January 4, 2016

Cars: on collisions and insurance

Have we been throwing money away on our auto insurance?

I semi-regularly shop around for better rates but totally forgot to reconsider the coverage itself. We tend to select fairly comprehensive (not to be confused with the coverage itself called “comprehensive”) policies, but the recent kerfuffle reminded us that our vehicles are old and not worth much so any real damage wouldn’t call for a repair job, it’d be a total loss so far as the insurance is concerned.

Car #1, the 11 year old that took the hit this Christmas is a great road tripper, with generous space for us and the kids, and relatively good mileage. We love the little amenities that we’d never considered before when buying newer and therefore pricier: seat heaters are pretty awesome. Not necessary but awesome. Unfortunately, for all its utility and functional value to us, the KBB value hovers around a paltry $4000. That’s not even halfway to a used car even the way we shop. It’d be a Major Surprise if insurance will agree to cover the repairs, but we live in hope. Cross your fingers for us while we work on that.

Meanwhile, Car #2, my 12-year-old car that serves my dad has nearly 200K miles, and is (probably generously) BlueBooked at about $3100. It likely only clocks in at that much because they stopped making that model a year later making it a “limited” edition.

And Car #3, my 12-year-old daily driver is worth an astounding $5000 if we were to sell to a private party now. That’s not terrible when you consider we didn’t pay much more than that for it 4 or 5 years ago but it’s still only enough to dent the cost of any replacement on the used private-seller market.

(We’re resolved never to buy new again unless there are such major discounts as to negate the drive off the lot depreciation, so only the used market has any bearing on our decisions.)

Our comprehensive coverage/deductible runs $42/year for Car #3 while Car #2 costs $90/year. That plus the $62/year we were paying on the Crunched Car doesn’t add up to the wildly extravagant waste of money I was imagining when I fired up this train of thought.

We have the savings to replace any of the cars outright if we have to, not that I’d love paying that bill, but we can. Then again, at $200 a year for all cars ranging from $3000-5000, does it make sense to keep our comprehensive coverage? The math suggests we wouldn’t want to pay that for more than five years before that cost and the deductible combined are about half any money we’d get back assuming it’s totaled. Less than that if it’s just a minor thing. (My math may still be iffy, I’m still recovering from holiday horrors.)

What kind of coverage do you carry? For what kinds of cars? Are you happy with your insurer?

July 14, 2014

Money floweth like water: out the (dog) door, Part 2

I’ve talked about Sibling’s dog before; I have hated leaving him there because I know he deserves better care and maintenance but couldn’t summon the strength to deal with:

1. the removal from one home,
2. installation into our home where we have breed restrictions,
3. while fighting an uphill battle with my Sibling over the removal,
4. acclimating New Dog into a small, yardless, abode.

That’s before you even consider all that he needs, aka, the reason we’d be taking him away in the first place.

Basic supplies: bed, leash, collar, food and water bowls, adequate food.
He’s either malnourished or underfed or both because he’s lost way too much weight.
Estimated cost: $300 to start, $45/month ongoing.

Medical supplies: he needs to be neutered, he’s got something going on with his skin that could be anything from a food allergy to … well, any number of things. But he’s breaking out and his poor enormous-dog paws are swollen and red and tender to the touch. The only thing he has got going for him is that his pearly whites are truly pearly white.
Estimated cost: $250 to start if I can book the animal shelter for the neutering, rabies vaccine, microchip, pre-surgery bloodwork if required due to age.
Then … $$$ for treating the skin issues if it’s not just food allergies or environmental causes.

Training: he’s been off-leash so long, he has to learn how to walk politely, on a lead, again.
Estimated cost: Time. Energy. Patience. Doggle’s patience.

Boarding: His rescue will happen before we have unchangeable plans to travel so we need to find a place that’ll board him for a reasonable amount. Brian suggested DogVacay.com which seemed really promising but it turns out most of them discriminate against certain breeds (and from at least one inquiry, based entirely on one bad incident which is preposterous considering the only bad encounters we’ve ever had at dog parks were with Golden Retrievers trying to kill Doggle, while none of the “aggressive” breeds were anything but lovely. This isn’t an isolated experience either, other dog owning friends have had the same experience, but you don’t hear us saying we can’t trust Goldens.)


Step One is still going to be horrible. I have to extract him safely and without triggering the Sibling in some way. I can stand him off on my own, I think, but what happens when we leave? What happens when he gets upset at how long the dog’s been gone? Does he try to come hunting us down and then I have a problem with an out of control sibling raging on our front step? Probably unlikely but not out of the question and what do I do then? Call the police and have him hauled off?

But I also can’t keep letting the possibility of his outrage or upset delay us any longer – the dog needs help and it’s clear to anyone else who looks at him.

We’re planning to make it happen this summer. We’re already going to be extremely busy and have our hands full but we’re doing our best to plan ahead to make it go as smoothly as possible.  Do wish us luck – we’ll need it!

July 8, 2014

Money floweth like water: out the (dog) door

Doggle gets a very generous annual allowance in our budget, something of a reminder-to-self that it’s an expensive prospect having pets [just ask Funny About Money about her Ruby!]. At this point, I suppose you really could indeed put a price on all the hugs and kisses I force on the hapless, long-suffering Doggle.

We actually rarely spend the amount set aside for him, but overspending in other categories [ahem. food. lots of food. travel.] tends to eat into the unspent allowance so the annual spend sort of evens out.  This year, however, we literally cannot afford to do that.

Our routine visit to the vet turned into anything but. I opted to do the full senior package: exam, bloodwork, urinalysis, fecal test. I normally would have passed on it but we needed the bloodwork anyway in anticipation of having his teeth cleaned, and we were a bit concerned about whether he had another issue going on. The senior package came with a 15% discount for follow-up labwork, and considering the possible follow-ups we’d need to do, I decided to go with it. $333 later, we found…

He didn’t have a chronic gland problem but instead we found an asymptomatic infection so we’ve been treating that to the tune of $317 for a two week supply of antibiotics. *faint* I immediately compared the clinic pharmacy price to the cost online and found that we weren’t being seriously overcharged, we would have paid very close to that price if I’d ordered from say, 1-800-petmeds.

Two weeks of exhausted Doggle on meds later, our follow-up labwork ($130) showed that he STILL had an infection.  On the merest brighter side of the ledger, I insisted that the receptionist follow up with the vet to confirm that the 15% discount should have applied to that charge, so we scraped back a whole $19.50. Much good that’ll do us in the face of a second round of antibiotics ($150) and another lab test after that. At least we’ll save another $19.59 on the third test. *skeptical brow*

When we finally lick this infection, we’ll then fork over nearly $1000 for his dental. He’s in dire need of a really good cleaning, probably never having had one, as his teeth look dodgy, breath smells worse, and I am pretty sure there are broken teeth that need checking.  He’s going to love that. And probably will have to have yet another round of antibiotics if the teeth have to come out.

Where are we, that’s about $2000?  Well. Of course, that’s not the end of the story – why would it be?

But I think I’ll have to save that for another post. This one just takes the wind out of my sails as it is.

August 17, 2013

Getting back on the horse: planning a wedding & reception

Friend 1: “Why didn’t you ask for help?”
Friend 2: “PSH, Revanche? Ask for help?” *proceeds to laugh her head off*
– On me nearly unsuccessfully heaving a suitcase into the overhead, thinking I’d be damned if I didn’t get it in there myself.

There’s something almost therapeutic about old friends who know my foibles. I’m terrible at this.

It’s 2:30 in the morning. PiC and I have just set the date for our reception that’s oh, about 2 years overdue or something like that and now it’s time to actually plan this thing. I only get the occasional rage-attacks that tend to leak out when I think “wedding” and “Mom” and “family that was horrible” so this should absolutely go smoothly now.

For the three years since our engagement, the idea of asking people to be involved, to help or stand by me as I navigated the road of being engaged and getting married tasted sour. It was hard to fathom how it wouldn’t be an imposition, that family or friends who hadn’t volunteered might actually be willing to lend an ear, a hand or a brain.

And for the past four months, talking about setting a date and finding a venue, the thought of even asking them to make time to attend felt like a definite imposition. As much as I don’t care about what people think in the abstract, that non-caring only works when I’m doing my own thing and working on my own life. Not when I have to *shudder* share part of my life.  Setting a date was something of a random process, filtered and narrowed down as I frantically tried to ensure that the really important people wouldn’t be put out too much.

Not all of this is the rambling of a paranoid, oversensitive loon. More than some of my oldest friends have moved thousands of miles away and it’s no small thing to travel cross country for a wedding.

I mean, weddings. High probability of mediocre food, questionable music, and dozens if not hundreds of strangers surrounding you while you don’t spend quality time with the person you came to celebrate. (yes, i a wildly sentimental.) That hasn’t been the case for most weddings I’ve attended since becoming an adult but only because I started self-selecting out of the ones where I don’t love the person enough to put up with nearly anything for them years ago. As a kid, I was the unwilling baggage at dozens of family weddings, and believe me, when you’re related by way of dad’s mom’s sister’s brother in law’s nephew’s elephant’s trainer, “family” didn’t make them any more special.  (Kidding about the elephant trainer because honestly, I would have been 100% all over the elephant trainer thing.)

But it’s time. It’s time to commit to a thing that’s supposed to be special, supposed to be for us to enjoy with our family and friends, and supposed to be memorable in good ways and not the kind that leave me up at night pondering the meaning of life. And for that, it might also be time to learn how to ask for help in a way that lets our loved ones know we want them to be part of it.

We didn’t get here all unwilling after all. We really did want to share some part of this with good friends and family.


And speaking of loved ones, maybe I’ll learn how to talk to Dad again. Those conversations have not been going well these past months and I feel like the World’s Worst Daughter for it.

In trying to talk about wedding receptioning, he and I have butted heads far more severely than I ever imagined possible, leading to my insisting that he’s obligated to support me and my decisions rather than insisting that we must invite “all or none” of our relatives. The grief hasn’t been doing either of us any good, and in this situation, being the only child he’s likely to parent at a wedding, I understand that he’s suddenly got a vested interest in “Doing It Right” culturally but … guys. “All” is approximately 500+ people. I would lose my mind. I’m going to do that anyway, what’s the thing after that?


In any case, we have a date and a possible venue and we’re going to spend twice as much as my stingy soul’d prefer but whatever. Full service. Small wins, right?


October 2, 2012

Hemilaminectomy: A Doggle’s Tale

So the scar is pretty spectacular. I mean, the surgical site and incision is, anyway, it’s not a scar yet. But that’s starting at the end, or what is currently the “end” of a story that we’re still in the middle of. And I confess to being tempted to show you a photo but I have been accused of being gross for such things before.

Doggle seemed to be middling-fair end of the week but, to my eye, distinctly on the downhill trend, at a rate that I was most certainly not comfortable with.

You have to understand that his rate of decline was most important here because he was on more ameliorating medication than he’d been on during his first episode, significantly more, his baseline symptoms were far worse to begin with yet he was deteriorating more and more rapidly as time went on.

I’ve got some experience in this area. And I’ve got some old, long-time professional contacts in this area, too. So I emailed after the consult with a detailed description of the exam, then added my opinion afterward. That’s when I got the confirmation that my side-eyeing of the situation was indeed accurate.

Things literally got worse overnight. Sunday morning, Doggle had gone from a dog that could ambulate and push me around the night before to a dog that was struggling to stand on his own, struggling to walk more than six paces without his hind end falling and, struggling to keep his hind end from tipping over entirely one side or the other. A few times, he couldn’t and his entire body toppled over, and he was helpless to get back up.

That’s aside from the other obvious signs of neurological deficit, the dragging of the hind paws, the knuckling without correction, the awkward out-turning of one leg or the other as though it were a foreign object not truly attached to his body.

It was disturbing how he went from hours of trying to pace and fighting me to exhaustion Saturday night over being bed rested and crated to giving up from pain and discomfort.

And yet, it wasn’t easy to make the decision on Sunday to commit to surgery – it was a huge decision to put him under anesthesia again, to subject him to a major surgical procedure, to commit him to a serious multi-month recovery and rehabilitation effort.

The money was never an issue for me. I knew it wasn’t going to be debt so I was basically ready with cash in hand. We had already paid for the initial exam and associated costs: ~ $150.

Then the specialist exam and diagnostics (bloodwork, MRI): $2540

Quote: $4200-5000, or $4800-5600

It was a body blow to PiC, who has never dealt with major veterinary procedures and therefore their costs before. I had walked him through what I expected each line item to cost already but hearing it from the specialist, confirming I was right, was still a shock. It took all I had to keep my mouth shut and let him work through the equivalencies: “that’s one of X, that’s five of Z, that’s …”

In the end, that’s my dog and responsibility. That’s our dog. We’re not broke, in financial straits or in danger of being so, so there’s nothing more important to me than his life and health. That’s our dog’s spine and health and PiC would get there too. But he needed time that I didn’t need mainly because I already knew all of the health and the money stuff from my past life.

My difficulty was the pain he would go through and the reality of living with the decision. I’ve done various surgical procedures before with my other pets, though not to this magnitude and I know it doesn’t always go your way. Whether it’s the procedure itself or the recovery, things aren’t always routine no matter how “simple” it might be.  I’ve watched other people, many times, make the call and I know, it doesn’t always go your way. So I don’t care how “routine” the procedure is for any medical professional, I know that surgery is a risk.

We talked it through and ultimately, given his condition and the fact that he was still not responding to the medications and if he continued not to respond, we were going to be risking his chances to return to function. Backed by the expertise of a close friend, a veterinary professional with more than a decade of experience who worked with many decades of top flight surgical experience, we chose to operate.

We left a deposit for the low end of the quoted range of the procedure’s cost. That’s a bit more than I preferred to leave but that’s one way to take deposits, 50% of the quote is another standard deposit method.

One of the things that I didn’t like about this clinic was that I had to push them to give me an itemized quote – who gives me a ballpark range on a procedure and thinks that’s sufficient? I want to see an itemized list. The front office staff were remarkably shoddy in many respects, but I think the tech staff were generally good.

Another thing I didn’t like was that it called itself a specialty and 24-hour emergency hospital, but for surgeries that are normally scheduled during normal hours, they charged an emergency surcharge during the weekend.  Perhaps this is normal in the Bay Area but that’s certainly not my experience from Southern California.  You’re charged for the emergency consultation and then if you need the surgery, you pay for surgery and any related surgical costs, and that’s the end of that. You’re not charged another $600 for nursing staff to be called in because the hospital didn’t staff for emergency services when they claim they offer emergency services.

Perhaps they are minor things but they reflect on the clinic and make me wonder if they are indicative of the quality of care. But we were in a  bind and we were running out of time. I had to trust that, knowing in the past, we’d had horrible support staff with good vets before, that could very likely be the case here.

I was very nearly holding my breath the whole time. I most certainly wasn’t ready to deal with talking to people out loud – so I wasn’t taking phone calls from family or friends. Twitter was a lifesaver in that respect. Twitter, text and email.

Two hours later, we got the call and his procedure seemed to have gone well – and he was waking up fine.  Hurdles 1 and 2, surgery and anesthesia were passed.

Day 1 post-op: he was eating and able to get up, anxious and wanting to leave. Hurdles 2, 3, passed. But a new one presented: Anxiety level and our ability to keep him quiet. For three months.

We ended up paying just under $5000 for the whole surgical package and came home with a dog in a sling, medication,  small refund on the deposit and some hope for his back and legs.

He came home dazed, hurting, and scared.

Day 2 post-op: slept, drugged and dazed. We jumped up every hour or two to check on him when he lifted his head, or shifted a foot. We do not have this co-parenting, taking shifts thing sorted, or in any way down. We are zombies by morning. 5:40 am: I am oozing out of bed to try and give him medication. Forget jumping. Who has the energy for that?

The whole day was 98% keeping him calm and quiet, interspersed with learning how to get him up because he couldn’t figure out how to stand in less than ten minutes without hurting himself, walking in a sling holding up about 40% of his considerable bulk without unbalancing him or throwing out our backs or hurting ourselves, encouraging him to walk when he was too tired, scared or confused to.

He’s got no bladder control thanks to one medication he’ll be on for three more days so we have a ten foot radius of potty pads layered on top of each other, on top of towels on top of blankets.

I’m the medication unit so three times a day I’m making sure he gets dosed; unless he also needs a sedative when he gets so anxious and amped up for whatever reason and is in danger of harming himself.

This week is, as we were warned, going to be rough.  I expect that could probably be said about more than just this week, but we’ll see.

After this week, we’ll also need to see about a real rehab plan depending on how well he does.

The price we pay for a dog to have a little fun, hm? 🙂

July 19, 2011

Another month, another visit: The Doggle Saga

Poor Doggle.

He’s going to have to live past 22 at this rate to amortize the amount we’ve put into him this early on.  We had to take him to the vet again because he’s exhibited some joint pain and I wanted to be sure there wasn’t an injury that was readily apparent to the vet that I was missing.

It turned out that while the pain was quite real, the vet couldn’t be sure whether it was a joint or soft tissue injury without manipulation under sedation and x-rays. He was in far too much pain to relax for that exam, but given his slow improvement throughout the week, I decided we would opt to treat with pain meds, ice and R&R for a few weeks first before committing to $500 worth of diagnostics.

Either way, we needed a good pain medication while he recovered even if it was just a minor injury because his discomfort hadn’t faded after a couple of days, even if the symptoms had improved a little.

If he noticeably declines in the next few days, or at any point during his prescribed bed rest, then we’ll just take him in immediately.

Happily, he loves his meds and doesn’t mind the icing at all.  Strange pup.

Tallying up his tab: 
This visit: $106
Doggle Chariot, split w/PiC because honestly, PiC’s been considering a new-to-us car for years: $5000
Month One: Coming Home: $835

June 16, 2011

An Expensive Adoption, and a Justification Thereof

Doggle’s Details, continued.

Now that I’ve shocked and appalled you all with the high cost of living in California, and particularly in Northern California… 😉

I’ve never paid more than $50 to adopt a pet, and rarely even that much, in the past, so this adoption was quite a bit unusual in a number of ways.

I have never considered purchasing from a breeder or a pet store – my philosophy against that is clear.  Those future pets will eventually find homes because they were bred with the intent to be sold and someone has a vested interest in placing them elsewhere; animals in shelters and rescues are only a step away from euthanasia. I am an adopter, always. I was that kid hauling home strays trying to figure out who they belonged to and how to get them home if they had a home. Once in a rare while, we would become the new home.  My parents were sympathetic but they weren’t crazy or wealthy so it was a meal and a roof until the dog could be placed somehow.

It was a lot easier, back in the day down south, when we had a yard.  Someone was sort of always around to keep an eye on the pups running around or keep them separated if you had a new stray in. Surrounded by friends and family nearby, you could even easily phone someone for a quick drop in if you really had to on an extra busy day to feed the dog(s).  We never did that but you always knew the safety net was there.

Now, though, PiC and I wanting to bring home a dog is a very different story. The simple lack of a yard alone changes the game entirely.  Add in the frequently inclement weather, our working hours and commute times, all of these spelled out a need for a completely different approach.

Suddenly, we had to satisfy a profile if this was to work.  We couldn’t just pick a nice looking friendly pup and call it a day. We especially couldn’t have a puppy: they need attention, socialization, training, access to the outdoors/potty pads every few hours while they’re learning bladder control since neither of us wants to have to unteach bad habits we helped instill.

I’d been wanting an older dog; PiC prefers larger dogs.  We knew we needed a dog that enjoyed going for walks but could tolerate being indoors for long periods of time.  This dog had to be dog-friendly and kid-friendly because there are loads of both running around here, and not a barker by nature. We’ve been living with a barker below us and it’s driving us batty but we tolerate it.  I guarantee you, however, that the neighbors would not be so tolerant in return. There are some incredibly petty people in this HOA.

Looking at shelters alone didn’t quite cut it. While they were great starting points because they had all kinds of lovely dogs we were limited from the outset against adopting specific breeds, and the local shelter is heavily stocked with those specific breeds. My favorites were cut straightaway, the jerks! They don’t allow Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, Dobermanns, etc.  Breedists. I despise blanket restrictions like that. I love dogs of just about any breed and pit bulls especially because they can be so very good-tempered, intelligent and trainable, and the local shelters prescribe mandatory training classes when they adopt out pit bulls which is absolutely smart, so it’s a great set-up for their lives, but noooo…. *still bitter about this*

We stumbled across a specific breed rescue that pulls northern breeds from shelters and puts them into foster homes directly, and while Doggle’s actually not really a pinpointable member of any of the breeds they cater to, he’s close enough that they couldn’t resist him.

He’d been with them a year, had a surgical procedure and follow-up, vaccinations, a microchip placed, and was mellow the whole time.  Reviewing that year with him, his foster mom was able to give us his history of behavior, preferences, reactions to people, other dogs, changes, diet, toys, length of time he was happy to be left alone – all of this practically before we ever came to see him.  When we met him, he was this chubby cheeked cheerful fellow that just radiated curiosity and goodwill. He’s been that way ever since.  It would have been tough to get that consistent and detailed a perspective from most shelters.

While our local shelter does do fostering and would have been half the price, they didn’t have anyone that fit enough of the profile that wasn’t a Pit.  (I love our Doggle and wouldn’t trade him but I’m still annoyed on behalf of the Pits who won’t get placed because of places like ours.) I truly look forward to moving into a home where the only rules are our own: a dog that is in need of a home, trainable and gets along with other dogs and people.

The high(er) cost for his adoption, then, was because of the rescue organization that we went with.  They are non-profit, yes, and it also costs a lot to rescue, care for and maintain the dogs for the length of time it takes to get them to their permanent homes.  All the volunteers, going all the way up to the top of the organization, work for free. (I checked.) While I’m not one to pay a higher price for perceived value, this was a higher price for something we put a high premium on: knowledge that we could rely on and the availability of a pet that was the right fit.

Also, let’s not kid ourselves about the cute factor. 

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