I attended a very sad funeral today. It was particularly sad because most of my departed friend's friends thought he was already gone. He was my dearly beloved veterinarian, Buck Lindquist. Buck was a truly amazing animal man - I think he spoke the language of every animal he ever met. He was also the most intelligent man I ever knew. He was a sort of combination Dr. Doolittle and Albert Einstein. The sad end to his life lasted for ten years. He fell down a long flight of stairs onto a cement floor and had a closed head injury. He was just starting to get over it, and came to help me with a dying horse. He overstressed himself walking out to my pasture, laying on top of the horse to hold her down, and then hiking back to my farmyard. He drove home and had a stroke. He was in a nursing home for the last ten years. Ten years of an extremely bright mind closed up by brain damage and drugs.
One time, Buck saved my favorite horse. He walked into our riding arena, heard a sound no one else heard, ran to the far end of the arena, and found my Morgan stallion, Tara, choking on an apple that was lodged halfway down his throat. Buck massaged his throat and moved that apple up and out! It popped out like a ping-pong ball. Buck was like that, he could just look at a horse and make a completely accurate diagnosis. He treated 45 horses at my farm for about 25 years and I never knew him to be wrong - even when vets at Michigan State gave second opinions, they used all their high tech stuff and just confirmed Buck's seat-of-the-pants diagnosis.
Horses weren't afraid of Buck. Other vets might walk into a barn and every horse would suddenly be on the alert, but not with Buck. Horses, even breeding stallions, were so relaxed around him that he could give them shots or stitch up wounds and they wouldn't even wiggle. I helped him do a surgery one time. He had fingers the size of sausages, yet he removed the tiniest little bone chip from the hock of an Appaloosa race horse. He stitched up that surgical site so years later there was no sign of a scar.
I feel very fortunate to have known Buck and I'm so sorry he never got out of the nursing home.