My 6-year-old rescue dog, Vector, has endured a litany of health issues since joining my family in 2013.
The list is expansive, and expensive: Stitches to his ear and the painkillers, ointments and inevitable self-inflicted re-wounding that came with them. Heartworm treatment — a series of painful injections of an arsenical compound whose side effects can be fatal. Ongoing treatment for ehrlichia, a tick-borne type of canine Lyme disease that attacks white blood cells and poses risks ranging from neurological ailments to kidney disease.
Lately it's the ehrlichia that’s been vexing Vector, flaring up into a bout of severe, acute autoimmune-driven arthritis. Recently, Vector was in agony and barely able to walk for several days.
Vector is currently undergoing remission treatment: an aggressive round of steroids. He's mostly better, but tires easily and has some obvious muscle atrophy. He's back in reasonably good health and rambunctiously good spirits. For now.
From the post-storm calm, my wife and I can start to see Vector's horizon. The bout he just fought through was brutally painful, took a visible toll, and led to side-effect-laden prescriptions. Vector's health — and his quality of life — are tenuous, and his time with us will almost certainly be significantly shortened by his conditions. Already deep, our affection for Vector has a newfound urgency.
When discussing Vector's struggles with friends and family, my wife and I sense implicit second-guessing, the sort of tepid verbal tip-toeing loved ones perform when wading into controversial waters. One elephant-in-the-room question looms:
"Will you rescue another dog after Vector?"
It's a reasonable inquiry — one I've admittedly asked myself. Searching for answers, the research surprised me.
Why? Because the question’s tacit assumption — that rescue dogs are more likely to suffer serious health issues — is a total myth.