San Antonio, Texas
January 23, 2012
The new year began with the death of Dr. Rose, my veterinarian for the last 18 years. I was surprised both at the news of his sudden death from cancer, (he'd been working till December without any notice to this client he was ill), and astonished I'd been notified of his death.
It may have been because I have so many pets under his clinic's care. I often joked when paying my bill that Dr. Rose should name the new wing of his clinic after me. This was funny, because there was no new wing; just a hundred year-old house with a funky stairwell that forced you to zigzag toward the door, and open handrails that invariably led to tangled leashes before you reached the top. Added to this, the front door sticks, the walls sag, some shutters are missing, some windows cracked, like a body sick of being sick.
A few years ago Dr. Rose had been on leave from an illness whose name no one mentioned. Later he was
back, full of his same light and good humor, so you forgot about his unspoken illness and assumed all was fine.
Except for his blue scrubs, Dr. Rose didn't look like a doctor. He looked like a baseball player, chatted like a friendly teacher, was youth and health and good humor bouncing into the consultation
room and bounced off, with the energy of a Golden Retriever. He was goofy and funny, as if to put his frightened animals and frightened people at ease. His eyes were deep-set like the rubber baby dolls I'd get at Christmas as a child. And these eyes would observe you in a way that made you feel you were the patient.
I don't think Dr. Rose and I ever talked about anything other than dogs. I brought all my own pets and my foster animals to him, and he was supportive and kind about my efforts to spay and neuter
strays, even agreeing to a discount when I could no longer afford such altruism. Because above all Dr. Rose was kind. Not only to my pets, but kind to all his animal patients and patient with all his
There were dusty thank-you cards and photos of his patients past and present taped to the front office wall, some from children whose classrooms he had visited. "Thank you, Dr. Rose, for visiting us. We all want to be vets too." And some from clients who were grateful he had saved their beloved. I know all my pooches were up there on that hall of fame. It was good to walk in and see a deceased pet's portrait still greeting you every time you visited.
I dreamed about Dr. Rose the day he died. Only a dream about those twin portraits in one of his consultation rooms. Big-eyed dogs and cats, dime store portraits I remember from my own childhood. Dr. Rose told me a story of how they came to be on his office wall. How he'd had a set of them as a child about the time he decided to be a vet. How he often told this story to the public, and how a client finally found the portraits and gave them to him now that he was a doctor.
When I woke on the first day of 2012, Dr. Rose's story about his story was still whirling about on wings, leaving me wondering the why of it all. Then the phone call later that morning.
Maybe it was just un aviso, a way to say goodbye on his way from this world to the next. I'd like to think his animal patients in the spirit world are there to greet and welcome him now that he has crossed over, to comfort and care for him on that side, just as he cared for them on this.