This week, on February 23rd, we mark the anniversary of the death of Dr. James Herriot. It is vital that we pause to reflect on the difference one person – one veterinarian, can make. Few human beings who have ever walked our planet touched so many people and brought such absolute joy as did Dr. James Herriot. Moreover, his inspiration continues to this day; his books are on the shelves at every bookstore I visit and are even available as e-books at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and independent bookstores, at the Centre in Thirsk North Yorkshire children of all ages are enlivened by the World of James Herriot (www.worldofjamesherriot.org ). It is a reflection of his impact and timeless stories that all of this is happening sixteen years after his death.
James Alfred Wight, OBE took the pen name James Herriot. His famous books; “All Creatures Great and Small”, “All Things Bright and Beautiful” and “All Things Wise and Wonderful” captivated me as a young girl. They played a central role in my desire to become a veterinarian. So many of us in the profession today owe immense gratitude to Dr. Herriot for encouraging our life’s work and this love of animals that defines us.
For me personally, the influence he had to help us understand the power of the human-animal bond, the artistic manner in which he painted a scene with but mere words and the captivating manner which consumed us as readers enveloped in his world – not able to turn the page fast enough, yet not wanting the book to end -also planted in me a desire to write. If he could read “Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life” I wonder what he would think? In the many painstaking hours of writing, I often thought of Dr. Herriot and wondered if there was a better way to express a thought or more striking words to utilize. He was a master at capturing the landscape, the scene, animals and people alike. Any veterinarian who dares write a book stands in the long shadow he casts. Yet each of us writes with a passion for animals and words that he engendered. With that effort, we hope to honor him.
I regret terribly not having met such a gifted veterinarian and writer. But I stand as one of his millions of fans around the world. In this World Veterinary Year of 2011, I thank you Dr. James Herriot for inspiring a love of animals and people, a love of place and words and a passion for veterinary medicine. Rest in peace Dr. Herriot.