SPRINGFIELD – Folks often ask me, “What’s it like to be married to a veterinarian?”
My response: ”Well, not all that different from being the son of one.”
You see, I’ve been blessed with two veterinarians – my father and my wife.
I was reflecting on this familiar anomaly as I watched the new PBS series “All Creatures Great and Small” this past week. For those who don’t know, it’s about a British veterinarian practicing in the 1930s in the rural Yorkshire.
PBS just announced there will be a second season this year.
Oddly enough, I’ve yet to meet a veterinarian who enjoys watching the program – or any of the other of a half dozen or so shows about animal doctors.
Journalists are just the opposite. We love to watch movies about our profession. “All the President’s Men,” “Spotlight,” “The Frontpage” and “His Girl Friday” are all shows that just about every reporter I know has seen.
My wife, Joan, a Springfield small-animal veterinarian heckles the TV screen when a veterinary procedure is depicted. She feels the need to share with everyone within earshot what the person on TV is doing wrong.
One time, while watching “The Incredible Dr. Pol” my wife cast a jaundiced eye toward the television and hollered, “Why isn’t that dog intubated?”
On the other hand, reporters will sit in awe as Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman depict Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein – even if it’s the 20th time we’ve seen the movie.
In his later years, I tried to get my Dad to watch “Dr. Pol” with me. After all, like Poll, he treated livestock and pets. But after a few minutes of viewing Dad would growl, “I guess someone who knows nothing about veterinary medicine might find this interesting.”
I love to watch that show.
After all, growing up, I was always “Doc Reeder’s boy.”
Together we would ride from farm to farm across Knox and Warren counties. I observed and helped with countless surgeries and procedures.
Sometimes it was as simple as, “Hold the flashlight, Scotty.”
Later, as a teenager, I was gripping the edges of a uterus incision as my father pulled a calf into the world during a Caesarean section.
I remember when I was in kindergarten, sitting cross legged in a barnyard answering my Dad’s questions.
“How many stomachs does a cow have, Scotty?”
“Well let’s take a look at them, Scotty.”
He then proceeded to perform a post mortem, explaining the purpose of each organ in language a 5-year-old could understand.
I suspect my three daughters will have animal recollections of their own. My wife has turned our home into a menagerie. Under our roof there are eight dogs, seven birds, five guinea pigs, three sugar gliders (flying squirrels), two ferrets, one cat and one rabbit.
When I asked my wife for her hand in marriage, I made her promise: no animals would be added to our family – unless we both agreed.
She hasn’t exactly respected this wedding vow. Or maybe she has just worn me down. (We are still not in agreement on that rabbit.)
I suspect the only reason I asked for the promise was because of childhood memories.
When I was 8, my dad came home with a billy goat. Dad was vaccinating cattle at a sale barn and as a joke bid $5 on a lonely goat that had no ears.
We ended up owning the beast that devoured newspapers, cigarette butts and just about anything else. The ruminant had no respect for fences or screen doors.
No sooner had the goat been put in the pasture than it jumped the fence, ran across our yard,peered through the screen door and baaed loudly. Apparently, it had once been a house goat.
My mother took to chasing Billy off the porch with a broom – until he ate the broom.
Veterinarians can also be pretty resourceful.
I remember falling off my bicycle in the second grade and walking home with an injured arm. My father took a look at it and said, “It’s either a fracture or a really bad sprain.”
His next step was to take me to the veterinary clinic for an x-ray.
I still remember him striding into Cottage Hospital’s emergency room with me by his side. He hollered, “He doesn’t need to go to radiology, I’ve got an x-ray film right here.”
My wife, on the other hand, would take sneak in-utero peeks of our three daughters with her practice’s ultrasound machine.
Speaking of pregnancy, a couple of years after we wed, my wife was more than eight months pregnant with our first daughter and she came home with a kitten that was born without eyes.
Between sobs, Joan said, “They wanted me to put it to sleep just because it was born this way. I couldn’t do it, Scott. What happens if our child is born without any eyes?” As my pregnant wife stroked the blind kitten she added, ”It’s just a foster cat. It will stay with us just until we find someone who will give it a home permanently.”
The “foster cat” lived with us for another 13 years. It had the floor plan of the house memorized, avoided the kids’ toys on the floor with an eerie sixth sense and lounged on the window sill like a prince on a throne.
Maybe it’s time to write a screenplay of my own about my life with veterinarians.
But rest assured, I know at least one person ready to heckle all the way through the show.
Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist. He works as a freelance reporter in the Springfield area. Scottreeder1965@gmail.com