Most of us who deal with animals on a regular basis are familiar with the books of that well-loved veterinarian and author of All Creatures, Great and Small, James Herriot.

He seems to embody everybody’s image of the kindly, competent country practitioner. Occasionally wrong, but always well intentioned.

Vets are often called on to minister to the needs of the owner as well as the patient. Dr. Herriot told one story that is a variation of a tale not unheard of by many veterinarians, regarding a blind woman’s parakeet. The parakeet sat in his cage and sang. He was the old lady’s sole companion.

Dr. Herriot was called to her house one day with the complaint that Perry wasn’t eating. Doc withdrew Perry from his cage and reassured Missus that his beak was overgrown. He could fix it in a jiffy. Missus was so relieved. She loved Perry’s singing so much. Doc carefully snipped the beak and when he went to replace the bird in his cage, he made the startling discovery that Perry was dead as a crowbar!

The rest of the chapter involved Dr. Herriot’s mad search to find a live replacement for Perry with the genuine intention of preventing the blind lady from suffering distress.

It doesn’t just happen to vets! A pet shipping container arrived at the big city airport. As it was wending its way through the bowels of the baggage facility, one of the employees peeked into Skipper’s cage.

She immediately removed the dog crate and called her supervisor. After some gentle nudging with a short stick they agreed that Skipper was stiff as a two by four and was, in fact, Dead!

A crowd of baggage handlers gathered. They were terribly concerned. They were discussing who to blame when one of the men said his neighbor was feeding a stray that was the spitting image of Skipper! He was sent to get the dog at any cost while the supervisor went out front and stalled the passenger.

Within an hour they had switched collars, stuffed the stray in the carrier and Skipper in a sack.

“That’s not my dog,” said the disgruntled passenger.

“Well, sure it is, ma’am,” asserted the supervisor.

“Nope. That’s not Skipper.”

“He came in this carrier checked from Des Moines. It says so right on the tag here!”

“Not him!’

“Look! He’s waggin’ his tail! He’s wearin’ his collar! It’s got to be your dog!”

“Sure isn’t,” she said, “My dog’s dead!”

Baxter Black is a cowboy poet, former large animal veterinarian and entertainer of the agricultural masses. As he puts it, “he has a narrow following, but it’s deep!” He resides in Benson, Arizona. Additional information about him can be found at baxterblack.com.