Lacey heard the tell-tale chirp from her cell phone. She looked down from the dashboard and grabbed the silver device stuffed
between an empty soda can and the cupholder in the middle console of the clinic's new van. She popped open the screen. It
read, "get candy at WM."
The text was from Sandi.
She looked up in time to see brake lights approaching at close to 40 mph and stomped on her brakes, then plopped the phone
back into the cupholder.
As Lacey waited in line to turn right into the Wal-Mart parking lot, she was glad to receive the message. She made a mental
note to add "candy" to the list of items she was to buy for the clinic.
Lacey and the rest of the staff were closet candy and chocolate fanatics. They had hidden various goodies all over the practice
for those precious "sugar breaks" every hour or so. After all, Lacey thought to herself, there isn't enough time to sit down
and eat anything "normal," with pets and clients always coming at you like a blizzard.
Sandi was her best bud at the practice. They could relate and often hung out together after work. Lacey was the designated
"Wal-Mart buyer," and she enjoyed the 20-minute hiatus from the hectic practice environment.
Lacey and Sandi were both in their 20's and enjoying life as best they could on their limited incomes.
Back at the hospital
Ken Thurmond was old school. He had graduated in 1977 from Texas A&M and had worked in a mixed-animal practice for a number
of years before opening his own practice in the 1980s.
Originally his was a mixed-animal practice, but demographics of the area finally twisted his arm — he now owned an exclusive
small-animal practice on the edge of the suburbs.
But he was still old school. He liked to do surgery — the more the better.
Sarah Rogers looked up from counting some pills and smiled at Ken. She was 30-something and, after a shaky beginning, was
starting to be very confident in her abilities. Many clients asked for her first.
"Yes, Ken. You look puzzled."
"What ever happened to that Swinford case? You know, the Basset hound with osteosarcoma. You saw it last week but never talked
to me about amputation or medical follow-up."
"Ken, you were off last Wednesday when they came back in. I sent you a quick e-mail to let you know I was sending them to
a specialist in Dallas for follow-up. They wanted the best care possible."
Ken bit his lip.
"Sarah, we try to give the best care possible here before we send things out. Remember? We talked about that at the last vet
"I'm sorry, Ken. I didn't want to disturb you at home, and you never turn your cell phone on, so I just went with what the
owners wanted," Sarah replied sheepishly.
"Sarah, I read my e-mails at least once a week," Ken said firmly but with resignation in his voice.
"I'm sorry. I'll try to call your home phone next time," Sarah said sympathetically. "I know the Swinfords are longtime clients
Ken didn't say anything aloud but thought about it for a moment. "As long as the lungs and blood tests are clear, that Basset
just needs an amputation — right here in our practice. This would never have happened five years ago. The vets seemed to communicate
better then. What has happened?"
They both smiled and headed toward different parts of the clinic.