It was an ordinary day. I hit snooze on my alarm clock five times, woke up late and spent the next half an hour scurrying around, trying in vain to get to work on time. Meanwhile, my stepdad was upstairs preparing his lunch for the day, which included a sandwich and a bag of grapes. He then left for work, and I went upstairs to make my breakfast.
As I headed to the kitchen, I watched my pug, Herbie, eat a grape off the kitchen floor. Oh no! I knew grapes were on the list of foods that dogs aren't supposed to eat. I hoped he had only eaten one grape, but I had no way to know for sure. What if my stepdad had dropped multiple grapes on the floor without realizing it?
I called the emergency vet hospital. When I told them he had probably only ingested one grape, I expected them to be unconcerned. Instead, they insisted that I bring him in right away so they give him something to induce vomiting.
My husband and I brought him in, and the vet was able to get him to vomit up the one grape. I thought we'd be on our way after this, but I was in for a surprise. As the vet explained, no one knows for sure what it is about grapes that makes them harmful to dogs. Therefore, there is no amount of grapes that is considered "safe" for dogs to eat. It was possible that Herbie would be fine, but there was also a chance that his kidneys would fail. If his kidneys started to fail, it would be too late for them to save him.
The vet's recommendation was to keep Herbie in the hospital overnight while they hooked him up to an IV to prevent his kidneys from failing. The estimated cost? More than $2,000. This sent me into full-on panic mode. It seemed completely insane to do all of this over just one grape, but I also didn't want to take any chances with my beloved pug's health.
It was at this moment, that I realized that the $1,000 emergency fund we had wasn't enough. You see, generally speaking, we follow Dave Ramsey's principles of personal finance. He recommends keeping an emergency fund of $1,000 when you're paying off debt (which we are) and then pausing payments toward your debt when you need to fund emergencies that cost more than that $1,000 (e.g., this vet expense). I understand his logic, that the priority should be paying off debt ASAP, but the reality is that there isn't always time to cash flow an emergency. Emergencies often have to be paid for immediately. This made us realize we needed a little more set aside in our fund going forward to feel comfortable.
My husband and I decided we would ask the vet about a payment plan. Before we could get the chance, the vet suggested calling poison control. She had never dealt with a dog who had ingested only one grape. Her past experience consisted only of dogs who had eaten several pounds of grapes (one prior patient had owned a vineyard). The cost for a call to poison control was $65, but it seemed like a small price to pay if it could save us $2,000.
The representative at poison control said she felt comfortable sending Herbie home with us since he had only ingested one grape. She suggested keeping a close eye on him during the day and bringing him back in if he showed any signs of being sick.
We brought him home and he seemed fine. The next day, we brought him to his regular vet for a quick blood test, which showed that his kidneys were functioning normally. Over a year later, Herbie is a happy, healthy pug.
This whole experience taught us two very valuable lessons. The first is that we're now exceedingly careful whenever we eat foods that aren't safe for dogs, lest our little guy come along and scarf something up. The second is that we needed to raise our savings goal to feel more at ease. We decided that going forward, we would keep $2,000 in our fund. After all, you never know when costly emergencies will come your way, be it an injury, a job loss — or one teeny-tiny, yet totally troublesome grape.
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