A couple days before Veteran’s Day, I was working a shift at the local veterinary emergency clinic. It had been a fairly quiet night. The most serious case I had seen was a dog that had been hit by a car and came in with some bleeding from the nose, but amazingly no other injuries other than some scrapes and bruises. Within an hour even that dog was doing pretty well and seemed very stable.

At about 2 a.m. we got a call concerning a dog with a swelling around one of the eyes. Some eye injuries can possibly cause loss of vision, so we recommended they bring it in so we could check it out and within a half hour they arrived with their little dog, Romeo. Romeo is a young Italian Greyhound and his eye was definitely swollen. The tissues around the eye were so swollen it was actually hard to see the eye itself. The owners explained the swelling came on very suddenly. I didn’t see anything wrong with the eye other than this marked swelling of the surrounding tissues. There wasn’t a history of any trauma, so I diagnosed Romeo with an allergic reaction most likely to some sort of insect/spider bite and treated him accordingly.

Romeo was a very timid dog in the exam room which isn’t unusual for greyhounds in my experience. When mentioning this one of the owners, Bill, told me Romeo is normally pretty quiet and shy. Bill then mentioned that Romeo even got picked on by their poodles at home. As I was petting Romeo, I mentioned that was pretty embarrassing getting picked on by poodles. I am told my sense of humor is pretty dry and some who don’t know me sometimes never know when I am joking. I really need to be more careful when joking around with people who don’t know me well. Thankfully, Bill and his wife knew I was joking and not trying to insult Romeo.

Bill then began discussing their dogs and talking about how they had gotten at least one of the dogs through a program associated with the Wounded Warrior Program. In passing, Bill mentioned that he had been in Iraq for a period of time and after getting home had adopted a dog from a group that worked with the Wounded Warrior Program to get veterans good dogs. I would assume this served the purpose of finding homes for homeless dogs and providing “pet” therapy to those veterans returning home.

I wish I would have asked Bill more questions about this adoption program for veterans. The benefits of pets for a wide variety of health concerns are very well recognized and I am so glad veterans take advantage of the benefits pets offer. But as soon as Bill started discussing his service and these programs, my mind just got completely preoccupied with how typical it was for veterans to either not discuss their military service at all, or to mention so “matter-of fact” in conversation as Bill had just done. It seems so many in our society today go so out of their way to pump themselves up to everyone within earshot. In the meantime, we quietly have thousands of men and women going to and coming from countries all over the world serving their country. They don’t do it for thanks or to show others how great they are, they do it because they love their country. They sacrifice years away from their families and risk their lives for their love of their country.

Before I knew it, Bill, his wife, and Romeo had left. Once again I hadn’t taken the opportunity to tell a veteran, “Thank you.” I know it is appropriate to say it, but it just always seems so inadequate. “Hey Bill. I know you spent years away from your family, risked your life, and endured physical and emotional hardship for little pay while I was home doing a job I love and coming home every night to hug my wife and kids and sleep in my own bed. Thank you.” I say “thank you” when my waitress refills my Diet Coke. Saying that to a veteran just doesn’t seem like enough. However, since nothing I would say or do would begin to show my appreciation, I will just have to settle for that. Thank you to Bill and to all of those who have served or are serving in the military.

Chad Higgins, DVM has owned Amanda Animal Hospital for the last 15 years. He sees dogs, cats, and other little furry critters.