The Cost of Companionship

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People sometimes ask me if looking after 11 dogs is expensive. Well, it is and it isn't. On average, we go through one 15kg bag of dog food each week which isn't too bad. The food cost doesn't scare us. The potential medical cost does.

Over the last month, all of our kids have had all of their shots including one for Heart Worm, a combo 5-in-1 shot, and yesterday the mandatory Rabies shot. Because we have 11 kids, we don't go to the vet. The vet comes to us. The home visit costs extra but everything gets done quickly and smoothly. Fortunately, the vet (and other vets in the past) is good to us; we don't usually have to pay full fee because they're aware that our kids are rescues, and that we have 11 of them.

But medical costs include more than just the shots. One of our kids, Batty, has a back problem that nobody has been able to diagnose despite expensive examinations, x-rays and MRIs. In the early stages of the problem, he would go for a run and be in pain the next day. For a while, we thought it might be something called 'Tying Ups' but that proved to be wrong. He was also tested for hip dysplasia because he's part German Shepherd but that too was incorrect. We have had muscle biopsies sent to the U.S., and they've shown that he has muscle atrophy so it's quite possibly a spinal nerve problem. All of these examinations cost money, and since there's only one company in Hong Kong that provides MRI services, they can charge a lot for it.

Unfortunately, Batty's condition is worsening. He was doing ok until a couple of weeks ago, two of the other kids on two separate occasions accidentally landed on his back in their excitement at seeing us return home. Since then, Batty has been in more pain and is very uncomfortable even while taking daily pain killers.

We're reaching for straws now. I've ordered copies of the MRIs and x-rays. Our vet yesterday said that he has a few friends who can read the MRIs. I'll give the copies to him and see if they can recognise anything. If nothing comes of that, I'll send the copies over to L.A. to a renowned chiropractic vet there recommended by a nice couple I met while staying in Studio City. And if all that fails, I'll arrange to take Batty to a 'Chirovetpractic' in Florida who claims that Batty is a typical mis-aligned sacrum patient, and that he can fix Batty with a simple examination and realignment of his spine and sacrum. To most vets, he sounds like a snake-oil salesman, a seller of hopes, a 'cowboy' as one of my friends calls them, but it might be worth a try anyway, especially since the fees for his services are not unreasonable. It's the air travel to and fro that will cost big pennies!

Occasionally, the kids get into a scrap and they'll get a hole or a rip. Most of these simply need antiseptic cream and time to heal. Beethoven once had a severe rip in his ear, so severe that you could see the soft bone (軟骨 Chinese terminology ;-) within, but even that healed up on its own. In fact, after a week or two, we were advised to stop applying antiseptic cream to the wound because it was interfering with the healing process!

Most of our kids are between eight and nine years old now. As they get older, there will no doubt be more sickness and illnesses to deal with. That's a little scary, but they're truly wonderful companions, and keeping them well is worth every cent!


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7 Responses to “The Cost of Companionship”
  1. Ko Bo Bo says:

    Ho Kwok Wing, Really feel sad knowing that Batty's back pain is not getting anywhere. The poor little kid must be suffering a lot. The only luck he's got would be your family's love and caring. I can see your worries to come as they get older in the next few years. Best wishes for you and the family!! Actually, have you ever thought of puting yours and the kids' story in a movie script for a real touching production!! I will be the first for rush for the ticket!!

  2. Alison says:

    Hi Greg,

    I have to say, it is very rare to find people in HK would take such good care of their dogs (or pets) like you two do. Although most of us would pamper our dogs by buying them cute outfits, accessories and unnecessary snacks.

    I also admire your persistance. Most vets in HK will ask us to give up on our pets instead of offering us with alternative treatments ... etc. From what I'd learnt from your and my own experiences, doing our own research is very important; and we should make our own judgement calls.

    I have a dog whom passed away at the age of 4 due to a brain tumour. My other dog who is gonna be 15 yrs old by Dec. Thank God, she is still very healthy and active. However, she cannot hear and see as sharply as before.

    Coping with our kids aging and leaving us is hard. Let's hope ur 11 kids can stay healthy and happy for the years to come!

    Again, I can see true love in you and Bonnie for your dogs.

    Take care,

  3. Julie says:

    Hi Greg, your kids are soooo lucky to have a "dad" like you, so determined to dig to the root of the Batty's problem, I totally admire you for that. You see, in Hong Kong, people generally don't think twice when it comes to forking out a fortune on stupid fancy dog costumes or stupid hair-cuts/dyes (esp. for poodles), but many people just choose to have their pets put down when they find out there's something matter with their pets that's gonna cost them money to fix, they are quick to give them up.

  4. yinyin says:

    hehe one more potiental cost, dog boarding when you try to go overseas. My family is planning for an oversea trip back to CHina for a holiday around a month, and then we realised the dog boarding cost around 26dollar per day, so we decide, nah, so expensive, so we end up getting my grandma to live in our house and look after the dog for us. PS yesterday, my dog accidently chipped his nail, and starts to bleed, poor dog.....

  5. Edward Ng says:


  6. Wendi says:

    Hi Greg!
    Have you considered giving acupuncture a go? It works like magic for my friend's 11-year-old JRT who has "Degenerative Disc Disease". He went back to his happy old self and completely drug-free after 2 treatment sessions (he used to take painkillers everyday!) And it makes me believe acupuncture really works!
    Good luck! Wish Batty a speedy recovery!

  7. Flora says:

    my finger crossed