Interview: A lesson on why pet insurance can be so valuable

This interview was with Forrest Rambo, Auburn Washington (Military Retiree) in August, 2021.

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself, what’s your name and history of pet ownership?

In the mid 1990’s I was spending long hours managing a resort marina and as Mayor of the small Western Washington town it was located in. My wife and I lived aboard our boat. We decided it would be good for her to have a dog for enjoyable walks of local beaches and forests while I was tethered to my desk at work or city hall.  We decided on a Pembroke Welsh Corgi and found a nearby breeder with some very handsome representatives of the breed. We named him “Bosun” after the enlisted rating on a ship responsible for all manner of things on a ship’s deck.

Everything was wonderful until at age nine months he nearly died and was diagnosed with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI), meaning his pancreas wasn’t producing and secreting the enzymes needed to absorb his food. So, he was literally starving to death. He went on expensive medications and food additives to enable his body to adjust to this insufficiency and he quickly recovered.  But the medications and special diet would be required for the remainder of his life.

We looked into getting pet insurance for Bosun but in those days any pre-existing conditions were not covered and the monthly premiums for other coverage seemed expensive. So, weighing the costs of his meds, etc,. we decided not to get pet insurance. Big mistake.

For the next nine years he was doing well. But, when he was 10 he was diagnosed with Degenerative Myelopathy (DM), a progressive and fatal disorder that affects the spinal cord by interrupting messages from the brain.  It manifests most often as scuffing of the hind legs and progresses to being unable to use the legs for walking or support. It is a disorder common in long-bodied dogs such as Corgis and Dachshunds. Why you often see them in two-wheeled carts.

Today, I would have decided to get pet insurance right after his bout with EPI. Because it wasn’t the EPI or even the DM that killed Bosun.  At age 11, just before he was to be fitted for a two-wheeled cart for his DM, he had a massive seizure we thought was caused by poisoning. Xrays showed the actual cause was an almond-sized tumor that was fast growing and not treatable except by expensive surgery.  Even with a 20% chance of the tumor returning, we didn’t think twice about opting for the surgery. It ended up costing a bit more than $15,000 and wiped out our life’s savings.  While the surgery did give Bosun another seven months of an exciting and amazing life, the tumor returned.  A second surgery was not an option for this 12-year-old, which is the average life expectancy for a Corgi.  So, we compassionately ended his life.  It was the most  heartbreaking event of our lives.              

2. What type of breed of dog do you  have and why do you like them?

We now have two Pembroke Welsh Corgi’s.  They are small dogs with a “big dog” attitude and were originally bred to herd livestock. Of course, that was before they became the favorites of Queen Elizabeth.  We train and trial them in a sport called Nose Work and have been doing so for nearly ten years.  Our eight year old female just earned her championship and our 10 year old male is just one trial and few points away from doing the same.  

3. Do you have pet insurance?  If not, why not?

As you can imagine, we are firm believers in pet insurance and have had it on both dogs since they adopted us…I mean we adopted them…right?  Anyway, we wouldn’t be without pet insurance.

4. What happened when your Corgi got sick?

(See 1 above)

5. Do you regret not getting dog insurance and will you get it going forward?

Not having insurance on Bosun was a big regret. Dealing with the costs of EPI, DM and brain surgery was not only expensive, it put restrictions on parts of our lives dealing with travel and home.  In fact, we put our boat up for sale and boat a home so Bosun would have an easier life as he aged.  He never got to live in that house. While his care would have been the same, the cost to us would have been a fraction of what it was.

6. What are the ramifications now that you deal with due to the bills you had to pay out of pocket for your dog’s treatment?

We were fortunate to have been able to pay for Bosun’s EPI and DM costs as they arose. We were especially lucky to have had enough life savings to pay for Bosun’s surgery out of pocket.

To have let him die because we didn’t want to spend the money on our beloved family member was/is too coldhearted to even contemplate. We would do it again in a heartbeat.

7. Now that you have dog insurance for you two Corgi’s, how often do you get to make claims?

Our current dogs, Pirate and Gemma, are DM clear and have had relatively minor health problems.  One exception has been their dental work.  In the past few years we have taken them for routine check-ups and cleanings which run several hundreds of dollars each because the dogs must receive general anesthesia. The check-ups have found problems that resulted in the need for two crowns for Gemma (almost $4,000) and extractions for Pirate (about $5,200). Insurance covered about 80% of Gemma’s crowns but because the underlying cause of Pirate’s extractions were not from an accident we had to pay 80% of the cost.   

8. Anything else you’d like to share for people on the fence about pet insurance? 

Don’t let the exclusion for pre-existing conditions keep you from getting broad coverage. It wasn’t EPI that killed Bosun it was something totally unexpected. So, “Expect the unexpected.” And get pet insurance for your beloved family members!

See our top pet insurance recommendations HERE →

pembroke welsh corgi