Amy Dunkin

Since 1993, the Family Medical and Leave Act has required employers to give workers time off to care for children, parents, or spouses who are sick. Unfortunately from my perspective, the law draws the line at pets.

When a four-legged member of your immediate family becomes seriously ill, it's heart-wrenching. And it provides plenty of occasions for distraction from your work.

With a sick animal, you have to find time for doctor's visits, follow-up phone calls with the vet, emails to your worried spouse, second opinions, and online medical research. Yet you have to sandwich this in between everything else that's ostensibly more important, namely your job and your human family. Which leads me to another worry: How much do you tell the kids about what's going on? (If this subject resonates with you, read Cathy Arnst's moving post, Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat.)

By now, you must have figured out I have a sick pet. Our sweet, loving, seeing-eye-dog reject, seven-year-old black lab, Maisy, has been diagnosed quite unexpectedly and shockingly with acute renal failure. Translation: Something--we still don't know what it is--has whacked her kidneys.

We first noticed something was awry a few days ago when our normally ravenous pet suddenly became an apathetic eater. The bizarre thing is that this potentially life threatening condition presented itself in a blood test during a workup for a seemingly unrelated problem: a suspicious lump underneath her left eye.

So we're now heading down that perilous path of determining what's wrong with Maisy and how much time she might realistically have left. Thusfar, we've spent about $500 out of pocket on vet bills--it's at times like these you wish you had purchased pet health insurance--and we have more to go. But we're also not of the mind to take extraordinary and costly measures if the prognosis is poor.

Right now, we're just keeping our fingers crossed that this lovely animal in the prime of her life still has a reasonable amount of life ahead of her.

So if I'm a bit distracted at the office, you know why. It's tough to go to work and take care of a sick child--even the four-legged kind.

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