Dimon Kendrick-Holmes: Snakebit dog prompts tough decision

October 5, 2013 

It was Thursday night and I was in the emergency room.

The dog emergency room.

About half an hour earlier, I'd sat down to watch the Braves game when one of my kids walked in the house and announced that our dog had fang marks on his nose, and his head was now a weird shape.

So my wife and I put Dexter in the car and rushed him to the pet emergency room.

In the lobby, Dexter noticed another dog with a swollen head. But it was really his own reflection in the window.

This reminded me of Chuck Klosterman. A couple hours earlier, I'd been at the museum listening to Klosterman, the author, pop culture commentator and "The Ethicist" for The New York Times, whom you probably know as the shaggy-haired nerd on the ESPN documentary about Bo Jackson.

Klosterman was talking about what happens when a dog looks in the mirror. He was making the point that humans are the only beings that consider their existence, that wonder what it means to be alive.

In the examination room, I checked the game on my phone and noticed the Braves had just made the kind of base-running error they reserve especially for the playoffs. I posted a Tweet observing that the Braves looked terrible, and my dog had just been bitten by a rattlesnake.

Somebody replied that at least my dog had a chance to survive. I laughed and thought that he wouldn't have made that comment and I wouldn't be laughing if one of my children had just been bitten by a rattlesnake.

When the vet arrived, she said she thought Dexter had actually been bitten by a copperhead and gave us some good information about what was happening to him. His heart rate was steady but he'd need to stay overnight.

Oh, and she recommended using anti-venom.

When she left, an assistant entered and presented us with two possible bills. One was a bill for emergency care, drugs and overnight care but without the anti-venom fee. It was around $400, roughly the cost of taking my family of six out to dinner four or five times at a sit-down chain restaurant.

The other was for the emergency care, drugs and overnight care plus the anti-venom. It was around $1,400, roughly one-fifth the cost of paying for room and board for a year at a state university.

I know this because I have four children, and the oldest is a high school senior.

This is what it means to be human.

We must constantly figure the value of things. We get bills for them, and we decide how badly we want them and whether we're getting played.

Suddenly, my wife and I were being asked to put a price on the life of our dog.

We chose the lower bill.

If it had been one of our children, we would have almost surely paid for the anti-venom if the doctor had advised it.

I love my dog, but it seemed like the odds were in his favor, and we were willing to take the risk. By the way, he's recovered well and is exploring wooded areas just like nothing happened.

But I hate having to make decisions like that.

Guess that's what it means to be human.

Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, dkholmes@ledger-enquirer.com.

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