How do I love thee?

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Let me add up the vet bills.

My dogs pre-ceded my husband, my children and my house. They were my first introduction to responsibility and an eye-opening door into the world of pets, pet accessories, pet diets and pet obsession.

But puppies inevitably become teenagers before cruising into adulthood and hobbling into old age. And that’s where we are now.

Both the girls are a little greyer than they used to be and not so nimble on the stairs.

Perhaps it was naive, but I had always imagined them running and jumping to the last before slipping away peacefully, with a smile on their furry faces.

But it’s not to be.

While Tess, my mini Fox Terrier/Jack Russell, has been suffering from arthritis for some time and is regularly dosed with pain relief, my Maltese, Maggie, had until recently been ridiculously puppy-like despite her 15 years.

That all came to an end while we were away on holidays. Suddenly she was in pain with a suspected back injury. Or was it pancreatitis? Or maybe even an enlarged liver? Some $750 later we settled for an enlarged liver and a course of antibiotics with daily pain relief. Two weeks later and another $200 she’s been given the all-clear and is back to her effervescent self.

Meanwhile, Tess sleeps her days away. She still has her appetite and a keen sense of smell but she can no longer hear and her vision is minimal.

Some days I feel like a pharmacist, a physiotherapist and a dog psychologist all wrapped into one.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way . . .

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