Have you ever had one of those days (or weeks, months, or years) as a pet owner that made you want to scream, "Enough already!"?

I recently met a new client whose story put even my "worst of times" to shame. We were discussing the impending euthanasia of her much beloved and very ill dog. She was upset, but no more so than you’d expect given the circumstances. She apologized several times for crying and I tried to reassure her that her reaction was normal and that apologies were not necessary. I suspect she has a somewhat self-possessed personality because her emotions were obviously making her uncomfortable. Eventually, she explained that she had lost three pets in the last two months.

I think I just stared at her for a few moments before I got choked up and stammered something like, "What a terrible time for you." I wish I could have found something more consequential to say, but the enormity of what she was going through overwhelmed me.

Having pets is hard work: emotionally, monetarily, intellectually, and sometimes physically as well. (Anybody out there dealing with a large dog with degenerative myelopathy — how’s your back holding up?)

Pets often need you most at the worst possible time and are experts at presenting problems without an obvious "right" answer. What would you do if Fifi didn’t finish her breakfast and seemed just a bit off on the morning you are due to leave on a big trip? Do you take her to the veterinarian’s office and risk missing your non-refundable flight, or leave with fingers crossed, hoping she’s just picked up on your impending departure and is upset. If it turns out to be something more, the pet sitter will surely be able to handle it, right? Right?

And the money! Many pet-related costs are predictable, but some are not. Insurance can help defray or at least spread out some of the expenses, but anyone who thinks that pet ownership is cheap is delusional. I just ordered $143 dollars worth of my dog’s prescription food — and that’s wholesale!

If pet ownership has its occasional "worst of times," it is certainly not without its "best of times," too. After I euthanized the dog that I was talking about at the beginning of this post, his owner said, "You know, as bad as these last few months have been, I wouldn’t have given up having these animals in my life even if it meant avoiding this pain. They brought me that much joy."

petMD is trying to get a feel for some of the many challenges that pet owners face today. If you get a chance, take the second annual pet parent survey and share what you know.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Mommy by Nora Kuby / via Flickr