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“You can judge a man’s true character by the way he treats his fellow animals.” This quote by Paul McCartney comes to mind as I look at my two Burmese cats, which came from two different breeders 10 years ago.

Seamus – average build, timid and lovable – enjoys excellent health and protests only his yearly visit to the veterinarian. His buddy Harley isn’t as fortunate. When he arrived as a kitten, we admired his sweet disposition, chunky body and huge paws. His silky, reddish-brown sable coat made him the big shot of the house and a hit with guests. I nicknamed him the Big Boy for his robust appearance. Yet health issues lurked underneath.

Shortly after his arrival, he had a breakout of measles-like dots covering his face. After several hundred dollars in blood work and tests, I became familiar with the steroid prednisolone, to treat occasional allergy flare-ups. Their origin was never determined. The steroids worked, but for three weeks I had an invincible Sylvester Stallone (from the movie “Rocky”) with a bad case of measles running through my house chasing little Seamus.

Since then, I’ve lost track of the number of allergy attacks the Big Boy has had and how much I’ve spent on him. If a poster existed for a lemon law with cats, his picture would be on it.

In 2012, I noticed him constantly squinting. Thankfully, he didn’t need glasses, however, he became lethargic and was suffering from a corneal ulceration, a painful eye issue that eventually destroys the cornea if left untreated. My veterinarian immediately referred him to a specialist, a veterinary ophthalmologist. She told me he needed two oral medications plus four different eye drops, each one to be given three to six times a day in 15-minute intervals, so one dose wouldn’t interfere with the previous. As I left with the Big Boy, my head spun as the doctor handed me a chart to record more than 20 doses daily.

I felt like Clara Barton. The Big Boy got wise to the 15-minute timer and headed to my son’s bedroom when it went off. I now felt like Nurse Ratched. Unfortunately, the eye didn’t improve and he needed corneal surgery. I reflected back when I brought him home as a healthy kitten. I never dreamed of the pain and discomfort he’d suffer. My heart ached for him. No one was in his corner to be his advocate. The alternative was unthinkable.

So I gambled on the surgery. My emergency fund took a $1,600 hit, yet I learned years ago to include pet care in my monthly budget for rainy days like this. In January the problem recurred a second time on a different location of his cornea. I knew the cost, the outcome and the work needed to correct it. The Big Boy rebounded a second time.

I heard that Americans will spend $60 billion on their pets this year. I also heard that the ancient Egyptians worshipped cats. I don’t worship the Big Boy, but he holds some God-like qualities. He loves us unconditionally and always awaits our return at the day’s end. There’s no price to put on that. There never is, for these little people with fur coats.

I smile as he saunters toward his favorite sunny spot in the foyer. Seamus and our two dachshunds glance uneasily at him. No one challenges Rocky in the arena. Meanwhile, I’ll plan my budget and set aside bucks for the Big Boy. He’s loved and he knows it.