Money is no object, until you ask for it


Sometimes this gift of prophecy seems like a curse.

I am, without doubt, the worst fisherman who ever lived. I also lay claim to being a very poor equestrian and an awful golfer.

Illustration: Ryan Ostrander

Those are facts beyond dispute, but I am not without my own particular talents. One is my uncanny ability to accurately predict the future.

This flair for prophecy became evident to me while sitting in my fourth-grade classroom. Having chosen not to do the book report that was due, I was able to predict with confidence that the teacher would call on me first.

Later in life, I found that I could always and accurately predict, in advance, when my car's gas tank would be empty. I didn't need to look at the gauge. It didn't matter where or when I had driven it last. I simply knew that if one of my kids borrowed the car, the tank would be empty the next time I got in.

Now that you know about my special talent, you may want to hear about my latest encounter with the Namus family.

It began in September when they rushed right over to my office as soon as their dog had been sick for three weeks. The poor prognosis was followed by a prolonged, steady recovery. Over the 10-day hospitalization, Mr. Namus visited every day. He seemed grateful for all of our hard work on his behalf.

"You people are the best!" he would say. "I know the bill is probably adding up, but don't worry about the expense. Money is no object. Poochy is like a member of our family. We are very pleased to see that he seems to be looking better every day. It's obvious that you and your people are working hard to bring him back to health. Each member of your staff has shown great compassion, not only with Poochy, but with us as well. They are special people."

After two surgeries, countless injections, miscellaneous lab tests and a biopsy, the pup was going home.

Mr. Namus came to pick him up.

"We can't thank you enough, Doc. Just send us the bill. You know we're good for it. After all, we've been coming to you for years." He left without paying.

Now, you were probably surprised by this sudden plot twist. That's because you do not have my ability to predict the future. I was not surprised at all.

Two months later, Igor Namus came in to have a talk with me. Naturally, I was able to predict the subject of our conversation.

"Your bill is outrageous, Doctor. I took one look at it, and I was dumbfounded."

(To my way of thinking, he must have been merely "founded" because he was already dumb.)

"All you people did was keep him in a cage and force feed him a little while he got better on his own. That shouldn't cost much more than boarding him. Your girls acted like our visits were an intrusion. They probably didn't want us to notice how little you were doing for Poochy. Anyway, we think you should take some of the charges off the bill. There are too many."

I explained that he was being unfair to me and especially to my staff. He pretended not to hear.

"Here is the deal, Doc. We trust you to be fair. We'd like you to review the bill to see if you can't cut out some of these charges. No matter what you decide, even if the bill stays the same, we will keep coming back to you and your hospital. After all, we've been coming here for years."

I refused to lower the charges.

He ran like a bandit, never paid the bill and never came back. (I predicted that would happen.)

We wound up turning the account over to our collection agency. (I knew that would happen too. You know, sometimes this gift almost seems like a curse.)

Dr. Obenski owns Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.

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