I grew up in a world in which I was an outsider.
Today, we take it for granted that our pets are family. Our practice motto, The Family Practice For Family Pets, is foundational to the way we practice. People who bring us their pets see them as their children.
A scant fifty years ago, though, when I was a kid, animals were utilitarian:
- dogs were used to herd livestock and scare off intruders who might slip around our house after dark. Other dogs were required to prove their usefulness as rabbit and squirrel hunters.
- cats were mousers.
- Jersey cattle provided milk for our household income, male calves for our household meat and female calves for replacing milkers who got too old.
- chickens provided eggs for breakfast and baking as well as meat for Sunday dinner.
On the other side of the ledger we had a dog named Blackie (really original, eh?) who wasn’t good for much of anything except love and barking. He was a pretty good watchdog, but most of all he was my best friend. Living five miles from the nearest paved road and two miles to the nearest house, there were few other kids to play with. Not counting my cousins, who were all girls! And what prepubescent boy wants to play with girls?
Blackie and I were best buds. We went everywhere together. When I ate an apple, I would take a bite, and Blackie would take a bite, until it was all gone. When he was hit by a car flying down our rural gravel road I swore I would die if he did.
And neither did I.
The worst part of all this, though, was that nobody understood how I felt. To everyone else Blackie was just a dog, but to me he was the little boy who shared our home and kept me company.
I was reminded of my childhood feelings yesterday when “Kitty” came in for her second visit after being adopted from the Humane Society Of South Mississippi. Kitty has an Upper Respiratory Tract Infection, a very common condition in shelter pets because they get exposed to just about everything while on the street. Her owner remarked about how good she had been for her examination and her Convenia injection and how attached he and his wife had grown in less than a week as new adopters. “I was surprised at my wife. She was never a cat person before Kitty. I was going to give her another couple of days to see how she did before bringing her in, but when I got home my wife said, ‘I think you need to take Kitty to see Dr. Randolph tonight.’”
In my childhood I wondered why everyone else didn’t feel as I did for the animals.
Even though I’m now no longer the exception, I’m still surprised when I run into the occasional person who isn’t head-over-heels about his pet.
I’m glad Kitty’s family is.
See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.