Dr. Elsie Clevenger is pulling an overnight shift when a battered beagle comes through the emergency veterinarian practice where she works. She’s more than ready to give the dog’s owners a piece of her mind, but to her surprise, it doesn’t belong to the two men who brought it in.
Keith Simmons and Alex Travers found the dog on the side of the road and will spare no expense to get it well again. But the last thing they expect is to be smitten by the sexy vet on duty.
The two men are obviously a couple, so Dr. Clevenger’s surprised when they ask her out on a date. Together.
“It’s almost midnight,” Elsie pointed out. “What idiot walks their dog this late? Jesus Christ.”
“Here we are.”
Maria opened the door to the room so Elsie wouldn’t have to touch the handle. The veterinarian entered at a rush, pushing aside her anger to focus on the animal lying on the examination table before her. It was a small dog, some sort of beagle mix, carefully held down by Seth, another vet tech on staff who was even younger than Maria. But he stood as tall as Maria, and his broad shoulders and buff muscles were great for showing the larger dogs -- and aggressive cats -- who was boss. Though sometimes the cats still won. Elsie suspected Seth was afraid of getting clawed.
At first glance, the beagle didn’t look too banged up. Some mud on its belly and paws, leaves and twigs in its fur, nothing all that bad. But something was off. Something wasn’t quite right ... “Who brought him in?” Elsie tucked her stethoscope into her ears and eased the chestpiece around the beagle to find the dog’s heart.
“Owners, I guess.” Seth shrugged. “Two men out in the waiting room. I didn’t do the triage on him, just brought him back here.”
As expected, the dog’s heartbeat was rapid -- from fear or pain, Elsie didn’t know -- but it was strong and steady, which was a good sign. Over her shoulder, she called out to Maria, “Find me the triage papers.”
Slipping off the stethoscope, she gently grasped the beagle’s muzzle and turned its face towards her so she could look into the dog’s eyes. There was the pain, shining bright in those beady black orbs. “It’s okay, honey,” she murmured. “We’ll give you something to make that go away soon. Just hold on a little bit longer for me, okay?”
As gingerly as she could, she palpated the dog’s forepaws, shoulders, and ribs. She moved along the length of its body, feeling for broken bones, torn muscles, cuts, bruises, lesions, anything unusual. The further she went, the more her anger began to creep back. It was becoming obvious the dog was, if not abused, then at least neglected. From the state of its coat, it had been left outside for a long time. She could easily count its ribs by running her fingers along them; when it last ate a full meal was anyone’s guess. The majority of its injuries from the car seemed isolated to its hind legs, which were broken and tender. When she tried to touch them, the beagle yelped and pulled the legs out of her reach. Its tail, too, didn’t seem able to wag.
She couldn’t wait to meet the owners, if only for a chance to unleash some of her anger on them. Who treated a dog like this? Who left it outside to fend for itself, not feeding it, not caring for it? It was probably kept chained in a backyard somewhere, forgotten and ignored, and the moment it broke free, it jumped the fence and got run over by a car.
And then they bring it to the emergency vet? she wondered. That was the part that didn’t make much sense. Treatment at the animal hospital was almost double the price of what similar services would run at a regular veterinary practice. The people who owned this dog obviously didn’t care about it one way or the other. Why not wait until morning and take it somewhere to be treated instead of rushing it downtown in the middle of the night?
I’ll soon find out.