As we’ve often discussed on Dolittler, not every person has the means to pay for even the most basic pet care. We can vilify them all we want for their irresponsibility but it ain’t gonna make a difference once their Fido or Fluffy’s arrives at the hospital on death’s doorstep.

Such was the case with today’s critical case. A dying, four year-old female Min Pin. Her brother had succumbed two days ago, at which point she started showing symptoms, too: Vomiting, bloody stools and extreme lethargy. Probably Parvo.

But her parents had no money to pay. And I believe them. The guy washes the cars across the street. His wife cleans houses when she’s not taking care of her kids’ kids. These recent immigrants would be hard pressed to pay their rent this month, much less spend even $100 on this dog’s survival.

So we struck a bargain: five details on our cars over the next month, starting Friday. If she needs blood products, it’ll be two more. Deal.

Once the diagnosis was confirmed by a handy Snap test on her stool (Parvo, indeed), the rest was pretty straightforward: bloodwork, fluids, sugar, antibiotics, and anti-nausea drugs. If we need protein in the form of blood products (plasma) we’ll be doing that, too.

We’re happy with this deal. We may be losing out, cash-wise, but it beats euthanizing another young dog (I’ve had too much of that lately). Moreover this will set up a handy system for keeping our cars clean in the future (when we institute a wellness program should this dog survive) while making way for one hard worker to secure five new clients if he keeps his word and does good details.

Poor people will always have pets. It does no good to wring our hands from our suburban perches and ivory tower heights. Far better to solve the problem by teaching a man to fish, as it were. Easier said than done, though. It’s not every client who has the presence of mind to offer his or her services. And it’s quite possible he might renege on the deal once the dog’s off the premises, whatever the outcome. (So much for up front payments.)

Add to that one extra level of complexity—the IRS—and it’s no wonder more vet hospitals don’t engage in this kind of creative accounting. That’s because bartering income is still income. And though we may take a loss on this case, the income still needs to be declared. Lop off another corporate tax rate hit on five $60 details and our return is frustratingly puny.

But it’s for the best. It’s way better than giving something away when what you’d rather do is impart some sense of what healthcare for pets is worth in this country (and I’m sorry if that sounds patronizing, but it’s how I feel).

With any luck, this dog will be on the mend by tomorrow (she’s old enough to respond well, I think) and back in fighting shape by week’s end—just in time for my well-earned detail!