Monday, June 17, 2013

"Mike . . ."

'Just remembering times with dad when I used to work for him in between school. (btw: child labor is under-rated.) I jotted down some thoughts a few years ago and meant to re-post this yesterday: 

I have a few weeks to kill before moving to Virginia, so in the meantime I decided to clock in some hours at the clinic.  Money's always useful, and we're a little short staffed with several of our techs starting school. 

Over the past 2 years, I've been working more up front in the exam rooms instead of hiding in the back in surgery or cleaning kennels.  Since then, it occurred to me how much more my dad does for people than for animals, and I don't mean that in a bad way.

The popular image of veterinary medicine has more and more become like something from Animal Planet than a James Harriot book.  When I tell people my dad's a vet, a lot of them make comments about how he/me/our family "must love animals."  I guess we do in a way.  Over the years we've always had dogs, cats, fish, chickens, and sometimes snakes (2 pygmy rattlers in the tea jar once; rat snakes for years), a cockatiel, parakeets, an iguana, goats, peacocks, squirrels, a baby possum, and a bull.  That's not counting the patients that come home for the night because they're too unstable to be left at the clinic. Nevertheless, my dad is not one to subscribe to the pets are people too thing.  At the end of the day, our dog is still a dog and lives outside and sleeps in the garage. 

Our clinic is a small animal practice, but dad always admired rural veterinarians--the guys making house calls to the farms and helping people make a living with their animals.  You know what?  I think Dad does that too, in his own way.  I remember Mr. Thompson pretty well, an old black man who brought in his German Shepherd "Yogi" for a bath every week.  Come every Christmas time, Mrs. Thompson would make all kinds of things for our staff, like ham salad sandwiches, and always a coconut cake.

Mr. Thompson and Yogi were both in failing health.  Eventually Yogi's hips gave out on him, as happens with a lot of German Shepherds, but Dad focused on keeping Yogi going for as long as possible.  As he put it, "Mr. Thompson lives for that dog."  Finally Yogi's time came and he passed on.  Next thing I heard Mr. Thompson was on dialysis, and he died not long after.  I don't know how much my dad cared for that dog in particular, but I remember he cared about the Thompsons.  Mrs. Thompson still drops by to see us.

A common employee complaint is how much time Dad will spend in a room with clients, and how backed up we can get as a result.  You know what?  I can't begrudge him that.  (My last doctor visit took 7 minutes and my insurance was billed 3 figures.)  Especially after what I saw this past Tuesday.  A Mrs. Adcock came into the 2nd exam room, crying, and hunched over a small, curly white-haired dog that she could barely carry.  I didn't know her at all, but Dad did.  She put the dog on the table, took a chair, and exclaimed that she "couldn't do it anymore."  Dad squatted on the floor next to her and said "I didn't know about Jim until I saw the obituary."  Mrs. Adcock proceeded to describe, in minute detail, all the events of the last three days before her husband died: the shakes, the nausea, the low blood sugar, the resistance to seeing a doctor, the code, and--finally--missing his death by five minutes.

All the while, my dad just squatted there like he had all the time in the world.  I stood holding the dog, feeling somewhat invisible.  The whole thing really struck me, not because there was anything unusual about it, but rather how prototypical it was of my dad.  I was reminded of another woman who brought in pictures documenting a gruesome disease progression which eventually took her husband's life.  It may be a weird way for her to find closure, but she wouldn't have shared them with my dad unless she believed he cared.

It just became all the more clear to me why you can't go anywhere with my dad without running into somebody he knows or somebody who knows him.  I think if anybody asks me again if dad's a veterinarian because he's loves animals, I'll have to say no.  He became a vet because he thinks animals are interesting.  He's still a vet because he loves people.


  1. Lizzie this had me crying. Beautiful. You captured dad perfectly.

  2. This is beautiful! Just perfect! I love your Dad even more reading this!

  3. I love your Dad so much. I need to see your parents soon. I miss them. (and you)