It was a typical weekday evening, after dinner, and I was in my office doing some writing when the phone rang. “Lorraine, this is Tom Leibl.” I could hear the smile in his voice, which was matched by my own. My vet is one of my favorite people.
“Hey Dr. Tom, what’s up?” Leah, my black lab service dog, was scheduled to have some teeth removed the next day in his office. Although she had numerous health issues over the years, I wasn’t worried. I trusted Dr. Tom completely. Before Leah, he had taken care of Marshall, my first service dog. I had known him for many years. He is one of the few people who truly understands the bond that I have with my dogs, and over time I have grown to love him.
“I know I don’t usually call you in the evenings, but I am in my office looking at Leah’s x-rays in preparation for her surgery tomorrow, and I think it might be better if she had this procedure done by a specialist. I know someone in Kansas City. I can set the whole thing up. Is that okay with you?”
“Sure thing. I am happy to do whatever you think is best, Dr. Tom.”
Two weeks later, this amazing man showed up at my door at 7 a.m. so that he could drive my dog to the place where she was going to have surgery. Because he knows that his voice is so comforting to her, he stayed with her as she was going under anesthesia and he also made sure he was with her as she was waking up. He waited until she was ready to go and then he brought her back to me. When they got to my house, he sat with me for several minutes explaining how her surgery went and what I needed to do specifically for a few days to make her comfortable and care for her.
It was while he was giving me these instructions that he told me another thing that happened that day. Apparently, Dr. Tom had to be at my house so early that morning that he had not had time to eat anything. On the way to where they were going, He stopped at McDonald’s to get an egg McMuffin. As he was unwrapping it, he realized that Leah, who was in the back seat and had not had any kibble because she was having surgery, was smelling the whole thing. Dr. Tom decided that it wasn’t fair of him to eat in front of Leah since Leah couldn’t eat. So, he wrapped up his sandwich and went with her to get her all prepped and ready for surgery. While the surgery was taking place, he went back out to his car and ate his by then totally cold egg McMuffin. And he did all of that, just to be kind to my dog.
In the years since I have known him, Dr. Tom has done countless incredible things for me and my canines. When we decided that it was time to let Marshall go, I had been out of town for a week and Marshall had been staying at Dr. Tom’s clinic. The thought of not having him around me was almost more than I could bear. I started crying harder than I believe I have ever cried in my life. I kept apologizing because I knew I was at a place of business and it was almost impossible to pull myself together. Dr. Tom hugged me for a long time. “Lorraine,” he said, “Don’t you DARE apologize for loving your dog.”
A few days after we put Marshall to sleep, I got a card in the mail from Dr. Tom. “While Marshall was alive, you were his angel. You made sure that he had everything he needed, and you loved him well. Now it is time for the two of you to switch places. Let him be your angel and love you as he watches over you.” It was exactly what I needed to hear.
In the last few months, Leah has gotten more tired and a little sicklier. And, at this point, according to Dr. Tom, it is hard to say whether she will get better or worse. So, we are taking things day by day and I am loving her and spoiling her as much as I possibly can. But no matter what happens I understand something important going forward. Leah and I are blessed to have an angel in our lives. We know him as Dr. Tom.