterday, acting lethargic, looking like she was going to fall off the shelf.  So I told them, take her to the vet.  And I told them, the way it works is they take her, pay the bill, and they send me the bill (or fax it, or send a picture, or whatever) and I reimburse them.  And I tell them (as I tell everyone), that it has to be within reason, because if they charge up a $900 bill, they will bankrupt the rescue and there won't be one next week.  Cause let's be honest, there's no money in rescue, and we don't have that kinda money to spend on one chin (or to spend at all, really).  Well, she says she doesn't have that much either.  Which is fine, I don't expect anyone to spend that much.

But I explain, they pay the vet bill, I pay it back once they get me a copy, and we go from there.  Well, the mom calls me.  Says she's behind several hundred dollars on paying everything, and can't even afford to take the chin to the vet.

Now... what part of "do you have funds to cover vet bills for this chinchilla, if needed?" is not clear?  What part of "are you aware that veterinary care for exotics (chinchillas) is usually costly?" is also not clear? Cause both of those questions are on the adoption form.  For the "do you have funds?" question, they put "yes, if needed" and for the "are you aware" question, they put "yes."  And now, not even a week later, neither they, nor their mother / family, has the money to front the vet bill so that I can pay them back.  Amazing how that works.

Before we go on, I suppose there's one main point to this (with several facets) -- no matter how well I, or any rescue, screens adopters, we can never be 100% sure that the home is good and can adequately care for the chinchilla.  Because she put on the adoption form that they have money for vet bills.  Yet, they don't.  And really, how would I know?  I'm not going to ask to see bank statements.  And just as easily, the chin could have been healthy and they could have not needed any money for the vet.  But they said, if needed, they have money.  Yet... in reality... they don't.  And, in this case, if these people had really said, they don't have the money for vet bills... they would not have been able to adopt.  Simple as that.  Not saying that to be mean, but in real life, you need money for vet bills.  Maybe not thousands on the side, but a bit.  If this was two weeks after they got the chin (instead of being within the health guarantee period), and if I wasn't paying for this.... I guess they wouldn't be taking her to the vet.  Which is not what's supposed to happen when you adopt a new pet.

They said, the only way they can take her to the vet is if the vet calls me and allows me to pay over the phone with a card.  And that was with me saying, don't go over a few hundred before you call me.  They don't even have that.  Said they couldn't afford the vet at all without me paying over the phone.  Should they have chins?  You may disagree, but I say no.  I told them what vet to go to, cause they're in Indy, and I have a vet down there that I like, and used when I lived there.  Well.... they don't know if they can make it that far cause they only have 3 notches of gas in the car.  Case in point again.

So... I gave them the number for the vet, told them to give me a call when they figured out something.  Based on their description of the chin, things did not sound good, but I waited, and eventually the vet called.  Turns out, the chin was dehydrated, underweight, lethargic, you name it.  I talked to the mom, told her, you know, this chin has two cagemates, so while she showed no signs of weight loss here, but....with two other chins in the cage, there's no way to tell if any one specific chin is eating or drinking.  Cause as long as the others are, the water and food levels will go down.  But the chin hadn't been apparently drinking (they said she was eating, I think) for the last few days, to be dehydrated. 

So I talked to the vet, and cause this was after hours, at an exotics vet, the fee just to walk in the door was $155.  So they checked her out, told me what I said above, and I asked about treatment.  So the vet says, they'd like to do aggressive treatment, a catheter, sub-q fluids, handfeeding, hospitalization, bloodwork, x-rays... you name it.  Those are the ones I can remember, but she kept going.  So I tell her, the reason she's talking to me about this payment and all this, is because the chin is a rescue chin that has a health guarantee still going, and I don't have thousands to work with.  So I ask, what's a good thing to start with.  She said that they could just do basically life sustaining treatment, and that would be the least expensive option.  Only problem is... that doesn't tell us what's wrong with her.  So I said that to the vet, and she said next options would be x-rays and bloodwork.  So I said let's do x-rays first, and if that doesn't help us, bloodwork. 

So they do x-rays, which would have shown something like a gastrointestinal problem such as a blockage, stasis, etc.  Unfortunately for this chin, nothing showed up on the x-ray.  So I got a call back from the vet, and I questioned, I thought we were going to do bloodwork.  Well, apparently since the chin was so dehydrated, they didn't believe they would be able to do bloodwork without trying to get her a tad bit better first, with the overnight care. 

Well, that's where we started to run into problems.  With overnight care, plus the x-rays and visit fee, we would have already been at $450-500.  Bloodwork in the morning would have been another $125, plus whatever treatment would have cost... if the issue was treatable, of course.  So, I must have gone between talking to the vet and to the adoptive home multiple times, and I think we started aggravating the vet, because they finally said to me, you're the one paying, you need to make a decision.

Problem is, the vet wasn't sure that even if we did overnight care, with the intention of doing bloodwork in the morning, that the chin would have even made it until the morning.  She said it was a very real possibility that she could come in the morning and the chin could have passed sometime during the night.

And the concern was, even if the chin lived until the morning, if we did bloodwork in the morning, we'd easily be over $600, and that would be without any sort of treatment.  I told the vet, at that point, I'd only be able to afford basic antibiotics, once we got into those sort of figures, and she said those wouldn't likely help at that point (which was what I suspected).

So I talked with the adoptive home's mom, and I asked her what her thoughts were.  I threw out the option of me paying up to a certain amount.  I said I would pay up to $600, but that would basically bankrupt the rescue except for maybe $100 to feed the animals here, and if she wanted to continue treatment after that, she could.  Didn't want to do that.  As I understood, didn't have money to do that.  So I asked, after her talking to the vet, what she thought would be best.  As really, it was her family's adopted chin, not mine, even though I was footing the bill.  So she tells me, the kid wanted a chin regardless. 

Well, that opened another can of worms (and probably frustrated the vet more, because we went off on another tangent).  I told the adoptive home, I meant no offense or harsh feelings, but the fact that they couldn't even go to the vet without my paying up-front for everything, and the fact they barely had gas to get there... made it so that I could not, in good conscience, adopt them another chin.  I told them, I would gladly refund their money if she died or we had to put her down, but because of the money situation, I wasn't comfortable with another of my chins going into the house.  And I told her, I don't think it was anything they did to get the chin sick, or anything like that.  But I noted, on the adoption form, they marked that they had the money if needed for vet bills, and they knew vet bills could be expensive.  And she said, well, they had more money last week, but then one of the kids graduated, so now there was less... and I told her, it doesn't matter if she was a millionaire last week, if she has none now, well, the chin is sick now.  It matters what she has now

And I told her, the thing is, say I dropped my phone in the pond at work (and I don't have a laptop, so I would have no access to email until I came home) and was gone for 3 days when this happened... what would she have done then?  I wouldn't want the chin sitting at an adoptive home suffering because they couldn't get it to the vet.  And she said, oh they would have figured something out, they would never adopt without finding a way to pay the vet bill or borrow the money or something.  Funny, I told her, that wasn't what you said earlier when she told me there was no possible way they could go to the vet unless I paid upfront.  Got quiet then.  

So she got super defensive and told me her finances are none of my business, and she's a single mom with two kids, and finances are none of my business... and so on, she repeated that multiple times.  No, they're not, but the care of the chinchillas IS my business.  That includes their future care (or lack of) at their new homes.  Because if they're not going to be cared for well, they might as well stay here longer until the right home comes along.  And if I don't feel comfortable with them going to a certain home, for any reason under the sun, I don't have to adopt to that home.  And that's where it matters about finances to me.  I don't want these animals to suffer because people have to have another pet while they wouldn't be able to take their current ones to the vet if they got sick.  Should I mention, they have another chinchilla at home?   

So, back to talking with the vet, and the vet reminds me it's my decision, and that putting her down would be a very reasonable option considering how sick she is, but that I should take into consideration that the family is very attached to her.  I mentioned to the vet, but not so attached that they want to pay any portion of this vet bill, even if I foot $600 of it.  "Well, that's true."  Yeah. 

So, the decision was made to put down the chinchilla.  I told the people, I was sorry there wasn't a better outcome, but with the way chinchillas hide that they're sick until they're at death's door, it can be hard to notice a lot of illnesses until it's too late. 

The discussion turned to money again, and she told me that she expected to get a healthy chinchilla, and then she wouldn't have had to worry about this.  Told her... the thing is, if this had happened another two weeks from now... she would have been footing the bill (or not, as the case may be, I don't know).  And she said, well, she expected to get a healthy chinchilla.  Which I told her, that is not unreasonable in any way, but in almost 13 years, all the chins I've adopted out, I've only had 3 (and that includes this one) that have died or had to be put down shortly after being adopted.  And I've adopted out hundreds of chinchillas, so three is pretty decent.  Just statistically, the number should probably be higher than that, so I'd like to think I must be doing something right. 

...and in all fairness, the point of having a health guarantee is to make sure that in case the animal isn't healthy, the family does not have to suffer for it... which is why she was not paying the bill...

But here's the thing -- I don't adopt out any animal that I think might be sick.  If the animal is set to go home and develops something that can be treated at home, depending on what it is, I may ask if the new home wants to treat it, or wants me to treat it, and them pick up the chinchilla when it's done with treatment.  Granted, that's often for something like loose poos, not for life threatening issues.  But really, the idea is the same.  The animals come with a health guarantee, so I don't want to adopt them out if I think there's anything wrong with them, because frankly, I'm more comfortable taking them to the vet myself, and making the decisions when I am physically there with the chin, than doing things over the phone when I'm hours away.

The way she said that she expected a healthy chinchilla from the get-go was actually kind of harsh, like almost as if I had intended to give her a sick one or something.  And she actually agreed, the chin seemed fine when they picked her out, so there was no way to know if something was already wrong at that point.  If I had thought something was wrong, I would not have adopted her out.  Simple as that.

So, I paid the vet, and they're gonna email me a copy of the bill on Monday, and I talked again with the adopters.  They asked about the refund, and they paid with cash, so really the only thing I can do is write them a check and mail it.  So I told them that, and they said that would be fine.  They wanted to make sure that I would get it out tomorrow, and asked several times to verify.  And want me to email when I get it out. 

So I told them, they will be getting $60 back (which is what they paid for the chin).  They asked if I would reimburse their gas, because they came here from Indy.  Um... no?  I nicely explained, I can only reimburse money that actually comes into the rescue, and while they did have to pay for gas, it wasn't me they were paying for it.  And in all fairness, I had this chin listed for $75, and they asked if I could lower it to $60 because they were coming from Indy, and I did... so they already had a gas discount in there.

So between the vet bill and the $60, we're right over $400 for a chinchilla that unfortunately is no longer with us. 

I believe this (above) may be the only picture we have of her -- she wasn't listed at the point the family inquired about her, so I snapped this pic to send to them.  This was Chong, a 7 year old grey female.  We currently still have her two daughters, Chupacabra and Bigfoot, here (and I need to list them, once I check them over with a fine toothed comb). 

Obviously it's sad that she's no longer with us.  But what I really hate is when the money is spent and nothing really comes of it.  You know.  They spent about 5-6 hours round-trip coming up here to adopt and drive back home.  They called yesterday to say she wasn't doing well.  They called today and between talking to them and the vet, I was probably on the phone with different people for a few hours today.  They had to spend those few hours at the vet.  Plus, of course, the actual monetary cost of over $400 for the vet trip and refunded adoption fee.  And at the end of the day... if the chin lived, we could say, at least it was money well spent.  But at the end of the day, she didn't make it. 

Don't get me wrong, I do believe we made the right decision.  I don't think she would have lived through the night, and the vet agreed.  But it's still tough.  And right now, that vet bill nicely halved (if not more, I need to do paperwork) the money the rescue has.  I hate having very little money to play with, especially considering one trip for picking up Mazuri is usually between $150-200.  So it's easy for me to use up the rescue of the money that we have... so I guess I will get started cranking out toys and anything else to hopefully build back up the little bit of money the rescue has.  If anyone wants to donate anything, now's the time.

One last thing I want to note, before I go to bed (cause it's almost 2 am here).  I don't mean this post to bash the people or anything like that.  But the thing is, I appreciate honesty.  If you don't have the money, that's fine.  But don't tell me you do, if you really don't.  I had someone message me the other day saying their chin died (not from me) and they only had $20 to get another one.  I nicely explained, cannot lower the adoption fee that much, but if they save up, and make sure to put some aside for vet bills (if needed), I'll be happy to help them pick out a great chin for them.  So, they're saving up.  I just don't like to be lied to.  I'm perfectly fine with people saying, oh if something happens, they'll charge it.  If my dog or animals get sick, I will gladly put it on a credit card or care credit or whatever, if I don't have the money.  To an extent of course, because I have to be able to pay it off sooner or later, so I can't spend $400 on every rescue animal.  But the thing is, I'm fine with people that will actually do that.  Because I do think that's a valid option for a lot of people.  But I don't like the people that say they'll do that, or find a way... and then turn it around to say, oh they can't.  If these people had gone to the vet, and even been able to pay $150 of the vet bill, and said, ok, that was all they could cover, but they were able to do that -- to me, that would show me they were willing to take her to the vet, spend something (especially cause I still would have been reimbursing it), and I probably would have given them another chin to replace this one.  But with them not being willing to do anything without me paying up front for everything, that shows me that financially, they're not in the right place to adopt, and again... I don't like when people tell me, sure they can afford it, and then can't even afford a basic vet visit (which I think we can all agree, $150 is about the cheapest you'll ever get at the vet).  I know for sure they have another chin, not sure if they have other pets.  I hope, for those animals' sake, that they stay healthy.  As I explained to the people, not trying to be mean, but at the end of the day, the animal's well-being is really important to me, and I don't want to see them not being cared for.  But if they couldn't afford to even take the animal in... I just hope their other animals stay healthy.

Going to bed now.

1 comment:

  1. Shouldn't YOU have money for vet bills?