On his retirement. A tribute to a legend
Veterinarian & human extraordinaire.
50 years of true service to the animal world, the animal people, and to his animal-loving family. Four siblings all who care significantly for animals as a result of the way we were raised. To respect life. Because that is who our father his.
Our father is more than a vet. He is a compassionate man. A vet who took his oath to care for animals to the greatest level, inspiring those close and around him to do the same. Caring so deeply. Working so hard. Ensuring that he always did his best. He has such depth and wisdom. He has always had a following of people in his life who he wisely guides. His generosity is boundless.
He has inspired his children way more than can be imagined. We are pretty sure there are not many people who are so fortunate to have this example of humble love to follow. We are equally unsure whether we can truly honour his example by duplicating his consistently magnanimous actions.
We have incredible memories of my father’s career. He never separated his work from us. We just went along for the ride. We were a part of his journey. We never felt excluded. We felt able and enthusiastic. These feelings do not come from nowhere. Enthusiasm is God-like energy which we only experience in the presence of another who is feeling the same. Our father is an enthusiastic man.
Here are just a few of the rich memories of our father working as a vet and a father at the same time. Looking over his shoulder from the back seat of his car while he drove on a bumpy farm road towards an ailing cow, pig, horse or sheep. When the telephone would ring there was always the possibility of climbing into his car and accompanying him on a call out. When we had reached the farm we would be told to sit on his black suitcase while he worked. And we would respectfully listen. Sometimes he would don his overalls and black boots and we would watch the miracle of an assisted birth. Sometimes have the good fortune to dry off the new-born with hay while he scrubbed clean in a bucket of soapy water that a farmer’s wife had delivered. Picking blackjack off his socks at night while we listened to the radio in front of the fire. Seeds he had collected as he tracked through the veld to look after farm animals. A subtle smell of cowpat melding into the heat. Sitting on fences watching herds of cattle being tested for TB. One at a time. All day we would be entertained with his calm methodical workings. At home, doorbell ringing from the bottom of our home signalling a pet in need at his surgery which is attached to our home. We would follow him like his puppies. Sometimes all four of us. He would patiently work with his family surrounding him while he gently attended to the animals. Without fail either the doorbell would ring or he would be called out to a farm every Christmas morning as we were about to open our Christmas presents. We would anticipate the interruption with light humour, ever increasing the gift excitement. And when it happened, the tending to the animal would once again be a family affair. Scoffing cold Christmas dinner on return as a satisfied result.
And that is just a small part of the legend of our father. An inspirational man because there was never an expectation of glory or affirmation. Make no mistake he is no pushover. He has a very strong sense of justice. And this is why he never ever turned a client away. When they knocked on his door in the late nights after being turned away by other vets for a lack of funds he graciously did what needed doing for the patients in pain.
An old school vet. No fancy equipment. But reputable gut instincts that honed as a result of needing to be intuitive. His humble manner and ability to diagnose with his hands are noteworthy to this day. Other vets have turned to him when their modern day ultrasound equipment has failed and he has effectively diagnosed the concern. Certainly this is a result of his extensive experience, but that kind of insight only comes to one dedicated to his vocation.
We had the richest childhoods possible. And for some of his grandchildren he has served as the same example. Living next door, they would disappear to spend time with John. In the blessed company of animals.
We all inherited his love for animals and all have conservation duty running in our veins. Inbred. He would come home with "surprises" - holding his hands behind his back – and out would come a rescue; whether it was a tortoise he'd picked up in the road, a hare, an abandoned kitten needing to be hand-reared, a bird. The presentation was accompanied with a feeling was that he was presenting us with an amazing gift. Which of course he was - he transferred that compassion to us. We would all chip in to raise or nurture the little animal. Dogs and cats became a part of the family. Or he would identify that compassion in many of his clients as well - and matched dogs and cats that were destined for euthanasia with the perfect new home.
That's all about work. The man is a legend in so many more ways. He is an example to us, his kids, in so many more ways. A beacon. An example to aim towards. We may never achieve his generosity. His principled real honesty. His humble graciousness. His unconditional care. His enormous undented work ethic.
How does one thank someone for something that is a part of them? How does one acknowledge the good that we have only learned to appreciate since we have left home. We were so fortunate to grow up in a place where the world was simply respected – without question. There is no greater gift that one can be given at a foundation level. And we know there are many many people who he has touched in the same way. His accounts are testament to this. So many people owe him money over the years. He cared for their animals over and over even though they owe him money. He was not working for people. He was working for love.
Thank you Dad. On behalf of every animal you have touched. Thank you for being the guiding light. It is time to celebrate an incredible dedication. It is time that you are thanked. And we know that you care so much, so we know that the four of us combined with all the others in the world could possibly match the amount you have given. So energetically, we all thank you. With all the love possible. Your retirement is blessed.