Many years ago, a young impetuous veterinarian made an off-hand comment that he now regrets. Making an observation on the large number of people in the Lima area who wear cowboy hats, he opined: “The only people who should wear cowboy hats are cowboys, and there aren’t any around here!”
He now realizes he was wrong. How does he know? In late October, his wife received a letter from one.
I have known Bill a long time. He used to have a couple of horses I took care of, but he hasn’t had them for quite awhile. I knew he had a dog named Skeeter, however, my wife or one of our associates usually cared for him.
So I was kind of surprised to see Bill, that Monday afternoon, standing alone in the hallway by our check-out counter. Wearing a cowboy hat, boots, and a leather vest, he looked every bit a cowboy. Bill proceeded to tell me how he was spending a lot of time in Montana, living the good life, and creating western art.
He then told me why he was there. Skeeter had just been euthanized. Apparently he had lymphoma, a type of cancer, and hadn’t been doing well the last few days. When first talking to Bill, though, I had no idea this had happened. Most people who have lost a pet like this don’t take it as bravely.
About a week later, an envelope arrived in the mail with “Dr. Bonnie” underlined on the front. Bonnie, moved by the letter within, quietly laid it on my desk. Written with sincere words and a pure heart, Bill’s letter is a most fitting tribute to his good friend.
In all my 72 years, I have never become attached to an animal. But Skeeter was different. He was my dog, my pet, him and me were so much alike, always on the move, working or playing, never could lay down to rest, and tough in mind and body. We were together all the time.
Hardest thing I ever had to do was bring him to you. I knew what the problem was and how much he suffered the last 3 days of his life.
I want to thank you and everybody else for being so nice to an old man. This is one time I couldn’t be tough. Don’t think of me as being weak.
Hope to see you and Dr. John some time when it’s different.”
“Being weak” was the last thing I would have thought when I was talking to Bill moments after the euthanasia, or when I read his letter. “Tough and brave” was a much more accurate description.
Bill’s letter came a few days before the November election. During all the media coverage and political hoopla, with opposing sides building walls that may never be torn down, I had one of those epiphany moments.
Everything we do as humans divides us. Whether it is politics, religion, sexual orientation, or even sports teams, we separate into groups and fall under the pretense that our side is right and the other is wrong. The one constant we have that unifies, at least the only thing I can think of, is the love of a pet. Pets don’t care about any of that other stuff; they only care about the ones who care for them.
And isn’t it great to be one of those people. After a bad day, nothing wipes away stress and lowers blood pressure like the greeting from a pet. A look, a touch, a lick, can go a long way towards making everything right in one’s world. It doesn’t matter if you are an uptight businessman, a troubled child, an old cowboy, or a Browns and Indians fan, the mental, physical, emotional, and social benefits are priceless.
If you don’t have a pet, I highly recommend you get one. In spite of the obvious language barrier, many of us find it easier to communicate with them than with members of our own kind.
The human-animal bond is a beautiful thing. I am so glad Bill had a chance to experience it with Skeeter. The lone drawback with pets, unfortunately, is that the bond never lasts long enough.
Thank you very much for your letter, Bill, and for sharing your special bond with Skeeter. By the way, I liked your hat. Wear it proudly. You, sir, are a cowboy!
P.S. Norman and Darrell: Wear your hats proudly, too!
Dr. John H. Jones operates a mixed animal practice in Delphos with his wife, Dr. Bonnie Jones. He is a graduate of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and he raises Southdown sheep.