My Thanks to Herriot
When I was a child I loved to read. Apparently, you were more likely to find me in a dark corner with a book than you were to find me outside playing. My grandfather fed this hobby with delight, handing me anything he could find that fit my current interests. Every holiday I would (and still sometimes do) receive a book from him as a gift. Not a new one, but one with character showing in its torn cover, bent pages, and old smell. I loved them and treated them like the most precious treasures on earth.
One birthday, my seventh I believe, he handed me three brand new hardcovers. I was surprised, as this was the first time anyone had given me a hardcover, and the first time Pips had ever given me a new book. I slid my hands over the smooth curve of the spine, peeking underneath the protective cover to examine the fabric that followed. I remember the smell distinctly as I flipped the pages and held the books to my face. New paper, ink, plastic, and a bit of Pips’ pipe smoke. We were outside by the cellar when he gave them to me, and I was so scared that I was going to drop them on the ground.
These books are precisely what started my complete and utter devotion to animals. They were by James Herriot, a vet who lived and worked in Yorkshire in the 1940s and on. I have since read them all at least a dozen times, added to the collection, and moved them around the country and province a number of times. They are books about a man who loves animals and who does what he can to heal their pains. He was a man with a good sense of humor and a talent with words that just isn’t seen much anymore.
My Pips and I still exchange stories from the books, and some of the characters have become a part of our everyday conversations. When I read them while laying on the couch with a couple of dogs and a cat stretched out over my body, nearly squashing the life out of me, tears may or may not appear at the thought of how lucky I am to know that every second with a pet should be held dear.
I owe that, and much more to my Pips, and to Herriot. If you have never read any of his books, do give them a try. There are books devoted to dog stories, cat stories, Yorkshire landscapes, general vet happenings, all mixed in with a bit of himself.
Of all the books that I have read (I have got to be somewhere in the thousands now), these are part of the small collection that I keep close at all times. They are still my treasures, and when I read them I feel like I am seven all over again. Thank you kindly and dearly to Mr. Herriot, and my Pips, for teaching me what it is to have a pet and to treat it well.
Have any of you out there read Herriot? Do you have a different favorite pet author? Do you have suggestions as to what I should put on my reading list?