Compassion for a Vet

Jon Katz book, Saving Simon, which I read, devoured really, talks about compassion for a neglected donkey. But Jon asks the question, what about compassion for the farmer who owned the donkey? It got me thinking about this incident.

It was a shock to read in a local Internet news site that my dog’s veterinarian was being investigated on drug charges, “Veterinarian Arrested After DEA Investigation”.  It’s hard to align the flesh and blood man who cares for my dog’s well-being to that of a hardened criminal.  After a few months the same news site posted an update that the Vet had been charged and will soon do time in prison, although a short sentence.

Many times I’ve driven by his business, knowing that I need to stop and buy some more Heartworm medication, a brand my other Vet doesn’t stock. This week I pulled my car into the parking lot, nervous about what I should say to him and his dedicated staff.

The Vet didn’t appear to be around so I made my purchase and started to leave. But the doctor came out from the back room to talk to another customer, whose dog had severe ear problems.  Afterwards he and I talked more like old friends, me telling him about Jon Katz’ new book, Saving Simon, and my trip to New York.  He talked about his plans for the future, for him as well as his current business.  The words, “After my time in the Big House” were out there, unspoken, like a black cloud above him.  His plans are exciting for him, for me and for the community.  He also talked about his last ex-wife.  Each time I’ve been there as a customer he has mentioned her, I suspect another mistake he made, a great love he let get away.

People will say he was conning me. Years ago I was warned by my trainer at the Sheriff’s Office not to trust the inmates.  I was told that they are skilled con artists, smooth talkers and very believable.  But I wasn’t being conned by the Vet.  He has nothing to gain by sharing a conversation with me.  He’s not unlike anyone who has made a mistake.  He wants acceptance, a voice, to have someone listen to him, act normal, make no judgments.

We did not talk about the public mark on his name. It’s none of my business why he did something on the shady side of the law. My guess, like someone driving a speeding car, he never dreamed that he would be caught.  It was a risk he took and now he must suffer the consequences.

The local news site has a comment section where people can vent or commiserate about the day’s events. Below the article about the Vet are lines of comments on what a great animal doctor he was, how he’s saved more than one pet from near death.  The doctor has gained a loyalty from the country folk who are his livelihood, the farmers and people who barely get by, who bring their dogs or cats to the Animal Hospital in poor condition.  Don’t get me wrong.  Dr. Vet broke the law and he’ll serve his time.  That doesn’t change the fact that he is a good veterinarian.

One thing working in law enforcement taught me is that people put up a good front when their lives are crumbling. Dr. Vet was normal and gregarious when I talked to him this week.  I only hope for his sake, his family, his dogs and his business that he can learn from this misdeed and come out of the Big House with a clear head and conscience.  But it’s crossed my mind that in an age of celebrity suicides, when he’s alone, can he endure the event and notoriety.  I hope so.  His plans for the future are good and well thought out and he is still a very good animal doctor.  Can we have compassion for someone who broke the law?

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