Should I help pay for the surgery that could save my best friend’s dog’s life?
September 5, 2008 6:16 PM   Subscribe

Should I help pay for the surgery that could save my best friend’s dog’s life?

My best friend’s dog may need surgery soon for a condition that could be life threatening. It’s unlikely that my friend will be able to afford to pay for this without wrecking her finances. She is pretty responsible with money, but she works in a non-profit and still has a bunch of college loans to pay off. She loves this dog so much, I know it’s going to kill her if she can’t help her dog simply because she doesn’t have the money.

I would like to help her. Looking at my finances, I could give her as much as $3,000 without setting back my financial goals or exceeding my comfort level.

I’m worried that she will feel burdened by a gift of this size and that it will change our relationship with her. I don’t want to be paid back—I would consider it a gift, not a loan. So, should I help pay for the surgery that could save my best friend’s dog’s life?

More generally, I’d also Iike to hear from others about when you think it is appropriate to help friends out financially.
posted by akabobo to Pets & Animals (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Depends. Do you want to? If you are able and want to, do it. Beware though, it may change the dynamics of the friendship a bit. I've never given that amount to friends, but even at the several hundred dollar level it makes things a little weird, at least between midwestern guys. Its a pride sort of thing, but mostly they'll be grateful.
posted by sanka at 6:24 PM on September 5, 2008

Yes, definitely, as long as you make it clear that she has no obligation to repay you. That's really awesome of you do that.
posted by mpls2 at 6:25 PM on September 5, 2008

Absolutely. I have said this before here, that the best way to give or lend a friend money is to never have any expectation of repayment or consideration.
posted by ill3 at 6:28 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yes, absolutely. If you can and you want to, you should offer to do so.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:33 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Absolutely. Make it clear that you are stepping in to save an animal that might otherwise perish and that you don't expect repayment - subtely.
posted by fire&wings at 6:36 PM on September 5, 2008

Contact her vet and ask if it would be possible to give your share of the payment anonymously. She may not even need to know that she received any financial help. The vet might be willing to simply quote her the reduced price. Barring that the vet could say the lower cost is the result of a trust or aid source that exists to help caring pet owners just like her.
posted by oddman at 6:39 PM on September 5, 2008 [10 favorites]

I think it's brilliant that you would do this. And I agree with others above -- make it clear to your friend that you don't expect repayment.

If, however, you still feel too awkward about it, or worry it will negatively affect your relationship, you could always do what we did for my friend back in college when his cat was hit by a car -- throw a benefit party. We had a simple, but incredibly fun, house party with donation jars strategically positioned throughout, and raised enough money for his cat's vet bills. Thanks to our efforts (and those of a skilled veterinary surgeon), that kitty went on to live a long, happy life. This could be a way to ensure your friend and the dog get what they need, and your friend wouldn't necessarily have to know who gave what....
posted by lovermont at 6:50 PM on September 5, 2008 [8 favorites]

Money is fuel. It has no purpose except to be burned when required.
posted by philip-random at 6:59 PM on September 5, 2008 [13 favorites]

Seconding calling the vet, and seeing if the vet can tell your friend that sometimes donations are made to be used in cases like these, and she's the lucky recipient. It would even be true.
posted by rtha at 7:27 PM on September 5, 2008

How much is the surgery? For you to give $3k is all well and good, but does that make the total bill affordable? If she was short $3k then problem solved. If she was short $6k then you've thrown in your eggs and perhaps she still can't afford it ....

To answer the direct question -- yes, help. yes, expect it to change the dynamic. yes, be ready to deal and not let that change take the friendship off track.

Just make sure what you're doing is going to help.
posted by devbrain at 7:35 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

There are several problems... $3,000 may not be enough. If the problem is this big, then the chances of it continuing beyond 3K are large. At some point, you may have to stop extending yourself and thus, in a way, you may unfairly assume responsibility for an ultimately unsatisfactory outcome.

I like oddman's approach, but may I gently suggest that you might want to get a second opinion from a different vet to verify that this is the only alternative? Not all vets are altruistic. If you are willing to pay 3k, many will be willing to take it. There is almost always an alternative, and often, 'terminal' conditions resolve with little or no treatment.

I've had a lot of pets and a lot of sick pets. I've spent a fortune on them. However, at this point in my life, I have set limits on what is an appropriate expenditure to maintain them, even though I love my critters a lot. It's not that it's silly to use your money for this sort of thing, but really, the contrast of 1000 famine victims and a single American (assumed) pet is to glaring for me to endure.

Pet ownership is a choice. They are more mortal than we are, and sometimes the roll of the dice doesn't work out for a given pet. It's best to come to grips with this while the pooch is still a puppy. It hurts like hell to lose one, but we heal from loss and the loss is coming eventually, regardless of what happens in this particular crisis.

You are a very kind person to even consider doing this. I debate the ultimate wisdom of it, however, despite how kind it is. You can help your friend in many ways and perhaps getting her through the grief phase somehow would be a more lasting and wise gift.
posted by FauxScot at 7:37 PM on September 5, 2008

Dogs live not as long as we do, and that is one of their benefits. Their not children and when they die you can choose to replace them with another dog or not.
Over the last 40 years I've lost a lot of dogs, and I loved them all dearly. But from experience I know that you love your next dog just as much, and not less.

Spending that amount of money (and maybe the bill is even higher than that) on extending the life of a pet for a couple of years is almost a crime against humanity.

So if it was me I wouldn't help my friend by lending her that money. And not because I'm a heartless bastard, although some people might think I am.

For $3000 you can save some humans from dying. A lot of them actually, depending on where you send your money.
posted by maremare at 7:53 PM on September 5, 2008 [4 favorites]

I'm a bit stumped by the attitude that you should donate your money to some other "more worthy" charity. You didn't ask where to put 3K to do the most good; you asked about helping a friend.

Why don't you ask your friend if you can help with the costs? If she says no, then you respect it. Even if she turns down the gift, she'll know that you were there with the offer. I wouldn't go to the vet without her consent. If she finds out later, then she'd have a right to be angry.
posted by 26.2 at 7:54 PM on September 5, 2008

If your friend is uncomfortable about you giving her $3K, then what about throwing a 'charity event' with all of her friends? Throw a little party (or a big one) at your house, and accept private donations... no one has to know that your donation is a whopper.

Kudos to you - you sound like a true friend. No matter what some may say, saving the life of a cherished pet is for many people tantamount to saving family. I say go for it!

And then... after it's all done - talk her into getting pet medical insurance.
posted by matty at 8:28 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Assuming that the amount you can afford to give is enough to fix this problem (as others have mentioned) then I'd take this angle: You say she's your best friend so I'm assuming you also have a relationship with the dog, right? And if he die then you also lose a special canine friend too? So it's totally understandable that you'd want to help save him and would be better for you as well as for your friend. So talk to your friend about this and make it clear that you want to help and that by letting you help she's actually doing you a favour, there's no obligation on her part. Don't push too hard, make sure she is allowed to say no if that's really what she wants, but it seems like a good thing all round for you to make a heartfelt offer.

The only thing that would give me pause is what if there's a complication and he doesn't make it? Or all is well and he is hit by a car and dies next week. Will you still be OK with the money you spent? As long as the answer to this is yes then you're good to go.
posted by shelleycat at 9:21 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all for your comments! A couple more thoughts.

She’s going to have some more tests done on Monday to help diagnose the extent of the problem. My plan is to check in with her then and find out what her dog’s prognosis is.
Depending on that, what I’ll say would vary. If it’s a terminal illness that would be long to treat and painful for the dog, I don’t think it would be appropriate to offer more than my sympathy and love. If it seems like it’s a conquerable problem where money might help, that’s when I would talk to her about what we could throw at it to help.

I like the idea of gathering our friends’ goodwill together to help out, and I may consider it more after we find out more on Monday. Logistically, there would be complications, since she and I live far apart. The benefit of not being the only benefactor would take away some awkwardness, though.

I admit that this is an uncomfortably big chunk to devote to a non-human animal. I got nothing, other than I love my friend and want to help her.
posted by akabobo at 9:22 PM on September 5, 2008

I would check with the vet, or perhaps just your friend, and find out what kind of an outcome you expect. If this $3,000, as others have suggested, only delays the inevitable or is not enough for the surgery, there's no point.

$3,000 you won't miss, your friend's dog has many more happy years, these's maybe a teeny bit of weirdness between y'all for a while - that sounds peachy to me.

You could tell you friend that, if she wants to pay you back, she could do volunteer work at a or donate to a favorite charity of yours. Might make her feel less helpless without being on the hook for a cash amount with a looming deadline.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:23 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

You might also consider getting the vet's name and make arrangements with the vet to cover up to $3,000 and see if they'll keep their mouths shut about who paid for it. Depending on the size of the vet's practice this may be doable.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 10:49 PM on September 5, 2008

I don't think the OP's question is "I have three grand, how should I spend it?" If that were so, advice about "OMG what about the hoomaaans!" might be appropriate.

If you want to help your friend, by all means, do so. I kind of like oddman's advice - and by all means, find out more on Monday, and go from there. You sound like a great friend.
posted by Liosliath at 2:06 AM on September 6, 2008

Nthing the suggestions of just plain out asking her if she wants the help. Even if she doesn't take the money, your intentions will shine through. As a fellow dog-lover, I know that even if she doesn't take the money, she will never forget your willingness to help her four legged best friend.

If nothing else, I'm sure she will appreciate having such a good friend.
posted by arishaun at 2:26 AM on September 6, 2008

Is this just a friend, or is this a 'friend' that you may be interested in, theoretically if not practically (given the distance?) I'm asking because the friends I have, the true friends, that are close enough that I'd spend thousands of dollars on their pet are also close enough to talk with and share money and not need to worry about (or ask strangers about) indebtedness and awkwardness.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:00 AM on September 6, 2008

More generally, I’d also Iike to hear from others about when you think it is appropriate to help friends out financially.

A gambling debt? Probably not appropriate.

Saving the life of a beloved pet and saving your best friend from devastation and heartbreak? Absolutely appropriate and in keeping with the definition of 'best friend'.

Do it if you think you can without causing yourself financial hardship. I don't think it will adversely affect your relationship and it actually may enhance it, as, psychologically, we have warmer feelings toward those we've done nice things for.

And, agreeing with most everyone else, you are a great friend and good person for wanting to do this.
posted by Jess the Mess at 9:39 AM on September 6, 2008

Prepare yourself for the realization that people can feel awkward hanging out with people they owe an uncomfortably large debt to. Even such a well intentioned gift. They might hope to pay off some before seeing you again but life gets in the way and avoiding you is easier than saving the money. This goes on too long and gets embarrassing for the lendee.

Few people would ever expect a friend to help pay for care for a pet (maybe for a child, if it was a desperate situation).

I don't know if contacting the vet would be such a good idea because he could easily just use the opportunity to soak the both of you with extra charges (tests, more tests, more x-rays, a few more overnight stays).
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:57 AM on September 6, 2008

I think much of it is up to you. If you give her 3K, just never ever mention it again, and I'm sure you'll both be fine on the awkwardness front. A gift is wonderful as long as you really don't expect anything in return, including over-the-top gratefulness. It's the idea that you need to reciprocate in some non-financial way that's the hardest. Just let it go and expect everything to go back to normal and it probably will. The reality is this: she might have less money than you, but it doesn't mean she works less hard, or deserves it less, right? You just happen to be lucky enough to be paid more, to be in a better situation financially, and you just want to share some of that luck.
posted by Hildegarde at 10:06 AM on September 6, 2008

Your words "may need surgery" makes me think you should just sit back and wait for that event to occur. I am sure your friend will confide in you about it if if comes to pass. Then, at that time, you can make your wish to help known to her. Don't get ahead of the curve. Wait.
posted by JayRwv at 10:25 AM on September 6, 2008

No, you should not help with any financial obligation for a pet that is not your own: not loan nor gift.

The burden is the pet owner's to bear and, given that this is a dog, you might delay the grief but you can not put it off forever (under the expected circumstances that your friend lives a good long life and the dog lives a, well, dog's life).

That you had to look at your "financial goals" "comfort level" with support to her in $ amount "x" suggests, to me, that you really can not afford the expenditure without thinking back to it. What happens 6 months later when said dog needs another major surgery or the dog dies? The friend will still need to grieve.

Helping friends and family financially can be fraught with difficulties. I and my wife have both had successes and failures in the are. With both loans and outright gifts. And even if you can afford the gift/loan, things still can go awry. You are right to be asking about it and proceeding cautiously is wise.

A little disclosure: someone in my family -- very attached to their pooch -- not only spent considerably money recently on cancer surgery for a rather old dog but then faced another major surgery within 6 months -- leaving the poor lass with only half of her jaw. Can they afford it? Yes. Are they now in a psychological trap with the "investment"? Maybe. Myself, I do not currently have a pet so can not say if I would spend $$$ on my own poor pooch.
posted by Dick Paris at 5:01 PM on September 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

My dog just needed surgery to remove potentially life-threatening tumors, to the tune of ~$3,000. I'm pretty responsible with my money (and I have pet insurance that covered a portion of that), but I work for a non-profit and have a lot of college loans to pay off. I was in a really tight bind because the pet insurance wouldn't pay out until a few weeks after the surgery, and the vet's office wouldn't just do it without having at least half of the money up front. If any one of my friends had been in a good financial position and offered to pay for it for me without causing any detriment to their own finances, I would have been overjoyed, grateful, relieved, ecstatic, and not nearly as despondent as I was for weeks and weeks. If I didn't have the pet insurance, that feeling of gratitude would have been even more magnified, because they would have saved me from having to take out a credit card with a high interest rate and scrimping and not leaving the house for months until I managed to pay it off. Not having the surgery was not an option.

I don't know you, or your friend, but the situation sounds potentially very similar. I can't think of any other situation where I would have accepted a gift like that from anyone.
posted by booknerd at 9:48 AM on September 8, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you again for your thoughtful advice. I hoped posting about this situation on Metafilter would help me think this through before my friend and I found out the full situation with her dog. Your comments have helped me prepare for the potential scenarios that could have evolved.

That said, I have sad news. The results of the tests today revealed that her dog has an aggressive form of cancer. The doctor doesn't recommend any treatment but pain management, and they suspect that the dog has about a month before the pain medication won't be sufficient.

I wish I could swoop in with money and fix it. Now I'm going to look for Metafilter posts about supporting grieving friends.
posted by akabobo at 7:05 PM on September 8, 2008

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