I have a job so I shouldn’t be complaining. But here comes another one of Dr. K’s “It’s the economy, Stupid!” rants, anyway...

This past week I performed one extensive feline dental (with extractions), undertook a canine spay (with multiple, retained puppy teeth extractions) and treated a dog with severe skin disease...among a multitude of other basic veterinary service offerings.

These three examples, however, were notable for their one similarity: I didn’t get paid. Not a dime. Nada. And I’m not likely to see any of it––ever. 

Only one of the three clients behind these wily financial escapades informed me of her difficult financial circumstances ahead of time. Still, I didn’t think the $67 bill for this new client’s itchy dog (which I hustled to keep at a seriously bare minimum) would go unpaid as a result of her sad story. Instead, I received a promissory note to pay in three installments. (Three!) Not even a five-dollar bill in her possession as an act of good faith.

Then there were the other two. They received estimates in advance. They received phone calls during the procedure to obtain approvals for estimate adjustments based on the new circumstances. And in both cases they OK’ed the dental extractions. (So you know, it’s hard to know you need to perform extractions until you get a pet under and perform a thorough oral exam, ideally with X-rays). 

Yet both parents arrived to take home their babes having conveniently forgotten their wallets. What are you going to do? Take back the E-collar and the pain meds until they pay? Hold the pets for ransom? 

Last week's parvo pup nonpayment at least came through with half. But these others? I'm pretty sure they're gone for good. And some might say...good riddance.

This is happening more and more often to us. Twelve months ago it might have raised eyebrows to hear someone confess to having left a checkbook home, but we would have let it slide with the aplomb of those who know it’s a rare occurrence...and know they’ll see these clients again. 

Lately, however, there’s a new game afoot. We’ve been getting at least one  unpaid-for, never-see-‘em-again bills a week––and, by this, I mean they’re not from our tried-and-true regulars. 

That’s why my policy is changing. Forgive me for asking for your dollars up front, but when I don’t know you well and I’ve just worked for an hour on your pet and spent untold dollars on X-rays and surgical packs and staff, what’s my alternative? Risk the wallet trick? 

You may think me callous. If you were to be arrive at my hospital not knowing my predicament you might even think me a money-grubbing, veterinary Machiavelli.

But I’m not. Not at all. Tell me you can’t pay today and I swear I’ll help. I’ll find freebies to treat fleas and other parasites. I’ll swing a shot. I’ll cough up some antibiotics. I’ll do what  can. But don’t make me feel like a chump. 

The best thing you can do in this economy is to ask for a willing hand. The worst thing you can do is bite it.