Chichi is my 4-year-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi and she’s the first living thing I’ve had to take care of on my own. It may sound corny, but she’s really a part of the family.

I love all her little quirks: pushing my eye pads off my face if I’m sleeping too long, barking at me to play with her blue ball and, because she doesn’t have a tail, wiggling her entire lower body when she’s happy. I don’t have kids, so it’s her photos that I share with people when I’ve had one (maybe two) glasses of wine. Or when someone gives any indication they have a pet, too.

And like a child, looking after Chichi means taking care of her health.

I’ve put off getting pet insurance because it’s a rabbit hole that puts me and my anxiety in a chokehold. There are so many pet insurance options these days and often they don’t always make sense. How do I know if I’m making the right decision? How can I predict what care Chichi will need? I’m also scared of being scammed.

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I’m at an age where I’m finally realizing how important checkups and health insurance are for myself. Now, I am thinking about that for my pet, too. She’s very much my four-legged homegirl and I enjoy her company over most people’s. But I know she’s not getting any younger, and accidents and injuries happen. If she’s anything like her clumsy pet parents, preventive measures and safety nets are in order.

As if Chichi the corgi needs anymore praise and attention, her pet parents continue to buy corgi merchandise whenever they can.
As if Chichi the corgi needs anymore praise and attention, her pet parents continue to buy corgi merchandise whenever they can. (Jasmine Vaughn-Hall/The Baltimore Banner)

I’m sure the rainbow bridge — the place where pets are supposed to go after they die — is lovely and all, but I don’t want Chichi headed there anytime soon. I want to make sure Chichi has the protections my childhood dog JJ didn’t.

In my late teens, JJ, an older Terrier mix, had a condition that caused her bladder to swell to the point that she couldn’t relieve herself. This period of my life, in general, checked every box on the “crappy list.” I’ll spare the financially handicapped, broken-home soap opera and save it for a pitch for a Lifetime movie someday.

But I can say that JJ was in a lot of pain and we couldn’t find or afford to get her treatment. Ultimately, we made the tough decision to surrender her to a shelter, thinking she might be able to get help there. She was euthanized the next day.

This is called “economic euthanasia,” when a pet is euthanized rather than treated because the costs aren’t affordable for the pet’s family. I knew I never wanted to go through that again — a feeling I liken to a soccer cleat to the chest.

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So here I am on the hunt to insure the pup I have now. Like Chichi when there isn’t food in her bowl at 6 a.m., I went searching.

Julie Sanders, a doctor of veterinary medicine, said if you really want to be prepared for every emergency when it comes to your pet, you need a hefty savings or some sort of line of credit. Many pet insurance plans are a reimbursement model and often let you choose the percentage you get back on approved vet expenses. Some models offer to pay the vet directly as long as the care is covered under your plan. This can cut out the worry of having to pay upfront and then wait to get reimbursed. Either way, you’re likely going to have a monthly payment for the plan you choose. Oh, and just like human insurance, there are some policies that have a deductible before your plan kicks in.

Sanders, who is also the director of operations for Heart + Paw, said the best time to get insurance for your pet is when you first bring them home. Many policies do not cover preexisting conditions. In other words, “the sooner you enroll your pet the better, because then as little as possible will be excluded [from coverage],” Sanders said.

“Pet insurance doesn’t make the care free, but it makes treatment much more affordable,” Sanders added.

When looking for a pet insurance provider, Sanders said, you should be prepared to do your homework. At this point, I’m sure I’ve already earned extra credit and a few gold stars.

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She recommended using a comparison website or checking an outlet you trust for reviews of different policies. It might also be helpful to talk to your current vet if you’re having trouble deciding on a pet insurer. Don’t expect the vet to make the decision for you, Sanders said, but they can help you identify things to watch out for with your pet.

For example, if your breed of dog or cat is prone to certain diseases or conditions, they can tell you so you can make sure you have a plan that covers them. I admit that I didn’t know much about corgis when I got Chichi except that their butts are glorified all over social media (Chichi has an Instagram account) and Queen Elizabeth had a bunch of them.

I can’t say I completely understand the ins and outs of pet insurance, but I would rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Chichi deserves as much and so I think I’ve made my choice based on being able to add a wellness factor to the plan, which will help cover annual appointments and shots.

I guess I’ll find out if the grass is greener on the other side of having pet insurance, but no promises Chichi won’t pee on it first.

Pet insurance tips if you breezed past the sob story above:

Jasmine Vaughn-Hall is a neighborhood and community reporter at the Baltimore Banner, covering the people, challenges, and solutions within West Baltimore. Have a tip about something happening in your community? Taco recommendations? Call or text Jasmine at 443-608-8983. 

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