I have, at different times in my career, bartered for various things instead of expecting money in some form as payment for veterinary services.
I most commonly took hay for vet services. It was a rewarding situation for me; I was able to defray winter feed costs. In turn, my clients were able to use a few extra bales instead of money to pay for a calf pull, a herd palpation job or just about anything else.
A certain amount of trust was necessary. The client had to believe he was getting his money’s worth in cash equivalent, as did I. No one ever tried to palm off bad hay on me.
But this is the story of “Sugar Cookie” and how looks can be deceiving and how, sometimes, putting your trust in an individual reaps rewards you can only cluck your tongue at.
Sugar Cookie was not her real name. She was named after a Southern state. She was a latter-day flower child who traveled the country with her boyfriend in a Volkswagen mini-bus.
Her boyfriend had family in Henrietta, Texas, and they traveled here at certain times of the year. During the warm months, they lived in an American Indian tipi in Washington, D.C., and helped homeless people.
They had a couple of dogs they used to establish communication with homeless people, who are oftentimes distrustful toward others but will respond to a friendly dog.
Sugar Cookie liked to take care of the dogs’ health needs but had little money. She proposed to trade work around the hospital for vaccinations and parasite treatment. She said she would do anything.
We had a problem at that time with prickly pear cactus infestation in the lot at our clinic. She dug up every one of them. By appearances I thought she was far too willowy and frail to stay with it but she did and she returned the next year.
That's when she earned the name Sugar Cookie from the color of paint, called "sugar cookie,” with which we had her paint the fences. A novice at painting, she had nearly as much paint on herself as she got on the fences.
That was 20 years ago. I haven’t seen her since but her boyfriend came home and brought news of her. She married him, later divorced him, went to college and now helps the poor and actually gets paid for it.
There are lots of people like her around but you never know 'till you barter with one.