Every vet has at least 1 if not at least a hundred stories that touch their hearts. I know I have several, though often, the bad things run to the front of our heads rather than the good stories. Here is a happy story...
It was about 10 PM on a weekday night and the emergency hospital was humming along... I had about 30 patients in the back and all 5 exam rooms were full. During the evening shift, we often discharged surgery or internal medicine cases in addition to seeing emergencies and ICU transfers, so the lobby is often full.
This night, an older lady in her late 60s came in with a young man. The boy was crying and the grandmother looked bleak. Their dog had slipped out of the door and gotten hit by a car. The woman asked the boy to have a seat and she explained to the receptionist that the boy's mother had just died and his father wasn't in the picture. They didn't have much money because she was trying to pay for her daughter's funeral. The receptionist told her that the vet would assess the dog before anything else was done and not start treating without having the charges approved.
The dog was in pretty good shape, just some road rash and a small laceration. However, the family only had $150, which was just a little bit more than the cost of the exam alone. My plan was to give the dog an injection for pain and then send an Rx for meds that I knew were on the cheap plan at the local pharmacy. In this situation, even when the dog seems ok, we usually do radiographs (x-rays) to make sure that there is no problem in the chest or abdomen and also give some sedation/analgesia so that we can clip and clean the wound as well as closure of the laceration.
Well, the A plan was out of the picture and the boy was still tearfully asking if he dog was going to be alright. I heard the receptionist calling me over the loudspeaker so I excused myself. Apparently, the owners of one of our surgical patients had overheard the grandmother's tale and asked if he could help out. He asked what the estimate was and payed all but the exam fee, which the family had already taken care of. He asked to remain anonymous. After paying a large bill of his own, he offered to cover this little dog's bill too. I thanked him profusely.
When I went back in the exam room and told the little family, I couldn't help the tears that tracked down my face. The fact that we could help the dog was wonderful, but the fact that someone helped the two owners feel like the world was a little less hostile was priceless. The young man didn't have to lose both his mother and his dog in less than a month.