IN the theatre, we pulled on surgical gloves.

In the waiting room, they were biting their nails.

As we donned surgical gowns, they pulled their jackets around themselves, chilled by the drop in adrenaline and the anxiety.

While we reached for artery forceps and clamped bleeding vessels, they dragged another tissue from the box and dried tears that wouldn’t stop flowing. Sparky, the cause of all this commotion, lay on the operating table, blissfully unaware of the consternation.

It doesn't take long for the occupants of a waiting room to join together in camaraderie when a pet is in mortal danger. I have lost count of the number of times that others have stood back and let a recent panicking arrival jump the queue.

Many, many times, decent, thoughtful pet owners have waited, so that emergencies can be treated first. And this was one of those times.

The evening surgery was in full swing when Sparky's owners burst through the door, hands bloodied, carrying their injured Jack Russell in a red stained blanket.

"He's been run over!", the waiting room gasped and collectively nodded in agreement as Sparky was ushered into a consulting room and from there quickly into the operating theatre.

And then, for them, the clock ticks painfully slowly. There is an initial hush, as owners contemplate how they would feel if Sparky was their dog.

Then someone rises and offers the owner a glass of water from the dispenser. A hand is placed on her shoulder. "I'm sure he will be okay, he's in good hands." says one of the group. "He looked like a real tough guy." says another. “We are praying for him.”

Pretty soon the chat turns to what happened. A speeding driver is silently cursed. A mental note is made to keep their pet away from busy roads. And the clock ticks on. Second by second. Minute after minute.

In the theatre, activity is quieter but considerably more feverish. Sparky had indeed been run over. The tyre had crushed his abdomen, rupturing his spleen. He was quite literally bleeding to death in front of our eyes. Under these circumstances, the spleen has to be removed. And quickly. With no time to summon a suitable blood donor, the blood that had haemorrhaged into his abdomen is collected, filtered and transfused straight back into him.

The procedure revolves around the clock, speed of surgery, team work and a big dollop of luck. A nurse watches each breath and monitors every heartbeat, knowing the next could be his last.

Eventually, the wound is closed, his heart rate reduces to closer to normal and his colour is pinker. In the waiting room, a dark, gloomy silence has descended but every head turns as the door is opened and a vet says, "We think he will be okay."

There is a great, rousing, heart-warming cheer from all and sundry. Relief pours out.

But then what they don't know, and what Sparky’s owners are never going to tell them, is that this is the third time Sparky has been the cause of a road traffic accident.