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Cleveland's Dr. James Herriot

Message Suzana Megles
Anybody living in the 80's might remember watching the wonderful British series
re Dr. James Herriot  - a very special veterinarian in the opinion of many of us who 
watched him on TV.  We saw him perform so well the work of bringing health and
vigor back to his ailing  animal clients when he could, and as a result -much peace
to their  worried  but grateful owners.  He was also a country doctor, and that meant
he took care of ailing cows, pigs,  horses, etc. as well.  In doing some research
in this regard, I was surprised to find that Herriot was his pen name.  His real
name is James Alfred Wight and he was born in October, 1916 and he died in
February, 1995.
You may have read his book "All Creatures Great and Small."  I wonder now what
I did with my copy.  If I can't find it, I believe a trip to the library to get theirs is  
warranted as I want to enjoy again his wit, humor, and compassion.  However, in
the meantime, I have begun gratefully thinking about our own very special Cleveland
vet-   Dr. Brian Forsgren - and this quite by accident.
Home- nursing a cold with its attendent sniffles and lethargy, I have spent a couple of
days looking through my copious material re animal concerns.  I am grateful, that I
don't have the flu, and I am glad that I have not felt the need to get a flu shot for the
last 10 years or more.  I am so reminded of lemmings when it comes to getting the
flu shots.  Everybody is getting them because they are told that they are necessary,
and so we dutifully follow the crowd to the doctor's office for them. I was a lemming
once but not any more. I find they are not  necessary for me, and if I can prevent
drugs from coursing through my body, thank God, I will. 
So what do I take for my cold?  Echinachea, garlic sandwiches, fluids, and rest.  I was
happy this morning to get a telephone call from a dear friend - Sorin who helps me
with my computer and technical needs.  My keyboard delete button wasn't working
and I thought that possibly I needed a new keyboard and left him a message in this
He called this morning saying he could come on Sunday with another keyboard.  I
was glad to tell him though that I finally realized that something must be caught
between the delete key and vola - problem solved-so he wouldn't have to come out
And then after hearing about my cold, he surprised me by saying that he too didn't
get a flu shot this year and  was taking the Echinachea I had given him for the
onset  of a cold.  I was pleased as punch re this - that he was using this helpful
supplement and he feels it works.
My cold was a blessing in disguise.  It gave me a chance to re-introduce myself to this
wonderful Cleveland vet - Dr. Brian Forsgren.  I have known about him for the past
30 years or more and I am always impressed by learning more about him though I
have had first hand experience with him too.  I remember him as a young handsome
vet who tried private practice in the Lakewood Animal Hospital where I took one of
my many wards - this time a kitten. You could feel the love and kindness which
emanated from him in the handling of this kitten.  But sadly, the good young  doctor
who had spent his early formative years in the Animal Protective League, soon
returned to his "roots" where he probably felt he could do more good.  
THe APL regularly sent us a monthly newsletter which contained a "Vet's Corner" post.
This is when I learned that not only was Dr. Brian a compassionate, caring vet, but he
is a brilliant wordmaster.  I think one time I even asked him to write a book on his
many stories - some horrific, but all beautifully told during his tenure at the APL. 
This day I found this account written by Dr.Brian in the PD in 2002. It is terribly, teribbly
sad that anyone would treat a puppy like the perpetrator of this horrendous crime. 
When people accuse others of a horrific crime they ofen say - He/she is an animal.  No,
that is an injustice to the animals who would never commit the horrible crimes we do
and as did this poor excuse for a human being.    
The post I found in the 2002 Cleveland Plain Dealer was titled "In Ohio, some of the
sickest crimes are defined as misdemeanors."  I couldn't agree more.  Whether things
have changed since then or not - I really don't know,  but I have never considered
Ohio a compassionate state when it came to the animals.  
Dr. Brian's beginning paragraph reveals much about the man - his word mastery and his
"Ohio has one of the most archaic animal cruelty statutes in the nation.  As a veterinarian,
I'm ashamed of it, and I feel morally obligated to do something about it.  Philosophy and
ethics can be powerful motivators, but experience is even more powerful.  I have a story
to tell you that takes motivation out of the pristine area of theory."
On a miserably hot day in August Dr. Brian received a call from the humane investigator,
Matt Granito.  He was so traumatized by finding a "burned-up" puppy that he had a
hard time comprehending what he was saying, but he agreed to see this poor puppy who
had been doused with gasoline and set afire on the hottest day of summer. 
The next paragraph needs to be copied verbatim as written by the doctor:
"Granito arrived with a still-smoldering, 10- week-old mixed breed wrapped in a blanket.
He was a short-coated little mutt with burns covering nearly 100 percent of his body.  I
wish I could adequately describe the smell of him.  I wish that I could make each and
everyone of the voters in Ohio see the glassy haze on his recently coated corneas.  I wish
you all could see the charcoal-rendered ear edges, the incinerated whiskers and the huge
burn right through the skin on his back."
He then describes how carefully they tried to euthanize him without causing him more
pain.  He also mentions that two Ohio legislators - Goodman and Grendell had introduced
two bills-S. 221 and HB 480 which could help do something the way animals are treated. 
I will have to try to find out if these much needed bills were passed,  but knowing our
Ohio legislators from past experience, I have my doubts.
In 2010 Dr. Brian spoke up in behalf of farm animal cruelty and was probably instrumental
in getting passed  some much needed reforms and humane treatment for them.
Just last night, I saw him featured on Channel 3 addressing the tainted chicken jerkey treats
from China which has led to kidney disfunction and death for some of our area dogs.  He
has asked the FDA to look into this matter and prohibit this harmful treat from being sold
in the US.  Yes, the good doctor has aged and his now once black luxurious mane is mostly
white now.  But I know that he still has more good years ahead of him to continue his work
with animals which I'm sure St. Francis has blest  In fact, I believe some began calling him a
modern day St. Francis. 
After 19 years working in the APL, Dr. Brian Forsgren opened a walk-in clinic in the Tremont
area of Cleveland. He readily admits now that often he and his staff are exhausted after long-
hour days trying to help the people who bring their companion animals for much needed
veterinarian help.  
There is one thing more I hope the good doctor will do and that is write a book about his
many  experiences as a vet.  Yes, I had asked him to do this once before.  Of course, the
need and desire to share his love and compassion of the animal world lies completely with
him. But I hope that he realizes the good which can come from such a book which only he
can write.  He needs to take a sabbatical from his Gateway Clinic and spend some time
reflecting on the work he has done and put it in a book so that young veterinarians coming
up will derive inspiration from him and his work and that  the rest of us can learn the
true meaning of caring and compassion for the animal world. 
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I have been concerned about animal suffering ever since
I received my first puppy Peaches in 1975. She made me take a good look at the animal kingdom and I was shocked to see how badly we treat so many animals. At 77, I've been a vegan for the (more...)
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