One day last month, I made a stupid mistake: I looked at the appointment calendar first thing in the morning. As a general
rule, I don't do that because it might cause me to read a name like the one I saw that day – one you remember for all the
wrong reasons. I spent the next two hours suffering anticipation anxiety as I waited for a confrontation with Mr. Kenny B.
He showed up right on time, with his son Izzy Worthit and their new puppy, Encore. All went well until we got around to discussing
Encore's spay surgery, and the fees involved.
"Can't you do a little better, Doc?" he asked.
I knew what he meant, but pretended it was something entirely different.
"Sure, we can do a great deal more," I said. "There are some additional blood tests I can run to check for some of the less-common
diseases. Also, I can bring in the traveling board-certified surgeon to do the procedure."
"No, no, that's not what I meant," Kenny B. said. "I meant, can you do any better on the price?"
I have a favorite phrase I like to use in answer to such questions. It has served me well over the past 35 years when people
have asked me to provide services at no cost. It goes something like this:
I was reminded of a time, back in the 1960s, when I saw an episode of Superman in which the Man of Steel took a piece of coal
in his hand and squeezed it so hard it turned into a diamond. However, when it comes to being tight-fisted, Superman has to
take a back seat to Kenny B.
"I wish you'd reconsider, Doc," he said. "After all, you and I go back a long way. Do you remember when I was in college and
my fraternity brothers and I got that puppy? You neutered him for free because we were college kids and didn't have any money.
Then, remember how it turned out we really didn't want him and you offered us a home for him? As I recall, I didn't even charge
you one cent for him, even though he may have been half purebred."
(That was mighty big of you.)
"Anyway, Doc," he continued, "Now, my kid here is in the same boat. I bought him this expensive dog, but he can't afford to
take care of it. I told him you probably would do the veterinary care for free, just like you did for me."
Izzy stood there and nodded in agreement. He was a chip off the old block. (More specifically, a chip off the old blockhead.)
The saga continued. "You may not recall, but Izzy worked here at your clinic when he was in junior high. He was an unpaid
volunteer. This could be your chance to pay him back."
I certainly did remember the two days that Izzy lasted here. He worked for nothing and was overpaid at that rate. If he were
any dumber, we would have had to water him twice a week. He is the reason we have a rule against taking on the services of
teenage volunteers. (We refer to it as the Izzy Rule.)
True I would like to pay him back, but both murder and dueling are illegal in Pennsylvania.
I sent them on their way with my estimate for future services unaltered. I hope they still like me, though. I want to be on
Kenny's good side in case he ever figures out that he can turn coal into diamonds.
Dr. Obenski owns Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.