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Published January 14 2012

Swift: Aging pets still worth the fuss

I used to think the idea of “pet insurance” was crazy.

Surely, this was something reserved for DINKs (dual-income no kids) who dressed their Russian wolfhounds in Prada slippers and took their goldfish to see a pet psychic.

But in the last year, I’ve changed my tune a bit.

Especially after shelling out thousands of dollars in pet-care bills for two elderly pets.

Jake will turn 10 – that’s 70 for you and me – in a month. And I’m beginning to fear that he won’t be like the spry grandmother who does Jazzercise everyday as much as the gassy, old man who nods off in front of the television.

Our cat will soon turn 18, which is something like 178 in human years. Sebastian has never been friendly or sweet-natured – even by feline standards. When Irwin and I first started dating, he spent a great deal of time glowering at this new intruder from across the room. Then, without warning, he attacked Irwin, sinking his teeth into his hand until he drew blood.

This has pretty much set the tone for the rest of their relationship.

Little did we realize that young Sebastian was acting like Hannah Montana compared to his current attitude. He prowls around the house, emitting a low, irritated growl. He expects me to roll over in bed so he can jump up beside me. When I do, he bites me.

He can’t really groom himself properly, but resents anyone who tries to brush him. We have resorted to trying to cut mats off him when he sleeps.

As a senior citizen, he wants the whole family to get up at 6 a.m. so he can get fed. So he meows, pushes open doors and knocks knick-knacks off dressers to wake everyone.

He is the cat equivalent to the grumpy old man, complaining about the filth on TV and yelling at those wild neighbor kids to “Get off my lawn!”

It’s also been tough to see our beloved pets develop health problems. Jake gets up noticeably slower than he used to and sometimes limps. He occasionally nods off while sitting up. He’s also developed the mellow, slightly resigned expression of the dog who has seen everything.

In fact, he’s so obedient that we were surprised to come home from work one day to see his bowl was still filled with food. Irwin soon realized why: He had not given Jake the “OK” signal to go ahead and eat. So poor Jake sat there all day, staring at his kibble and drooling.

It has become expensive to run our Home for Aged and Infirmed Animals. Their medicine cabinet is larger than ours. We are forever administering ear drops, pain medications, balms, vitamin oils and unguents. We take more trips to the emergency room than an ambulance.

Yet, every once in a while, our pets will forget their age, just as humans do. Jake might see a rabbit dart across the lawn and chase it like he’s 2 again. Sebastian occasionally bats around foil balls and thunders around the house like a kitten.

We try to savor those little reprieves from Father Time. All we can do is hope that, with good care, the pets that stayed faithful to us will live and thrive for a few more years. They’ve brought us so much joy that we hope to help them live to a semi-comfortable old age.

And for that, I might even invest in Prada.