There comes a time when every pet owner is forced to ask "how much is my animal's life worth?".
At what level of veterinarian bill is it better to let your beloved cat, dog, turtle, snake or kunekune pig die. One hundred dollars, one thousand, ten thousand?
For farmers the decision is easy. Dog looks tired: Bang! Chicken didn't lay an egg: Chop! Saw cat's butt hole when it lifted its tail: Bang, bang, bang!
Things are different in inner-city Auckland. At my house we have two bunnies, Harry and Hunga.
Last week Harry got sick. He was lying on his side, breathing heavily. He didn't look well. My partner was very worried. My immediate reaction was "whatever". That didn't solve the problem so she took him to the vet.
Turns out Harry has colic, which can be fatal for rabbits. He would've died if she'd listened to me. It also turns out it costs $750 for our vet to fix our rabbit's colic.
I ran a cost-benefit analysis on Harry's life. I calculated that it would take me roughly an hour to get over his sad passing. On the other hand I forecast at least a month mourning the loss of my $750.
The same amount of money I was about to spend on an Xbox 1, a couple of games, an extra controller and headphones. I've already pre-ordered Halo 5 and the new Tomb Raider. Cuddling Harry on the couch will be cold comfort on October 27 when Halo 5: Guardians comes out and I have nothing to play it on. There will be no cuddles on November 10 when Rise of the Tomb Raider is released.
The question of how much a life is worth is hard to answer. Growing up in the South Island I spent weekends shooting bunnies. They're pests where I come from.
Admittedly I didn't know those bunnies like I know Harry. I've spent a lot of time with the fluffy little guy across his two years of life. He's a nice dude, likes hugs, keeps his sister Hunga warm at night. I consider him a friend and confidant. For me that's worth a hundy at the vet.
Unfortunately I was handed a catch-22. "If you don't want to pay the bill, you have to tell the kids you let him die." My boys love Harry, they feed him, clean his cage. Play with him everyday.
It would break my heart to break their hearts. Which puts the rabbit's monetary value through the roof. For them no amount is too much to save Harry. Which is fine but they don't work their arses off all day, every day to pay the bills.
The cold hard truth is this: Harry lives and I don't get an Xbox 1 till November.
I know what you're thinking: "Why didn't you buy another rabbit and paint Harry's spots on him?" The kids would never know. They're happy, I'm happy, the only loser would be Harry.
The pet swap is a risky manoeuvre that I've seen fail many times. Meet the Parents (cat), Deuce Bigalow (fish), Home Improvement (goldfish), Everyone Loves Raymond (hamster), Scrubs (stuffed dog), Malcolm in the Middle (fish) and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (rabbit). The fake markings often rub off or the owner notices the pet's personality has changed. It only worked on Full House because Joey purposely bought Michelle a series of very generic goldfish.
Harry's $750 is nothing compared with some vet bills. Removing a foreign object from your pet's intestine could cost you $2000, ruptured bile duct $3000, intervertebral disc disease close to $4000.
A friend spent $10,000 on his bulldog.Those numbers would test anyone's love.
It's a sad fact of life that pets get sick and vets aren't cheap. Your beloved fluffy little guy isn't going to live forever. He or she may well have a date with destiny under a car, in its kidneys or up its colon. One day you may have to make a tough decision between the things you love doing (playing video games) and the things you choose to keep living.
My advice would be buy plain, one colour, personality-free pets which can be seamlessly swapped out in the event of an expensive problem.