When I was a younger a bit; I recall reading a series of books by an English veterinarian who lived and worked in the Yorkshire Dales of Northern England. His pen name was James Herriot and he told of the many strange people, animals and situations he had encountered over his many years of caring for sick animals of pretty much all kinds. Although I can’t say he never embellished anything to make a better read; I also have no evidence that he did so. The point I want to make is that if you read these books beginning with “All Creatures Great and Small” you will be amazed; ne’ astounded to find that these Vets never refused to treat a sick animal whether the patient could pay or not. 3am the phone rings. Mrs Granger’s dog, Sparky is “‘womiting and sort of chewing ‘is leg off” “But I’ve not a Tuppence to me name Mr. ‘erriot”.
“No trouble Mrs. Granger, you can pay me when you do have a bit to spare. or better yet; why don’t you just bake one of your delicious “Pig’s Ass Pies” for me and we’ll call it paid eh?”
Sounds nice doesn’t it? And I suspect that it is a pretty accurate picture of how things were in that part of England in say; 1939-50. But as you may have guessed; as there was nothing in that story to make me angry; I have another story to tell and it isn’t going to end with anything like the mood of warmth and care that this one did. So; you know the drill. Hit the bloody button and “Read on; Mac Duff”………………
……………………..My second story takes place in 2012; in the USA and it begins with my wife. A kind and generous person who has stuck with me through all the good and bad times; through illness and depression and all that comes with it. I am willing to admit; in my more contemplative moments; that she is a far better person than I and I’ll gladly admit anytime that she is the love of my life and it eats me up inside to see her in pain.
She and I and our two daughters share and split the rent on a four bedroom apartment along with our two dogs and several cats. Our small black dog, Buddy is about 12 years old and my wife and I worry about him. The other night at about 3am, Buddy was laying on the floor of the living room when my wife; who was up late reading as is her habit; noticed he was panting heavily. She called him and when he tried to rise; he was only able to do so with some difficulty and when he did; his legs splayed out like a newborn colt. His tounge was hanging out of his mouth and when he tried to walk he stumbled and fell. We live on a fixed income and have little to spare after the bills are paid. We don’t have a regular Veterinarian for our dogs. When she discovered her long-time friend and companion sick and unable to move; looking so helpless and confused; my wife immediately began to look for a vet who was open all night.
Frantic with worry and knowing she had no money she called the first Emergency Veterinarian whose number she found and explained that her baby was sick and about the symptoms. She explained that she had no money now but would be happy to pay as soon as our next check.
The woman at the clinic explained that there would be an $80.00 charge. My wife said that perhaps she could borrow the $80 from her mother and the woman proceeded to tell her that she was going need a lot more than that if she expected them to treat the dog. The $80 only paid for them to look at him.
In the end; “Buddy survived and made a seemingly miraculous recovery with little ill effect but it didn’t have to end that way and when my wife was making her tearful call for help I will tell you that the outcome was far from certain. This poor dog looked like he was falling apart at the seams. Frightened and confused; he staggered and stumbled when he attempted to move. Thirty minutes or so later he was walking around almost as if nothing had happened. But the woman at the Veterinary Clinic didn’t know that would be the result. This poor little dog could have laid there suffering for hours or days because we didn’t have $80 plus, lying around with nothing to do at 3am.
Now I realize this isn’t 1940 and I know many people will promise to pay when their pet is ill and then put it off when the emergency is over; especially if the animal dies. I know this and yet I still don’t get it.
I guess if I was a Veterinarian; I would probably go broke because there is no way I could have taken that call the other morning and not told the caller to bring her dog in to be treated; money or no. It seems a sad thing to me that a person goes through all the years of school it takes to become a Vet and then feels compelled to treat people and animals in this way.
When I was young; I admired veterinarians for their love of animals and I assumed their willingness to sacrifice their time and knowledge to relieve the pain and misery of the animals in their care. I know now and have for a long time that I was wrong. As far as I can see; most Veterinarians care little for the animals. They see their profession as just another job to be done for the money they can amass from it. They are willing to stand by mute and watch the suffering of small animals and their helpless and frightened owners unless they are well paid to pretend to care. I suppose most people would call me naïve or idealistic and I suppose they might be right on the second count. I am a bit idealistic and I sure wish there were a few more Veterinarians around who were idealistic; and caring and; human.