No Expense Spared On Nation's Pets

From chemotherapy to psychiatric evaluations to estate planning, pet owners spend thousands each year to pamper their furry companions. How far have you gone for your pet? And where do you draw the line?

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. For most people, a pet is much more than a companion or a friend, it's a family member whose unconditional love and loyalty often compare favorably to less furry creatures, and when pets are less like animals and more like children, we humans will take extraordinary measures. Doggy dialysis, kitty chemotherapy, it seems safe to say that given a second chance in 2008, Old Yeller probably would have made it, albeit with an anxiety disorder after that fight with the wolf. But don't worry, there's pet Prozac, not to mention a staggering vet bill.

Later in the hour, at least one culprit in the salmonella scare has been nailed. I'm looking at you, jalapenos, and the search for more contamination continues. But first, pet pampering reaches new heights. We want to hear from you and no judging your neighbors on this. We want to know how far you have gone for your fluffy, furry, feathered, or scaly pet and where do you draw the line? Tell us your story, 800-989-8255 is the phone number. Email talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation. Ada Calhoun is editor-in-chief at online Parenting Magazine babble.com, and she wrote about her cat in the online magazine, Salon. She joins us now from the studios at WDST in Woodstock, New York. Nice to have you on the program today.

Ms. ADA CALHOUN (Editor-in-Chief, Babble.com): Thank you so much for having me.

CONAN: And tell us what happened to your cat, Ferdinand.

Ms. CALHOUN: He had urinary tract blockage trouble a lot of times since he was a kitten. And then he got it one time, and we brought him in and they said oh, he have to have surgery right away, put a catheter immediately and then it was, you know, four days later and a 1300 dollar vet bill. And yeah, so we were pretty shocked.

CONAN: Shocked, and I understand at some point you asked your vet the most that he'd ever seen spent on a pet's treatment.

Ms. CALHOUN: That's right. I actually did the story for Salon mainly so I could go back and talk to him and not feel weird about it. And yeah, I called him and I said, you know, what would you have done if we hadn't paid you? Thirteen hundred dollars or we would have kept your cat. And I said, well, you know, how much have people spent? And he said 25,000 dollars on a dog to keep it alive after it got a wound infected. But he said, you know, that was very common. People spend thousands of dollars on chemotherapy all the time just for a few more months with their pets.

CONAN: And in a way, he assumed that when you brought the pet in, there were no limits, any measure would be taken.

Ms. CALHOUN: That's right. That was the impression we got, definitely.

CONAN: So in a way, he was ready to guilt trip you into spending a lot of money to take care of your pet, which I assume - you love your cat. We'll will stipulate that.

Ms. CALHOUN: Yeah, and you know - well yeah, of course, I always love my animals, and I've had cats my whole life and you know, many of them lived to have ripe old ages, and I did two shots of insulin a day for one of my cats when he was like, you know, 19 years old, and I kept him alive a few more months on that. But I just - I start to think, you know, where does this end because I've got no guarantee with, you know, after this 1,300 dollar procedure that it wasn't going to happen again two months later. And in fact, it did happen two months later, and we wound up choosing not to do it.

CONAN: And did - was then did the vet make good on his earlier promise that he would take care of the pet and give it to somebody else?

Ms. CALHOUN: We actually went to a different vet, and it was actually good that I've done this story because I felt a lot more prepared to have that conversation with the vet. And I called one and got a huge guilt trip, and he said, you know, yes, maybe you know, you have to do this four times a year, but it's worth it. And I was like, well we can't, you know. I don't think it's good for the cat, too. I mean, it was like who are we doing this for? The cat doesn't want to be in the vet office, you know, weeks at a time. And we frankly didn't have 5,000 dollars a year to spend on catheter, you know, installation. They said you can have a sex change for the cat and turn it into a girl cat essentially, and that's a route a lot of people go for thousands of dollars.

CONAN: Really?

Ms. CALHOUN: Yeah, apparently. I talked to a couple vets who did that procedure and said it was very common for urinary tract blockage, you know, cats. We know, that just seemed insane to me. You know, what kind of life is that for him to just - I don't know, have some massive surgery, and you know, it just didn't seem fair to him.

CONAN: I have to say, in your article, you say at 1,300 dollars, that initial fee, more than a month's rent, more than all your electronic equipment combined, more than two months of babysitting and depressing because you've just gotten out of debt.

Ms. CALHOUN: Yeah, it was only, we felt we're just so proud of ourselves so we finally paid up all our credit card debt, and then yeah, we just got hit with this bill all of a sudden, and it was, you know, we paid it and we were very happy to have him back home and - but then it was this question of well, what happens if we have to do it again.

CONAN: Let's get some callers in on that story, 800-989-8255. How far have you gone for your pet, and where do you draw the line? Let's start with Howard. Howard is with us from Pinedale in Wyoming.

HOWARD (Caller): Yes, my cat is a minx cat. We had the same problem, with the urinary problem and paid 2,500 dollars for the operation. And I was prepared to pay for it and the doctor told my wife and I, you baby boomers took care of your kids. We know you're going to take care of your pets. That's how come we have this fabulous veterinarian hospital where we went to. And I think, drawing the line is where your pet will suffer for your satisfaction of having the pet. That's where I think you draw the line. If you have any additional medications or procedures done on your pet, and we fortunately live near Texas A&M University in Texas, and there's a wonderful veterinary clinic there, and I think it's better care for the pets there than they have for humans in that area.

CONAN: Howard, how do you know when your pet is suffering, and it's time to put it to sleep?

HOWARD: Well, having a urinary tract problem, we checked his box to see what's going on with them. You kind of check the behavior and if he's acting differently, and in the box, it showing different kind of results, that's when you're on cue that maybe you need to bring your cat back to the doctor. But just like the lady just said about the urinary situation, I just learned something from her about changing the sex of the cat could help out. I've never heard of this before.

CONAN: I gather from your article, Ada Calhoun, that these urinary tract infections are common in male cats who have been neutered.

Ms. CALHOUN: Very common.

HOWARD: Well, our cat was neutered, and it's common, like the lady just said. But we love our minx cat, and I didn't think twice. My wife and I didn't think twice about the operation. But we have a couple of other cats and dogs, we draw the line if the pet suffers. I don't want to have our pets suffering just to give us - be around for love of the pet. I think that's where you draw the line there.

CONAN: And Howard, what's your cat's name?

HOWARD: Rolly (ph).

CONAN: Well, good luck to you and your Rolly.

HOWARD: All right, thank you.

CONAN: OK, bye-bye. Let's see if we can get Pat on the line. Pat's calling us from De Pere, is that right in Wisconsin?

PAT (Caller): No, it's De Pere.

CONAN: De Pere, I apologize. Go ahead please.

PAT: That's OK. I had Ghana(ph), this young dog, and she was with me about 9 months old. When she was about a year old, we found out she had what they call luxating patella, her knee cap slid in and out. So, she did not need a surgery immediately. So I kind of prepared for it and what I did was at least part of the pay - part of the way it's paid was I donated blood plasma which I would end up getting paid for when you go. So maybe about 150 to 200 dollars that I had gotten from paying for that. And then -

CONAN: So you donated your blood, sold you blood to help pay for the operation.

PAT: Yes, to help, to pay for the operation. And the operation was right around 500 dollars or so, give or take, for that. Yeah, that's what I did.

CONAN: That sounds like it was a lot of money to you.

PAT: Well, yeah. I mean, I go on the cheap, and I don't necessarily - I do have my limits as far as what my pets are concerned, but I did that much.

CONAN: And how's the dog doing?

PAT: Oh, that seems - she was about a year old. She is going to be 11 now, and she still runs on fours and she flies and, she still has a good time.

CONAN: Well, Pat, thank you very much. That's an interesting story.

PAT: I thank you. Bye-bye now.

CONAN: In 2008, America, we love our pets maybe a little too much. Jon Katz, journalist, dog owner, and the author of a number of books about dogs has thought a little bit about why we love our animals so intensely and what kind of problems that causes for us. He's joining us now from our member station WAMC in Albany, New York. And thanks very much for being with us today.

Mr. JON KATZ (Journalist, Author): Thanks for having me, Neal.

CONAN: And would you give blood for your dog?

Mr. KATZ: No. I'll surely sacrifice many other things. I have one of my dogs right here with me, in fact. But, you know, it's interesting where, what we're hearing is really in a larger context, is a society which is redefining its relationship with several species of animal. I mean, the story that Ada Calhoun is telling you is really very common. The twist on it is usually that which tell you people are demanding to have that sort of care. It's eight or nine billion dollars a year in health care for animals. And this is in a country where many, many millions of children don't have health care at all, and it's not really even controversial. So it's quite an extraordinary social phenomena, and I think it's great to talk about it. A lot of ethical and societal questions.

CONAN: But, Ada, the point that he was just raising, your veterinarian seems surprised when you were concerned about the cost of these procedures. Isn't that right?

Ms. CALHOUN: I think more like appalled. I mean, he was horrified and he said actually at one point, you're supposed to love your pet. And sort of implying that if we weren't willing to just spend - just hand over the credit card for an infinite amount of money without talking about it even that we were bad pet owners.

CONAN: And bad people.

Ms. CALHOUN: And bad people, yes, definitely.

CONAN: Nevertheless, these decisions, Jon Katz, as Ada was saying, and I know, it was a difficult decision, but in the end, they went ahead and made it. A lot of people do and sacrifice for their pets because, well, I guess - well, your argument is that the pets have figured out, dogs in particular, how to please their human owners. This is a genetic adaptation or an evolutionary adaptation.

Mr. KATZ: Well, there are a lot of looks at dogs. Your dogs are great at reading people, and they're especially brilliant, geniuses in fact, at getting people to do things for them, especially feed them and give them treats and take care of them. I think what you're seeing is, really since the '60s, just an explosion in sort of the people's need and feeling for domestic animals. You know, I live in upstate New York, and you don't often hear farmers say that they see their dogs as children. In fact, you never hear that. But it's really quite common to hear that in urban and suburban America, where I think a lot of Americans are very stressed and pressured and looking for the unconditional love they see that these animals are offering them. Increasingly, if you look at the equations, these people are comparing dogs and cats and children.

They're talking about them in the same way. They're giving them human names, and they're referring to them in the same way, and they're treating them even better in many respects. And that says a lot about a culture, I think, where the difference between dogs and children is actually getting blurred, and it's not always good for the animals either. I mean, overfeeding is probably the leading cause of death for dogs right now. Many dogs die from over treatment than from abuse, and behavioral problems are epidemic. There are 350,000 dogs on Prozac. It's a serious problem for dogs. It's not always loving to treat them like children. In fact, it's probably never loving to do that.

CONAN: We're talking about the people-pet connection, and we want to hear how far you have gone or how far you would go or where you would draw the line in terms of your pet. Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan, you're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

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CONAN: This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We're talking today about anti-depressant, root canals, estate planning, liposuction - all services used to be reserved for people. Nowadays, your pet can take advantage of all those treatment. Americans forked over 49 billion dollars for pet products other than consumer electronics. Pet products are the fastest growing retail segment of the economy. We're talking with journalist dog writer and dog owner Jon Katz, and with Ada Calhoun, editor-in-chief at babble.com who had to make tough decisions about her cat which she eventually had to put down and wrote about it on salon.com. If you'd like to join the conversation, 800-989-8255. Email us talk@npr.org. And let's turn to Jeff. Jeff's with us from Corvallis in Oregon.

JEFF (Caller): Hi. Thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

JEFF: Just about a year ago, I had a cat, a male cat, that was 10 years old I've had for nine years. I loved him dearly, and he got a urinary blockage. We took him to our vet and our vet told me very clearly what the treatment would be to begin with, probably two to 3,000 dollars with possibly no end in sight and a lot of discomfort and suffering on the cat's part, and we made a very difficult decision to have him euthanized. And our vet was very supportive in that activity. He assured me that if he had that situation he would probably do the same thing.

CONAN: You went through that experience, Ada Calhoun. Eventually, was your vet as understanding as Jeff's?

Ms. CALHOUN: No, he wasn't. We actually didn't call him the second time around because we knew what his answer was going to be, and I did try one other vet and talked to them and they said, oh, we could - maybe would consider putting him down if had met with you and talk. And then, so I called the Animal Medical Center in New York, and they were so wonderful. They really just - were so humane about it and said some cats just get that all the time and the most humane - you know, kindest thing to do is to put them down.

CONAN: And I wanted to ask you, Jon Katz, for the thousands of dollars that Jeff was being asked to pay in a painful situation for the cat other people face that dilemma. But he could have been - there are still thousands and thousands of dogs and cats who were impound across America and who will be killed if people don't adopt them.

Mr. KATZ: Well, I think that's true but we're talking about perspective, really, and Ada Calhoun is talking about having some perspective about life, you know, how much money can you afford, how much is appropriate, where does money go in a culture? When you're talking about throwing numbers around like 49 billion dollars, you know, in 1960, there were 15 million owned dogs in the United States. And today, there's about 75 millions owned dogs, and another 10 million in the shelter system. So that's an extraordinary number of animals and there's a huge rescue movement that is saving animals and moving them around, they do a lot of good work.

But the culture at large is really not asking the questions that Calhoun is asking which is, you know, how much money is too much, how much love is too much and when do we lose perspective on the place of animals in our culture. I think animals used to be on the periphery of culture, they're very important to me. But when they move to the center of our emotional lives, people start spending any amount of money and anything seems appropriate and there are no limits, and we're moving into a realm of no limits with the animal love that is really becoming an epidemic emotional problem for people as well as for animals.

CONAN: Ada Calhoun - by the way, Jeff, thanks very much for the phone call.

JEFF: May I have one more comment, please?

CONAN: Sure. Go ahead.

JEFF: We love our cats dearly. In fact, dote on them and buy lots of toys for them, and I've built very elaborate play areas for them. And so it isn't lack of love and affection that drove our decision. It was really the love and affection that we do have for animals that drove that decision.

CONAN: Thank you, Jeff.

Mr. KATZ: Well, that could be manipulated too, because when you say how much do you love your dog, then what's the limit on how much you're going to spend? It could be a very manipulative thing to put on people.

JEFF: Yeah. I want to look at it for how was the cat going to survive this?

CONAN: Yeah. And that's another perspective, but sometimes difficult to tell.

JEFF: Yeah, it was very difficult. It's still difficult a year later, but we still feel like we made the best decision for out pet, and we have moved on.

CONAN: Jeff, again, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

JEFF: Thank you very much.

CONAN: And Ada Calhoun, you also wrote about this idea of pets as children, an idea you said you once would have bought into.

Ms. CALHOUN: Oh, I did. I mean, people and my family would call and say how are the kids, and they're talking about our cats. At one point we had meet people who would leave their cats with us when they left town or if they couldn't take them for a while. We had like five cats at one point. And, you know, I thought of them as my children, and then I had a baby, and it became very clear that there is a big difference between having a baby and having a cat. Yeah, it's not the same kind of thing. It turned out that my love for the cat was conditional. I mean, I love the cat to pieces. I mean, I would have done pretty much anything for him. But it wasn't the same thing as if it was my son was sick, this conversation will not be happening.

CONAN: Yeah. Of course not. Let's go to Nancy. Nancy with us from Birmingham, Alabama.

NANCY (Caller): Hi. I wanted to just mention I have two cats and two dogs that live in my house with me. I love them all to pieces. They're all rescues of one sort or another. But one of my cats is an animal-assisted therapy cat. He visits hospitals and nursing homes, he's been doing that for 10 years. I would probably spend more and go further for him than I would for the others not because I love him more than the others but because he's more than just my house pet.

CONAN: He has a role to play in the society.

NANCY: He has a job, yeah. And he's touched - in over 10 years, probably thousands of lives. Brought lots of happiness, has won national awards for what he does. So, yeah, I'd probably go further for him than I would for the others.

CONAN: Hmm. The situation hasn't arisen, I hope.

NANCY: No, it hasn't. In fact, all four of mine are happy and healthy animals. But yeah, I mean I think in having four animals, I can say that I have spent my share of money at the veterinarian's office. But, yeah, I would definitely go further with the caveat that, you know, if he were going to be in pain or suffering, well, then of course, not.

CONAN: Yeah. Thanks very much, Nancy.

NANCY: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see if we can also go to - this is Jean. Jean is with us from Carson City in Nevada.

JEAN (Caller): Hi, Neal.

CONAN: Hi.

JEAN: I had a black lab named Buzz. He's nine years old. I took him out for a walk one day, and he collapsed. I then took him into the vet and the vet told me had a - his spleen had burst, and she said the surgery probably costs about 3,400 dollars to take his spleen out and that the chances were that there might be a splenetic tumor, and it would be cancerous. So, you know, 3,400 dollars was a lot of money to my family and we thought, well, you know, we'll put him down. So, my younger son and I went in to say goodbye and as soon as we saw the big eyes and the wagging tail and the look please take me home, we looked at the vet. There was no pressure from the vet and said do the surgery.

Well, sure enough, got through the surgery fine. Buzz came home but the doctor told me that he did have splenetic cancer, hemangiosarcoma, and that she didn't usually see dogs last more than two weeks. Well, Buzz lasted four more months, and they were good months, and it was totally worth it. We loved that dog very much, and if you hadn't told me that day that my dog was going to die in my arms that night, I would not have believed it, but he went quietly and quickly.

CONAN: I'm glad. Did you, in the end, did obviously think it was worth it?

JEAN: Oh, absolutely. The 3,400 dollars was a lot of money.

CONAN: I'm sure it was a lot of money. I'm sure. It still is. Jean, thanks very much.

JEAN: Thank you.

CONAN: And, Jon Katz, let me turn to you. If that at moment, when her dog turned to her with those big eyes and looked at her with that take me home look, if that was as you suggest in your piece, an evolutionary trick, does that diminish it?

Mr. KATZ: Well, I wouldn't assume it diminishes as a trick. The affection is really very real but I think what interests me is when you step back and say what's really going on here. And I think what's really going on here is you can track this phenomena really from the '60s, in the time where technological change or political turmoil of disconnection, people in America are often disconnected from one another, and increasingly, they're turning to animals for the unconditional love they see the animals as providing. So, it's a trick on both sides, I think it's really one species that's using another. And it helps to be thoughtful about it and to think of how much money you have and where your money ought to go and where society ought to allocate its money.

And also, to look at the very real question of it is really loving to keep animals alive in great pain for years or great expense and it's often a personal choice. But I think the more you see this phenomena and it's quite profound and entrenched now, the more I think I see a culture in which people are not doing these things for one another, where they're confusing animals with children, and they're all so disconnected and what some of the shrinks call being existentially lonely. And animals are being asked to fill this gap for them which is sometimes wonderful but sometimes disturbing.

CONAN: I wonder what you think about that, Ada Calhoun?

Ms. CALHOUN: Well I just - I think it's interesting the sort of, comparison, between how we are with our kids and our families and their health care, versus our pets' health care. I mean, we're very pragmatic about our own. But for some reason, we're not really able to be that reasonable about our pets. I mean, you know, we can sort of say, OK, I'm going to wait a couple of years to get that dental work or something until I have health insurance, but when the vet is staring at you, you can't really - it is hard to make that call.

CONAN: Let's get Lindsey (ph) on the line. Lindsey is calling us from San Antonio in Texas.

LINDSEY (Caller): Hi, Neal. Thanks for taking my call. When my husband and I were in our twenties, we adopted a little orange tabby cat and he lived to be only three years old and we ended up putting him down because he had an osteosarcoma, an injection site sarcoma. And it was pretty easy to make that decision for us because he had, like Ms. Calhoun's cat, a lot of bladder issues, and in fact, we ended up having to give him subcutaneous fluids. So you know those drip bags that you see at hospitals? We'd take him home and give him like half a liter of saline. And it got to the point where, you know, we were looking at each other like this, what we're doing, I'm not sure this is - it almost crossed the line to where I felt like we were increasing his suffering. And just knowing that that was going to continue, I think when he ended up being diagnosed with osteosarcoma, it made the decision a little bit easier. You know, we let him just live his life at home until he was ready to let go.

CONAN: And so he - you took him home and let him go at his own time.

LINDSEY: Exactly, exactly. And you know, it was - it ended up being the last year of his life it was 4,000 dollars. And, you know, my husband was still in medical school and I was a social worker, and we really had no money. But, you know, I really - I was glad that we went through that process to think it was a, you know, a maturing process for both of us.

CONAN: Would you do it again?

LINDSEY: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I think the, you know - I think it was just kind of a good life experience to have and he was a really special cat. Special, special that I think, you know, prolonging his life and giving him chemotherapy would have not been appropriate.

CONAN: But 4,000 dollars when you could not afford it, was appropriate?

LINDSEY: Yeah. It took us a while. I think we were, you know, right when we got married, we were able to finally pay off the credit cards that we had used to keep Fred alive so...

CONAN: Well, thank you for the call and our best wishes to Fred.

LINDSEY: Thank you so much.

CONAN: To Fred's memory anyway. We're talking about pets and their owners, and how far people will go for their pets and where they draw the line. Our guests are Ada Calhoun who is editor-in-chief of babble.com and consulting editor at nerve.com. She had to make some tough decisions about her cat's health care and wrote about it on salon.com. She's with us from WDST in Woodstock, New York. Jon Katz is also with us, author of the forthcoming "Dog Days: Dispatches from Bedlam Farm" and he's at WAMC, member station in Albany, New York. I'm Neal Conan and you're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. And Jon, I wanted to go back and as you explained earlier, you're living in Upstate New York. It's a rural area and the great difference with which people who live in the country regard their pets, regard their animals not that they may not love them any less.

Mr. KATZ: Well, I think animals have a different place in people who have grown up with them. And I think people who live in urban and suburban areas are often cut off, I think from nature, and cut off from the animal world and people need that. I think it's disturbing when that happens. I think people want it. I think one of the things that makes the emotional management of dogs and cats so complicated for people is that, of course, the animals don't speak. So we project on to them all the things we think they're feeling and the behaviorists call this the Theory of Mind. People are always telling you what their dogs are thinking and what their dogs are doing. And they look at the dog and the dog is a blank canvass, you can put anything you want - or a cat. You can project anything.

How much they love me and how much they care about me. I think the behaviorists will tell you that what the dog is usually thinking is, how am I going to get some food out of this person. And they're very good at it. And it doesn't mean they don't care about us, it just means they're not thinking the things that we are. But when something is voiceless and we see it as loving us so much, it's very hard to put limits when someone says, well do you love the dog? And of course, you'll spend 10,000 dollars on it. But that's not, of course, what love always is, and I think the kind of thoughtfulness about it is very important to kind of stop and find your own personal perspective on this. Just how far do you want to go? I think it's very good to think about this before you go to a vet with a chronic illness so you don't find yourself in Ada Calhoun's position and say, look, how much money do I have and how much money do I want to put?

And vets are usually, in my experience, reasonable about that when you talk to them. I think if you don't, and you just say here's the dog, save it. You know, I spent a lot of time in a vet's office researching a book and I was just astonished at how many people came in and said look, you have to save this dog you know. I don't really care about my husband but this dog is everything to me or my wife, and you got to save it.

CONAN: And if you can't save it, clone it.

Mr. KATZ: I heard that all day. I heard it all day. Any vet will tell you they hear it all the time. So that's saying something about a society and how it deals with issues really when they project that onto a dog, of course, and a dog can't tell you don't do that. I don't want to do that because they're not thinking that way. So it's tough, it's a difficult issue.

CONAN: Now, let's get Matt on the line. Matt is with us from Sacramento in California.

MATT (Caller): Hey, how are you doing?

CONAN: Very well. Thanks.

MATT: You know, I called in. You know, I'm listening to these, you know, people talking about spending, you know, thousands of dollars on their pets. And, you know, I've been a dog owner and cat owner my whole life. I've had about five dogs in my life and I love everyone of them. I'm from suburbia so, you know, I don't look at them as working animals. But you know when I think about that, you know, spending that much money on an animal, it seems absurd to me. However, I've never had that much money to spend on an animal. So when it came down to, you know, am I going to get my kid's teeth fixtures or am I going to get the dog to live, you know. My kids are going to obviously pick that precedence (unintelligible), you know, kind of so you can get the priority there. So things are always kind of ridiculous to me when I hear that but I don't know if I was in that position and had that kind of expendable income. I can see myself spending that kind of money on it. I, you know, it doesn't make any sense to me in one aspect. But if I see myself having that kind of expendable income, I'd have to think about it twice because I've got very emotionally attached to both dogs and cats in my life.

CONAN: It's interesting, Matt. Thanks very much and we wish your animals the best of health.

MATT: Absolutely.

CONAN: Right. Bye-bye. One final thought to you, Jon Katz. In all that time in the veterinarian's office that you spent in research, that situation that Ada Calhoun described earlier where the vet said, well, if you don't want to pay for the health care for this operation, we'll do it and we'll take the pet and provide for it and give it to somebody else. Did that situation ever arise?

Mr. KATZ: Not quite like that. Although I'm sure it happens. I think, you know, most vets really don't make a lot of money. It's a tough business and they struggle. There's not a lot of money in it. But it more often heard, was people who were very proud of the fact that they would spend any amount of money to save their dog or cat. They would really wear that as a badge of pride. And it troubled me, you know, because I kept - I think all the time when I'm in that situation which I have been in, how much money do I want to spend on my dog when there are people living down the road from me who are starving, and don't have any health care. And it bothers m,e and I don't think as a society we have really talked about it much.

CONAN: Jon Katz, thanks for your time today. Jon Katz is the author of the forthcoming "Dog Days: Dispatches from Bedlam Farm" and we'd also like to thank Ada Calhoun, the editor-in-chief at babble.com. I appreciate your time today as well.

Mr. CALHOUN: Thank you so much.

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