Additionally, being a veterinarian is not just about taking care of animals. Yesterday, I spoke to middle school students about career opportunities and I felt compelled to inform them about how this profession is just as much about dealing with people, the general public. James Herriot wrote “All Creatures Great and Small” in which his stories about being a veterinarian are just as much, if not more, about the farmers and pet owners than about the animals.
Every once in a while, we are so fortunate to hear a wonderful and touching life story. Recently, one particular story had my entire staff in tears, happy tears. I would have great difficulty telling the true life fairy tale in chronological order. Therefore, I’ll do my best to reproduce the experience in the order that it touched my heart.
Almost two years ago, an older couple, about 60 something, came into the clinic with their sick six-month-old Chihuahua puppy. The puppy’s name is Schatzi and I had the unfortunate duty to explain to them that she did not look like a purebred Chihuahua puppy. I noticed that Mr. Townsend was repeating some of my dialogue to his wife. He was, to some degree, translating certain portions of the conversation.
You see, Mrs. Townsend spoke broken English with a stern German accent, though he was easily understood. I concluded that Mr. Townsend must have thought my slow Appalachian “hick” drawl was difficult for his wife to understand.
Nevertheless, Mrs. Townsend spoke adamantly about their love for Schatzi, regardless of her doggie pedigree. It was obvious that Schatzi was a part of the family and should not be mistaken for just another pet.
Mrs. Townsend proceeded, after some coaxing, to explain to me that Schatzi in German is translated as meaning dear or love. I also learned that Schatzi was the very first dog, I mean furry family member that Mrs. Townsend had ever had. Despite Schatzi’s temperamental attitude toward me, she was loved like a child by her owners.
That is when the storytelling began. My staff and I could see the Townsends’ love and true affection for one another. Therefore, we began asking them about their lives such as “How did you two meet?” The Townsends were more than glad to oblige and I got the feeling that they knew just how special their lives had been.
They met in Germany while Thomas Townsend was in the Army stationed there during the Korean War. Elizabeth was born and raised in Kaiserslautern, Germany, as one of 11 children. Her father and two brothers were in the German Army during World War II. Her father returned home, but her brothers never returned and were believed to have been killed by the Russians.
After finishing high school and working in a wool factory for five years, Elizabeth’s father and mother died leaving eight children. Being the oldest, Elizabeth quit work to take care of her brothers and sisters. Shortly thereafter, one of her sisters went to work for the U.S. Army Engineering Depot. She met Thomas who was stationed there and quickly set up Thomas and Elizabeth on a blind date.
Thomas and Elizabeth were married four months later. They were married three times about a year apart in the English, French, and German sections of Germany in 1952, 1953, and 1954 respectively. Elizabeth could not speak English, but managed to learn how to say “I do!” rather quickly. It would take three years before Elizabeth was allowed to come to the United States of America. Thomas re-enlisted in the Army for one more year so that he would not have to leave Germany without Elizabeth.
When they came to America, they had a 14-month-old son with them, as well as Elizabeth’s four younger brothers which they raised. Now, Elizabeth has lived in the United States for 58 years and loves this country, as she says that it is a better place to live and raise a family.
Every time the Townsends bring Schatzi into the clinic for examination and treatment, Mrs. Townsend says “Whatever Schatzi needs, you give her!” Thomas and Elizabeth’s love for one another and their fairy tale love story exemplifies the human animal bond by their love and affection for Schatzi, their first four-legged furry family member.
Their story illustrates just how important our pets are. They radiate and tell the extended story of ourselves.
Pets are as important as our children and teach us about love.
When your pet has a need, please call your veterinarian to ensure that your pet lives a long, healthy, and happy life.