“Every dog has his day”
-An Arab saying
There are few things i like more than writing, actually none..and yet i find myself on a beautiful spring evening attending a lecture at the University of Zurich, holding a cup of coffee purchased from the Tamil vender at the next door ETH; institute of technology , seeking the lecture titled “Learning leadership from animals” by an Italian Veterinarian seeking cerebral stimulation and a reminder to my previous dream as a young person to study veterinarian medicine once upon a time but alas , i have forgotten the name of the lecturer and the title so the young blond student with braces struggles to pronounce the letter and number of room and i climb my way up to the ivory tower of academia relishing the feeling of being far far away from the maddening crowds..
The lecturer is a charming small Italian veterinarian with a nice accent in English, he is a surgeon and describes using Disney animals prototypical qualities of leadership one finds in prototypical animals in Disney films as inspired by his young daughter.
The lecturer is interesting, he begins by bringing evidence of the correlation between hormonal levels of the male hormone Testosterone and assertive behaviour, so that simply standing up straight and looking menacing and important can raise hormonal levels and vice versa..
The good doctor brings an example of a knee operation of a French bulldog and how empathy is important for a doctor when my wondering eye happened to catch Dr. K. , a man i consider a friend whom i met seeking a place to sit and write .
The first time i met K. he talked fast with excitement, very much the gifted child he must have been growing up in rural Germany on a farm, then going on to university to study animal medicine but he was excited speaking about human beings, specifically women and particularly his girlfriend in Germany with whom he lives in an open relationship, a woman he met at a German open community (where else would you meet a woman like that? )
From the very start it was very clear that K. was into community life, something i had been trying to avoid all my life since the three days i had spent as a student on a kibbutz on the border to Lebanon when it became clear that a Psychology and Theater major was not desirable for the community and my friend with a degree in chemistry was more attractive to the practical minded. Kibbutz community .
I am not one to thrive in communities, having grown up a princess in her own room who was fed “Be a doctor, be an academic , study, eat and be smart and bring fame and fortune to the family” since my school evaluation found me to be “gifted” and lets face it, my character flaw added to the probability of me living in a mountain alone with goats rather than with human beings raising goats.
K. had studied veterinary medicine, my dream of dr. do little , and worked as a lecturer, and yet he had an interest in human touch, and had participated in dance groups where he could touch others, anyone, and his hippy girlfriend, also in her 50’s, encouraged him to touch as many people as possible on a level only cows had known him intimately previously within professional relarionship.
I sat listening patiently to K. describe his open relationship feeling slightly nauseous as i reflected upon a recent heart break, a mad local Austrian alcoholic phD. who had found his true self sexually connecting to anyone online and on whom i had wasted two years of reading Puablo Neruda poetry out loud in attempts to rehabilitate him to becoming the second coming of the Austrian poet Rilke. .”.he got to me” by reading everything i published online and encouraging me to write more words so he could read more words and keep his mind off his 99 bottles of beer on the wall..
What can you do when people refuse to become the image you wish to mold them into? Even my own half DNA strands had refused to reject the soccer fever their other DNA strand had forced by environmental factors and insisted on banning museums and theater , not to mention the opera and classical concerts.
K. Continued to describe in great ecstasy how he enjoyed touching strangers in contact improvisation and showed me the plan of the house he shared with others living a communal life sharing a living space while i recalled the nightmare of running in the middle of the night clutching my belongings after my room mate in Boston left yet another string of notes demanding i peform domestic chores when all i wanted to do was listen to music and paint, i found myself in a Herman monster family type house with my soul mate Linda with clouds of dust in the air as Linda sat amongst towers tall like the then existing twin towers of books from second hand shops describing French avant gard poets and me reading to Linda my latest poetry, there were just the two of us till a ginger haired Jewish Janis Joplin type called Rachel invaded with her bottles of alcohol and confessions of waking up in strange beds with even stranger men and one soft hearted Irish bartender..
Ok, i am getting to the point of this soliloquy ; My faithful four legged friend had been ill and naturally i had asked K. ,a professional animal doctor,what he recommends for a tumor?
K. had just written back a quick one line email that probably if it is larger than a cherry size it should be operated and muttered “IT IS NOT MY FIELD” and continued to speak about the latest touch strangers workshop impervious to the fact that MY BEST FRIEND was maybe dying…i recalled this as the Italian vet lectured about animals and empathy and the importance of showing empathy.
The dragon in me that is , if truth be told, not sleeping on most days , had awoken with a great roar: “I could have told you when you talked about your relationship that it is NOT MY FIELD too”, i screamed bitterly, “i studied Psychology but it does not mean you can use me as a therapist or relationship counsellor “, i said but even as i uttered the words i recalled the warning we were given during first year Psychology studies ; DO NOT TELL ANYONE YOU STUDY PSYCHOLOGY if you don’t want to hear every neighbour’s personal problems ..etc.”
Empathy..Mmmm , thought to myself as i spotted the devil i was speaking of, K. sitting in the back row of the university lecture hall talking ( as usual) to a blond female colleague , probably not listening to what the good Italian doctor was saying, EMPATHY!!
I went up to the doctor and had asked him the question i was interested to know
- How does a veterinarian keep empathy ?
- Do pure bred dogs have more health issues, specifically limb issues and if so what does that say about all those people who insist on purchasing pedigree dogs while leaving shelter dogs to die unwanted ?
One of my “hobbies” ( my life is made up of hobbies if truth be told) is encouraging people to adopt shelter dogs and cats online but the good Italian doctor while admitted that his family dog is a dog of mixed breeds , he could not say clearly that choosing pure bred dogs though they had more health issues would therefore be a mistake..
I chose not to greet K., left him in his ivory tower to lecture to future animal doctors about the structure of animals and to keep his empathy for himself and his communal life house mates and i walked out to the spring night hearing the birds sing enjoying a rare dog less night away from my mixed bred friend, and yes, she had an operation, i found a local animal doctor with a lot of empathy and he removed her tumor successfully in a brilliant operation and so there is a happy end but i am not sure i will contact K. again, let him stay in Kafka stories as a prototype and enjoy his open relationships while i enjoy my closed deep ones.
Peace, light and love
Please excuse politically incorrect stereotypes.
I admit : We are not only a product of our culture but it is easier to speak
to mediterranean people, and somehow we do not feel the need to touch many strangers without deep emotions..to touch deeply is a risk but we take it, we take it, we don’t do surfaces well. oh, well.. and that is, as they say, for good AND bad.!
P.S. If the German vet or the Austrian alcoholic phD are reading this, please forgive me for stereotyping you, i guess it evens the score historically though Ghandi did state that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind..