Monday, March 7, 2011


A few weeks ago, 2 of our phone lines rang simultaneously. The receptionist answered one, and my technician grabbed the other. I was sitting between them, and it was like listening to a conversation in stereo.

My receptionist, "no, we don't take payment plans. That is our policy. You can try to apply for CareCredit. Yes, that does sound very serious, and it sounds like your pet is in critical condition..."

On the other side of me, my technician was having the almost exact same conversation, "no, ma'am, we did not arrange payments with your cousin on Monday. No, ma'am, we do not take payments. If you would like to, I can give you the number for CareCredit, so you can apply. Yes, it sounds like your pet needs medical care ASAP..."

Over the next several hours, these people called back multiple times. They were describing a laterally recumbent, vomiting, incredibly lethargic female dog. They insisted they had not a single cent to their names. Finally, I told my receptionist to relay to the owners that they could bring the dog in, if her condition was extremely critical, I would euthanize her without charging them. They had to understand that they would not see or talk to me, but I would examine their dog and make a decision.

A few hours later, FIVE adults showed up with a very, very sick female dog that had never been spayed. She could not stand, her temperature was 105+, and she was having excruciating abdominal pain. Her condition was extremely critical. I gave her a large dose of fentanyl IV for her pain, then told my technician to relay that I would euthanize the dog, as she was dying in front of me and would shortly die without intervention. I then stood around the corner from the front desk and heard this,

"Well, can't the doctor give her a shot to make her better?" (If only!)
"Can't you take a post-dated check? None of us get paid till Friday."
"Is she really that sick? Can she make it to go to our veterinarian in the morning?" (The dog had never had any vaccines, intact, was not on HW prevention, and they had listed no referring veterinarian on their intake form.)

Between five adults, not a single one had the $92 it would have taken to pay me to come in and talk to them about their dog's condition? I could have been kind and gone out there to talk to him, but listening to these FIVE -- FIVE!!! -- adults go on and on about their lack of money, I got madder and madder. All of them had cellphones, yet no one could come up with $92 to talk to me.

In this case, I truly believe it was a matter of priority versus reality. They didn't WANT to pay for my expertise. They wanted to bully the receptionist until she caved in and summoned me - that was obvious. In the end, they finally left. I euthanized the poor dog, bringing to a close another frustrating situation. At least I was able to relieve the poor patient's suffering, which is some small measure of victory.


Holly said...

it is incredible to me how so many in our society have this...fixitfornothing attitude.

Poor dog. Poor you. Poor receptionist.

ERDOC said...

Nothing makes me madder. I'm sorry that you had to deal with that -- at least the dog was able to pass peacefully.

My most recent similar situation involved an adult with a total of $4 who tried to turn our hospital into a pawn shop - attempting to sell me her belongings in her car, including a "silver collection." UGH.

Tammy said...

That is a horrible situation. I really do think it is a case of very misguided priority. I see this often lately with so many things... but no situation is sadder than when an animal suffers because the owner isn't willing to pay for medical care. I'm sorry that you have to deal with this!

sp said...

that really sucks. there are some people who truly have no money - even cell phones can be had at a great subsidy for low/no-income individuals, and that cost can then be covered by other types of assistance. but some people are really just unwilling to accept reality or responsibility. poor dog..

voguevet said...

Ugh, this makes me angry too. It's just like what Dr. Chris Bern mentioned on his blog the other day, in reference to a poll: owning a pet is a privilege, not a right. Some people are just incapable of fulfilling the responsibilities of pet ownership.

Brittney said...

You did a great thing for the animal. I'm glad your receiptionsit didn't let them bully her to the point of you coming out to speak with them.

As a vet student with my fare share of animals I don't have a lot money but I will go without things like Netflix, going to the movies, buying books, etc to make sure my animals get the care they need. I know some people on limitied incomes that have animals and choose to pay $150 for a cell phone, smoke, drink pop like it was the only source of liquid on Earth, have cable etc (my mother being one of them less the cell phone). I know when I am out of school I'm going to face people like this and I'm not sure how to handle it with tact. I have a hard enough time with my mother!

Anonymous said...

Love your blog, it's bookmarked as one of my favorites (I am a lurker, though, admittedly).

I was wondering if you'd be up for writing a blog post on how to choose your first job out of veterinary school. (What to look for, the questions to ask, usual benefits, contracts, etc). ?

Kate said...

As a new graduate this is still something that I'm learning to deal with. Its hard not to be a push-over when the poor dog suffers because people aren't responsible with their money. Last week I had a parvo puppy and the owners couldn't afford hospitalization so we did at home therapy. The next day we called to check on the dog and the owner told me that a different hospital cared more than I did and would do a payment plan for her. So frustrating!!

The Homeless Parrot said...

Brittney: I would just stay away from that discussion (with family members). I have some family members who frustrate me no end too. One of my uncles recently asked me how the best way to shoot a dog was (for euthanasia). Of all the questions he asks me, this is the one. Not what HW preventative would be appropriate, or what vaccines were appropriate...but how to shoot his dog to save him a $50.

The Homeless Parrot said...

Kate, do not let comments like that get to you. People always, always want to make things your problem and try to blame you for their poor planning and ruined credit. I had a woman once tell me that I should hurry up with my notes so I could get her out of the office and clear my guilty conscience. This was after she didn't have money to treat her blocked cat and yelled at me about free healthcare for pets.

I cysto'd the cat, dispensed Buprenex, and told her to see her rDVM in 7 hours when he opened.

When she said that, I looked at her and said, "ma'am, I treated your pet humanely within the constraints that you gave me. My conscience is perfectly clear." She shut up after that!