"Let it go to voicemail, the message will give them all the information they need to apply for financial aid for their pet.”
I repeat these words silently countless times each day, Yet, I pick up the phone, and most often I am sorry that I did. Yesterday was one of those days. Here's an example: A call came from California at 7:30 PM (4:30 PM CA time.) The story: two-year-old Shih Tzu was all matted in the rear end and could not have a bowel movement for several days. The dog was in pain and the owner had no money to go to the vet. I pointed out that this was totally avoidable, that it was neglectful or her part to not keep the dog properly groomed and that it was not the type of case PAi subsidizes. The woman said she was calling me for financial help, not a lecture, and hung up on me. She was right. Perhaps this was not the opportune time to educate someone. Five minutes later I called her back and said "I don't want your little dog to suffer, how much money do you have? And, do you have a vet?” Her response was "the last time this happened it cost $85. I have $40.” It’s a good thing she didn’t hear my self-talk: The dog is only two years old and this is the second time this has happened? This person should not own a high maintenance pet that needs grooming every six to eight weeks if she has limited money. I am not saying she should not have a pet but maybe a Chihuahua type dog or a goldfish. “Fine,” I said: "Get your dog to the vet and we will pay the other $45. Call me when you are there.”
A short while later the woman called me from the hospital to say they trimmed her dog’s back end and it was not as bad as she thought, but they might want to do x-rays. She also said the hospital was going to work out a payment plan with her. Great! I thought. Our $45 could be now be better used for another pet’s true medical emergency. I informed her that it was now going on 10 o'clock at night in Connecticut and I needed to go to sleep.
At 10:10 PM she called to say that she was ready to leave the hospital. The hospital was working out a payment plan but she needed to pay $50 now. “I thought you had $40 on you,” I queried. Response; “Oh, I couldn't get it from the person I thought would lend it to me.” “How much money do you have on you?” I asked. “Five dollars.” “OK then I will pay $45.” “Oh, but I need the five dollars.” I was getting really annoyed at this point and only wanted to go to sleep. So I said “OK I will pay the $50, but I want you to understand you must have this dog groomed or checked every 6 to 8 weeks.”
My first email in the morning was from the owner of Pudgie, the Shih Tzu. She thanked me for helping her out and wanted to know where she should sent the money to repay Pet Assistance Inc.