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More Than A Veterinarian - A Friend

Updated on August 28, 2016

How He Can Talk to the Animals

For over 25-years, my husband and I have taken our many cats and dogs to the same Vet... He is Egyptian by descent and came to America in his early 20s with his wife, after an arranged marriage to study animal medicine, which was considered a disgrace in his homeland, especially by his Father. I did not know this (or much else about him) until years later... but I did know two things about "DOC" {which I will hereby call him as I am not sure he would care for me writing about him by name...}~~ one being that he intimidated the heck out of me (which was not done by too many people...) and second (more importantly, of course...) that he was "all knowing and all about" the animals that he served... What more could we want for in a Vet...?

Do I Hear the Phone Ringing...? (Scott Eustace, 1993-2009)
Do I Hear the Phone Ringing...? (Scott Eustace, 1993-2009) | Source

With People... Not so Much...!

In the early years of our marriage, my husband and I usually saw DOC together with our pets. And, for the life of me, I could not understand why DOC only looked at and spoke to my husband. I would almost get up in his face-- not as much as a look sideways... wowee! Then hubby explained (what I should have realized) about the cultural deference of speaking to the man and I completely understood/ relaxed about it.

My husband actually did many things alone and for me during many months after my injuries in 1999--but I was gradually able to begin taking our fur babies in for their DOC visits independently, since they were so well behaved on leash. I was simply amazed at how kind and compassionate DOC was with me. He had followed the events of the hostage situation as his office was not far from the hospital and he told me about how he had heard the helicopters that day in June/ how he had prayed to the Virgin Mary, who had helped him through so many hard times in his life, as he was following the story on the radio and knew it was Alvin's Mother. He actually hugged me in a paternal manner and I knew that, at this point, we had become friends.

It seemed like I was always in and out of DOC's office for some legitimate reason with having our kitty, SCOTTIE and our two Labs, ALVIN & AUNT BABY... someone needed flea medicine or nails trimmed or their annual immunizations. He opened up more and more... telling me stories of his childhood years, his decision to come to America and the difficulties he has faced through the years with discrimination in building his successful practice, despite many obstacles. I felt such a sense of pride when he began smiling at me, looking at me in the eyes and asking me to call him by his "real" first name (he honored me by calling me by my first name as well, which is not his usual custom).

As only a true friend would, he gave us his best advice when it came time to make our heartbreaking decision about "putting Alvin down" and he he came to our home to make Biggie as comfortable as possible in his own surrounds. We were touched when a picture of Alvin that we had sent to DOC in a thank you was placed in a frame on a wall over his desk.

About 3-years ago, I was able to finally get DOC to reveal his birthday to me--I'll get to that in a few sentences... About this time, I started just popping in on DOC to see how he was doing... his health was starting to fail/ mostly pulmonary-- really hard to catch his breath even when walking a very short distance. Even though DOC is in the field, like many, he has a natural distrust of physicians and really doesn't take the best care of himself that he should. I was "sometimes" able to make a modest suggestion that was health-related "here and there" but, at best, I was happy to go out to lunch with him a couple times a month.

DOC's appetite is non-existent. He was so absorbed in his work that he could forget to eat... (this has never remotely happened to me). But, he was willing, a couple times a month, to go out for a burger (his favorite) and this would give him an opportunity to "scold me" for eating fish or a salad. As much as I have been inherently programmed to treat (or at least "go Dutch"), DOC would become indignant at the very thought-- "it is not the Egyptian way..." I learned he had a penchant for GODIVA chocolates and was, at least, able to keep him well supplied with his favorite sweets.

It was at one of our lunches that he told me about Sarah, his soulmate of 4-years who shared the same birthday as he did. He had met Sarah after his marriage had ended when she brought her dog into his office... and their friendship grew into an affair of the heart. I was able to gently learn that their shared birthday is March 24th... when Sarah died, DOC was surprised, months later, to be contacted by her lawyer... it seems that his soulmate had left him quite a bit of Earthly possessions and a plot right next to hers in the Cemetery. DOC had uncharacteristic tears in his eyes when he told me this because this is a man who "does the treating, please remember". So, Sarah's grave is never without flowers now and DOC told me those few years ago that he would be leaving this Earth on March 24th... I remember saying "let's take that as it comes, OK?"

Well, I am half Italian and half Southern so I have been able to insist on paying for DOC's lunch TWICE-- to celebrate his March birthday in 2009 and 2010. And I had all good intentions of taking him out today, the 26th for lunch to celebrate his 76th year...

It's been a rough winter for most of the US but DOC has really felt it... he has not been up to going out for lunch so I have been stopping in through the weeks as my schedule permitted, just to say HI... I remember my most recent visit was to set up this birthday lunch date. As usual, he was quibbling about who would be treating who but he had a bright smile on his face. He seemed optimistic and I remember saying how much I would look forward to planning his 100th... and he laughed and nodded. He was at his desk and organizing his work as usual with appointments on his calendar and he put our lunch date on his book-- as he always did.

Well, on Thursday, I wanted to call and wish DOC a Happy Birthday but there was no answer. Earlier in the week, I had sent a card that he should have gotten from all of us... so I won't worry (yeah right, but I happened to drive by a couple times while doing errands and his office was closed but he could have been taking a well-deserved day off--but he never does that...). So, yesterday, I called again with no answer and, yup, went by a few more times-- same thing... This morning, ah man... no answer (the mail that was in the front door is now gone... including our card)... I left a note asking "DOC" to call with my phone number... and, sadly, there will be no birthday lunch today. From way too many experiences with the homeless population, I called the local hospitals and he had not been admitted. My next call to the local police, at least told me that he was not helpless in his home- in fact, a medical emergency had been called on Wednesday evening, March 23rd. That was about all I could do for now.

These are times, to be certain, that I wish I still had Mom's counsel with my daily phone calls and she would, no doubt, know exactly what to say. And so, now I rely on myself and what "I believe" Mom would do... I guess it is hard to sit by when you care about someone but you are not a part of the immediate family. Right now I can imagine Mom saying: "You don't really have all the answers now. Don't borrow trouble."

I have both volunteered and been asked to offer comments at retirements and funerals... of course, I much prefer the retirements and always encourage people to tell each other what makes them so special/ what they appreciate/ how they feel (similar to "the giving flowers while you are alive" concept...) So, no matter what, I know that everyone in my world, including DOC knows exactly how I feel about them... (that has been especially important to me since 1999). I come from the persuasion that this may be the last time we see each other/ interact with each other, so I want to be sure it is a positive and happy (as possible) experience. I never mean for that to come across as fatalistic~~ merely realistic, as this is truly how life happens~~ in a flash of a second at times.

As far as DOC goes... I love him for the care he has given to my furry babies over these many years and the true friend he has become to me, despite our age and cultural differences~~ I have actually told him that he has replaced my Father (who died of stroke complications in 1995) in temperament and disposition/ he thoroughly enjoyed that. I know for several years, he has been miserable with physical pain ~~ getting little to no relief from some medicines and treatments~~ talking longingly of reuniting with his beloved Sarah and their dog when the Lord was ready for him~~ and worrying incessantly about the current financial climate. The very animals that brought DOC so much joy were also wearing him out physically... very difficult to watch / especially over this last year. My deepest prayers are that he will get some intensive care in one of our city hospitals and I will update as I learn anything more.

ADDENDUM: (March 29, 2011)... Right again, Mom...!! Over the last few days, your kind comments have helped more than you know and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Nevertheless, I have been privately, quite a wreck... continuing to drive by DOC's place daily, going on to calling all the city hospitals / even in the nearby areas and, even, checking the obituaries (just clinically from my training.../ I really didn't want to "go there"...)

This morning, I just decided spontaneously to call DOC's office and almost cried with relief as he answered, very faintly, on the 6th ring... He had just been discharged yesterday (from the very first local hospital I had called-- perhaps his longer Egyptian name is on his medical ID...) and was already back in the office/ worrying about catching up with "his customers". He realized after a short time that he would need to make it a half day and he even apologized for missing our lunch. At that point, I was just so happy to be talking to my friend and I know that I can check in on him soon to reschedule...

I am reminded of Mom telling me, with every death, "it must have been their time". It didn't matter how old the person was or how they died... she always said it. And, today, I am so grateful it was "not" DOC's time...because I know he has more stories to tell and wisdom to impart as he does what he loves, taking care of the pets he regards as his family.

"He (my friend) has become for me an island of light, fun, wisdom where I could run with my discoveries and torments and hopes at any time of day and find welcome." (May Sarton)

© Maria Jordan (March, 2011)

You've Got A Friend


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