Tiny and the Oak Tree

by Dr. Dennis K. McIntosh

birds

He was scary-looking. Standing about 6 foot 6 inches tall, he had shoulders the width of my dining room table. His hair hung to his shoulders, a full beard obscured half of his face; his massive arms and chest were covered with tattoos. He was wearing greasy blue jeans and a jean jacket with the sleeves cut out. Chains clanked on his motorcycle boots and on the key ring hanging from his wide leather belt. He held out a hand the size of a pie plate, in which lay a tiny, misshapen kitten.

"What's wrong with Tiny, Doc?" he asked in a gruff voice.

My exam revealed a birth defect. Tiny's spine had never grown together, and he was paralyzed in his back legs. No amount of surgery, medicine, or prayer was going to fix him - I felt helpless.

The only thing I could tell this big, hairy giant was that his little friend was going to die. I was ashamed of my prejudice but I felt a little nervous anticipating the bikerís reaction. Being the bearer of bad news is never pleasant, but with a rough-looking character like the man in front of me, I didnít know what to expect.

I tried to be as tactful as possible, explaining Tiny's problem and what we could expect, which was a slow, lingering death. I braced myself for his response.

But the big fella only looked at me with eyes that I could barely see through the hair on his face and said sadly, "I guess we gotta do him, huh, Doc?"

I agreed that, yes, the best way to help Tiny was to give him the injection that would end his poor pain-filled life. So with his owner holding Tiny, we ended the little kittenís pain.

When it was over, I was surprised to see this macho guy, the size of an oak tree, just standing there holding Tiny, with tears running down his beard. He never apologized for crying, but he managed a choked "Thanks, Doc," as he carried his little friend's body home to bury him.

Although ending a patient's life is never pleasant, my staff and I all agreed that we were glad that we could stop the sick kittenís pain. Weeks passed, and the incident faded.

Then one day the oak-sized biker appeared in the clinic again. It looked ominously like we were about to repeat the earlier scenario. The huge man was wearing the same clothes and carrying another kitten in his pie plate hand. But I was enormously relieved upon examining "Tiny Two" to find he was absolutely, perfectly, wonderfully normal and healthy.

I started Tiny Two's vaccinations, tested him for worms and discussed his care, diet, and future needs with his deceptively tough-looking owner. By now, it was obvious that Mr. Oak Tree had a heart that matched his size.

I wonder now how many other Hellís Angel-types are really closet marshmallows. In fact, whenever I see a pack of scary-looking bikers roaring past me on the road, I crane my neck to see if I can catch a glimpse of some tiny little kitten poking its head up out of a sleek chrome side-car or maybe even peeking out from inside the front of a black leather jacket.

By Dr. Dennis K. McIntosh

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