Photos by Harriet L. Kaufman

Louiebw.jpgPhotos by Harriet L. Kaufman

I first bought pet insurance about 15 years ago, after my dog, Isabel, tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) while playing catch-me-if-you-can in a race around the living room. At the time, the knee surgery put me back $1,700 and cost her five weeks for recovery.

The surgeon said dogs that tear one ACL usually tear the other within a year or so. Be prepared, he warned. So I insured her with one of the only companies around at the time. The monthly premium was about $25.

Isabel never tore the other knee and remained fairly healthy until her death at almost 15.

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But my other dogs were not so lucky.

Abby1thisone.jpgSix-year-old Abby, right, died after an eight-month roller-coaster ride with an unexpected illness that left me emotionally and financially spent — I could have bought a new car for the amount I shelled out. Her insurance covered about a fourth of the bills, but its payout exceeded the premiums paid since she was 5 months old.

Fourteen-year-old King Louie, pictured top, died of cancer earlier this year. He had a separate cancer rider on his policy, but it still only covered a small fraction of what was spent on his care, especially his pricey radiation treatments.

The policies’ benefits schedule — the amount the insurer agreed to cover for each ailment or procedure — didn’t come close to covering the actual veterinary charges. In both cases, the reimbursements felt inadequate.

And I’m not alone.