In 2009, when the Becker’s 4-year-old cat, Lewis, was attacked leaving him with a broken jaw, the entire family faced a very difficult decision; find a way to fund a $5,000 bill in the midst of the greatest financial difficulty of their lives and with no guarantees, or put him to sleep. The commitment and determination of their 12-year-old led the way to the seemingly irrational decision to go ahead with surgery. But Lewis wasn’t just a cat, he was the connection to a life ended prematurely from cancer.
If you’re an animal lover then you’ll probably agree that our pets are also members of the family. And when faced with the most difficult decisions of pet ownership, it’s never easy to know what to do when every option is difficult. Especially when your financial situation is in turmoil.
In this episode, Arwen shares some heartbreaking events about the lives of her family pets during some of the most stressful moments of her life. You’ll see how her family, including her children, helped Arwen and her husband to make the best decision for their family.
Overcomer Playlist Recommendation
Pearls of Wisdom
- Let your children be involved in major decisions, especially the decisions that will have an impact on them.
- Don’t be afraid to make choices that some people wouldn’t agree with.
- Be careful of the assumptions that you make when you only see one frame or scene of the movie, and not the entire feature. See the full picture.
Tweetables“Ultimately, you're responsible for yourself and the decisions that you make and whether they end up being right or maybe they turn into a teaching moment.” - @LIFEwithArwen Click To Tweet “Spend a little bit more time listening and you just might hear pieces of the backstory that make the irrational seem more rational” - @LIFEwithArwen Click To Tweet “The truth is, if you don't know how much you're spending, you're very likely spending more than you think.” - @LIFEwithArwen Click To Tweet “Take care of the little things that God has given to you, then he'll bring you the big things that you desire.” - @LIFEwithArwen Click To Tweet
- She Handled It, So Can You!: An Inspiring and Empowering Financial Guide for Women
- When Elephants Weep
Rate & Review
If you enjoyed today’s episode of She Handled It, hit the subscribe button in Apple Podcasts, (or wherever you listen) so future episodes are automatically downloaded directly to your device.
You can also help by providing an honest rating & review over on Apple Podcasts. Reviews go a long way in helping us build awareness so that we can impact even more people. THANK YOU!
Connect with Arwen Becker
When she said that, I swear every word that she kept going with the feline craniomaxillofacial, it was like cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching in my head. “Or option two, we can put him to sleep”.
Arwen Becker: I think we've all been guilty judging a book by its cover. I think that's part of the human nature that we have. As we look at this minor frame, the circumstance in somebody's life, it's just a small part of this grand scheme of a movie that we personally haven't lived out and yet, we have passed judgment on how we think it should be handled.
I went to work for Randy, I was 24 years old, I had just gotten divorced and so, I needed to get a job. And I hadn't been out of my parents’ house for, gosh, more than three years because my marriage didn't last for very long. And so, my parents still had three dogs that I grew up with, junior high, high school, and into my college days.
So, I woke up on the morning of March 25, 2000 to a phone call from my mom. And it was 6:30 in the morning and she was very unusually frantic, my mom just does not get frantic. And what had happened is somehow the gate of our backyard had been left open and all three of our dogs had gotten out. And so, from the time in which my mom realized that they were missing, from the time that she had let them into the backyard to use the bathroom was about an hour and a half or so. And so, I hung up the phone, continued to get ready for work.
And at that time, I was too broke to pay to have any sort of network or cable TV or anything like that, but one of the things I always did was listen to the radio. And so, I was listening to the radio that morning as I was getting ready and I was applying my eye makeup in the mirror of the bathroom and I heard the traffic announcer come on. Why would I even be paying attention to the traffic announcer? I have no idea because I only worked two blocks away from my apartment building.
But she came on to deliver the traffic report. “Well, sadly, if you're traveling on Northbound 405 in Kirkland as you approach the 160th off-ramp, there has been a tragic pet accident which has led to a significant backup. Animal Control is on the scene”. Those were her words. That area of the freeway was more than 2 miles away from my parents’ home through just a huge array of twists and turns of all neighborhoods. It was not rural, this is suburban life. And I just couldn't imagine that that could have anything to do with my parents’ dogs and my dogs, frankly.
But 15 minutes after I arrived at the office, I received the phone call. And my mom said that Department of Transportation and Animal Control had confirmed that all three of our dogs had been hit by cars on the freeway that day, and only one of them, our German Shepherd, had survived. And the response that I got from my “new boss,” also known as my now current husband, it was really admirable, “Hey, Arwen, I totally understand if you need to take the day off and go be with your family. I totally support you in that.” And then, he sent me home.
And yet, my business coach that I had through Amway, which I was still working with at the time, was absolutely shocked, he couldn't believe it. He just was spewing all of these mean things, “I just can't believe your boss would do that. That is the most ridiculous reason to let somebody go home. You just started working for him like a week ago. That's just utterly ridiculous.”
And from his point of view, pets were unimportant. He didn't grow up understanding that bond that so many people have with their pets and he really felt that an employer should never have given me the time off, but Randy did. He thought that it was really important for us to be together as a family. My sister came over to my parents’ house and the four of us spent time together because this was a very significant and very tragic loss for our family.
And even though Randy didn't really know me, I mean, not for a very long period of time or really even my background relationship with my parents and animals or anything like that, he had empathy. He was able to put himself in my situation and have compassion. And the reaction that I got from my Amway coach was the beginning of the end of our relationship because I didn't want to be in business with somebody who is that hard-hearted, who is selfish and truly lacked those characteristics and qualities that I wanted to grow in myself and in my own life. Right?
But Randy, that was one of the things that drew me into him. And I think about that moment of him sending me home on my sixth day of work, it seemed pretty irrational, but in that moment, to him and to me, it was quite rational. And many years later, I would experience another situation that would really reiterate this message.
There's an artist that I have a lot of songs on my overcomer playlist by the name of Danny Gokey, G-O-K-E-Y, and he was a contestant on American Idol years back, but he writes tremendous lyrics. And really, so many of them have been so instrumental to my overcoming at very dark moments in my life. And his story is actually, it's a very deep story of him being married young and losing his wife within the first couple years of marriage. So very, very significant.
But there is a song that he wrote called, It's Not Over. And some of the lyrics say, as I stand and face the day, I rise and ride the wave. Half the battle’s been won because I believe it can be done. I might fall down, but I get back up. I'm going to pull my weight and I'm going to push my luck. I'm going to stand and fight and give it all I can. This is not the end. It's not over till it's over. Be encouraged by that. You're still breathing, you're still moving, it's not over. Let's keep pushing forward.
My oldest son, Morgan, just came running into my room. He was 12 at the time, “Oh my gosh, something's wrong with Lewis, something's wrong with Lewis.” And so I ran upstairs and I found our cat totally lethargic, matted with blood and pus around his eyes and his ears, and his mouth gaping wide open. “How could I miss this? Oh, my, I don’t know why does he smell so bad? When did this even happen?”
And I ran downstairs to the laundry room, where his automatic feeder and his automatic cat box were and they were seemingly untouched for days. I immediately packed him up in a carrier and I headed off to the veterinarian's office for some x-rays and to figure out what the heck was wrong with him. So, the initial exam from the veterinarian, she was just like, “Goodness gracious, I mean, he's been injured for days, could be even more than seven days.”
And after the examination, it appeared that he had his head bit by a dog, puncturing some holes into his head and dislocating his jaw, that's what she thought. The smell of infection, if you've ever smelled it, was absolutely awful. And I just had so much guilt because I just didn't notice. And even though she thought it didn't look too terribly bad, she said, “We'll put some drains into his head that'll help remove some of the infection and then, we'll just get his jaw back in place.”
So, I left him at the vet, headed home, and then I got the call that night. “Hi, Arwen. I just want to let you know that Lewis’ jaw is broken, it's a lot more significant than I thought. Right now, he's resting comfortably, he's on pain meds, but you're going to need to decide what you're going to do within the next hour. So, really, you're facing two options.
So one, you can come and pick him up and take him to an overnight emergency vet which is about 10 miles north and they'll be able to tend to him throughout the night, give him fluids, and keep him stable. And then, take him to the feline craniomaxillofacial specialist in downtown Seattle, where they'll give you some options about fixing his jaw.” When she said that, I swear every word that she kept going with the feline craniomaxillofacial, it was like cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching in my head. “Or option two, we can put him to sleep”. And I just stood trying my best to process this information knowing that I have to walk back to the table and tell my 12-year-old and my 4-year-old and my 2-year-old.
And I knew without her even mentioning it that the likelihood of that surgery costing north of 4 or 5 thousand dollars was extraordinarily high. It was the end of 2009. This was following six months of the devastating Great Recession, financial recession, which reduced our company's revenue by 66% and put us into a massive financial tailspin. That Christmas, Randy and I didn't even give each other a single Christmas gift. And we were borrowing money from our 12-year-old for gas. We were financially devastated.
So, I walked back over to the table, did my best to gently deliver the news. And before I could even ask Randy what he thought about it, Morgan jumped right in. “Please, please, please, I'll do anything to save his life. I have $600 in savings, you can have it. I'll make all my lunches for school for as many weeks as you need to, to put that $20 towards it. I'll do anything.”
And from the outside looking in, the decision for most people would be to euthanize Lewis. We call him Lewey. But that wasn't the whole story, that was only a frame of the bigger movie. Morgan's mom had passed away from a battle with cancer just six months before. Lewis was Morgan’s and his mom's cat. The morning after she passed away, Morgan said very clearly, to his dad and me, “There's one thing I want for my mom's house and that's Lewis.”
That cat represented everything to him. It was the connection of life that he had with his mom. And we were not going to take that away from him. But now we were facing a moment where we had less than zero. We still had to pay for mortgage and our car payments and all the things that we needed at the office and employees. And now, we were facing this $5,000 bill with no guarantees.
But at that moment, the completely irrational seemed totally rational. So, that night, I grabbed him from our vet, drove him to this emergency clinic, where they stabilized and kept watch on him. And then, I picked him up at 10am the next morning with my 2- and my 4-year old in tow, driving 45 minutes north to grab him, then putting a yowling and very unhappy cat into the car in his carrier in the backseat, drove another 35 minutes to this craniomaxillofacial cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching specialist in Seattle.
And so, I arrived and of course, any of you who have dealt with this, I've got a cat carrier, I've got a 2-year-old, I've got a 4-year-old, I'm trying to get them all out of the car. It's the middle of the day, of course, it should be nap time. Cat’s miserable, everybody else is miserable. And I schlepped all these kids and cat into the vet office, where I'm greeted by this little bubbly receptionist, “Oh, hi, how can I help you?” “Well, I'm here to meet with the vet about Lewis.” “Oh, well, he's not going to be back for an hour and a half, so you're welcome to come back then.” “What? No, no, I had an appointment to meet with him.” “Oh, I'm sorry. Well, he's not going to be back for an hour and a half, so you're going to have to come back and meet him then.”
Mind you, this vet clinic was nearly 50 minutes away from our house and in the fifth worst city of traffic in the nation. I didn't have anywhere to go. I had the unhappy cat, she wouldn't even let me leave him. And then, I had the toddler and the 4-year-old that needed to have nap time. And so, as much as I begged her, she wasn't going to let me stay there. And so, I brought them all back in the car and strapped them all back in and I just sat there and I wailed.
And I just remember Ashton, wide eyed from the backseat going, “Mommy, are you okay?” But I just didn't know how to handle it, I was so overwhelmed because it wasn't just the moment of the logistics, it was that I didn't know how we were supposed to pay for it. I have an 817 credit score now, but at the time, most of my credit card accounts had been closed by the creditor and I was hovering around a 508 credit score. We were in the middle of financial devastation yet for some reason, both Randy and I were trusting God that he would somehow provide and believe that we were somehow making the right decision. On the surface, it seemed extraordinarily irrational and quite honestly stupid.
So, I found the closest restaurant which happened to be a KFC, did my best to entertain the toddler, and enjoy a little greasy fried chicken, which actually I probably did enjoy, it probably made me feel a little bit better. And then, we headed back to the vet. And so, after the doctor had a chance to examine Lewis, do the X-rays, he delivered the good news, “I think I'll be able to fix it.” But that entailed wiring his jaw wide open, putting a feeding tube directly into his esophagus and praying that this absolutely thin, thin tiny bone would heal.
So, the following day, I get the call. He did well in surgery, everything was fine, everything was in place for healing. I needed to come back and pick him up in his little cone of shame. And so, it took only about an hour or so, once we got home to realize we were in for a real treat because when a cat has their jaw wired open, they constantly drool like a St. Bernard. And cats are meticulous about staying clean. So, he would use his front paws to try and wipe the drool off. And then, he would use that, he would wipe his front paws on his back legs to try and get the drool off because he couldn't clean himself.
And so, what would happen is it started to mat down all the fur on his front legs and then his back legs and then his tail, and his head was already shaved and everything, so he looked like this Frankenstein cat because we had to keep taking him to the vet in order to have them keep shaving patches of hair off of him. It was awful. And then, he had these drain tubes coming out of his head, he had this tube coming out of his neck, where we had to inject this absolutely stinky, awful liquid slurry directly into his throat, it was a mess.
Morgan was amazing. Here you have a 12-year-old kid who took full responsibility. He did all of Lewey’s feedings during that time, would make up the food, would inject it into his feeding tube and then, as he said, made his school lunches every day to save the $20 that we were giving him at the time. He did that every day for seven weeks. And then, the moment of truth came, did it work? So, I took them back to the vet, they took the apparatus off, new x-rays were run. And it worked. He not only had survived, but Lewis was actually better than new.
And Lewis was 4 at the time. And now, he's the oldest cat that I've ever had in my entire life, he's pushing 16 and healthy, healthy cat. And the things that I learned throughout that experience is one, be willing to let your children be involved in major decisions. They might not have the final say, but when I was in sixth grade, my best friend in the entire world, Scruffy, got hit by a car in front of my eyes and he survived the initial hit, broke his back, it was an absolute mess. And my mom gave me the choice as to whether or not they would put him through the hours of surgery, cost my parents thousands of dollars to fix him with no guarantee.
Scruffy slept with me every night. He followed me everywhere I went, he was my everything at that age. But the decision that I made that day was to release my best friend from the pain and my parents from the pressure of that financial decision and what that would have done to them. I know to this day, it was the right decision, although it was probably the hardest decision I can remember making in my life because he was everything to me.
And Morgan's willingness to fight and give up nearly $800 to save his cat, he put us in a position where we were willing to sacrifice, too. That's a decision I have never regretted and giving up that money, no way, not at all. Number two, you need to be willing to make decisions not everybody's going to agree with. Randy's decision to let me go home that day when all of our dogs were hit on the freeway is not something that everyone agreed with. And our family decision to pay north of $5,000 that we didn't have, to fix our cat, was a decision a lot of people were appalled that we would make, on the surface, but it's not their life and ultimately, you're responsible for yourself and the decisions that you make and whether they end up being right or maybe they turn into a teaching moment.
And then, finally, be careful of the assumptions that you make when you only see one frame or scene of the movie, and not the entire feature. Try to spend a little bit more time listening and you just might hear pieces of the backstory that make the irrational seem more rational. Piece of financial wisdom, you need to track your spending. There are so many great pieces of software out there that can really help you understand the basics of where your money goes, your cash flow.
I hate the word budget, that's not what I'm talking about. Budget is like diet, but your cash flow, where does your money go? You need to know. And you might be shocked to know that the vast majority of people we sit down with when we work through retirement plans have no idea how much they spend every month. They kind of start to tally it up, they give you a number in their head, and then when they actually do the work and they go line item by line item, a lot of times people, these are people on fixed income, they're no longer even working, but they're off by $1,000 a month. That's a lot of money.
Randy and I have used Quicken for ourselves for nearly two decades to track our personal expenses, but anything is better than nothing. Quicken doesn't pay me to say that, that's just who we've utilized. Even banks, I know a lot of banks, probably the vast majority of them now have a way in which you can properly categorize your purchases and that is a great place to start.
And a book that I would recommend is When Elephants Weep. The author escapes me at this point, but we'll have it in the show notes. Such a great book. Having studied zoology and one of my most favorite classes that I got to take was animal behavior, this book speaks to a very high level of communication and this deep emotional bond of elephants in the wild. I think it'll make you smile, I think it'll make you cry. And it really, truly makes you appreciate the creation that we have here on earth to enjoy.
And a quote, this is a scripture. “Those who are faithful with little will be trusted with much”. Take care of the little things that God has given to you, then he'll bring you the big things that you desire.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
To get access to more amazing interviews, CLICK HERE!