Excerpts from The Gift of Pets:
Stories Only a Vet Could Tell

As I pulled away the last of the makeshift bandage, I recoiled at the sight.  Just above the right wrist was a large, gaping wound through which protruded about three inches of glistening white bone.  The shattered ends of the radius and the ulna, the two bones in the forearm, were coated with blood and debris from the gravel driveway.  Grass, dirt and small sticks clung to their jagged edges and were scattered throughout the wound.  Held by the skin and soft tissue around the fracture, the wrist and foot dangled like a plumb bob on the end of the limb.  Since no vessels had been damaged, there was surprisingly little blood.  Megan looked up at me gamely, almost apologetically, and licked my hand once again.

I was moved with admiration for this noble and courageous creature and awed by her trust in me.  For just a moment I allowed myself to ponder the privilege and responsibility of meriting such unwavering confidence!  My heart went out to the valiant dog and I cradled her head in my hands.  Bending over, I laid my cheek on her forehead and whispered in her ear.

“Oh, Megan, I’m so sorry you’re hurting. We’re going to make you feel better, OK.  Just work with me and we’ll get through this.”

Without moving her head, she turned her eyes up to me and, with an amazing clarity of cognizance, gently licked my hands again in an unmistakable reply, never taking her gaze from my eyes.  They were just little things really; that lick, those eyes, the expression on her face.  But there was in them a universe of meaning.  They spoke of pain and confusion.  They apologized for inconveniencing me. There was even, perhaps, anger at the careless driver of that pickup. But they mainly told of gratitude and confidence and acceptance; of satisfaction that her care would be in my hands; and of submission to my judgment. And in that moment of connection, I resolved to warrant her confidence.  This dog would walk again if it was the last thing I did!  (The Gift of Pets.  From a chapter entitled “My Girlfriend, Megan”)

Grizzly asked for no clarification from Lisa.  He knew her heart, not because she had articulated it to him, but because he shared it, was a part of it.  Two hearts, his and hers, each assigned to separate individuals, were still one functioning unit.  It is this mysterious union of hearts bridging barriers of skin, sinew, and species that is the very substance of the Gift which pets extend to us so generously, so unselfishly.  The Gift is a bond between, a contract with, a promise from, a claim upon two hearts; a circle which encompasses the very essence of those hearts.  It is a circle as large as the universe; as small as the molecules of love and devotion which bind together two disparate hearts; a circle which contains all that is vital and alive, into which we can pour every whit of ourselves, unadorned and without fear of judgment or rejection.  The circle is as powerful as the unbreakable and eternal bonds of love, as fragile as the cruel whims of temporal brevity and rancorous contagion. 

It is the fragile circle in which I thrive; a thousand fragile circles to which I am a servant.  It wholly encircles me, yet involves me only tangentially.  As a veterinarian I am a privileged observer of myriads of such circles, entwining thousands of human and animal hearts. My perspective is intimate and personal, infused with import by its proximity to the circle.  Like the circuits described by the orbits of electrons around a nucleus, these fragile circles vibrate with emotional energy and give voice to a fundamental force of the human soul.  (The Gift of Pets.  From a chapter entitled, “Fighting the Good Fight”)

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