Thursday, February 19, 2009

In Memory of Julie Giles

The phone rang as I was making lunch this past Saturday, and I could see from the caller ID that it was my vet's office. I wasn't awaiting any test results or anything, so I was a bit perplexed as I answered. At the other end of the line was the vet clinic's senior veterinary technician who had worked with my long-time vet, Dr. Julie Giles, for many years.

I could tell as soon as I heard her voice that something was very wrong, and I had a sinking feeling that I knew what. I wished that time would stand still so that I would not have to hear the dreaded news, and I had already started to cry when I heard the words, "Julie left us." I pounded my kitchen counters with my fists and wept as I learned that Dr. Giles had died at home on Wednesday, Feb. 11. At some point I collected myself enough to say that I was so very sorry to hear this news and would be keeping the entire vet clinic staff in my thoughts over the coming weeks and months. My fiance had come into the kitchen as soon as he realized that I was distraught, and as I hung up I just collapsed into his arms, not believing that what I heard was true but at the same time knowing all too well that it was.

It might sound odd to react in such a way to the death of one's vet, but Julie Giles was no ordinary vet. I completely and immediately adored her from the very first time Arthur and I saw her at DuPont Vet Clinic in 1998, although I didn't immediately know why. As I got to know Dr. Giles better over the next 11 years as my pet ranks grew to 7 and as she opened and ran Union Vet Clinic on Capitol Hill, I began to feel a real bond with her. Early in our relationship, Julie and I discovered that we were from the same part of North Carolina, so we always had a hometown connection. But even more than that, Dr. Giles impressed me time and again with her intellect, intuition, effusiveness, sense of humor, free-flowing laughter, and profound kindness. And of course she was a damn fine vet. She kept many of my friends' pets alive well beyond their average life expectancies, and on more than one occasion she successfully diagnosed and treated conditions that other vets had missed. When Dr. Giles learned several years ago that she had multiple sclerosis, she greeted that news with courage, strength, and poise, thus deepening my admiration for her all the more.

Although my relationship with Julie Giles was strictly that of client-to-vet, I nonetheless could say without hesitation that I truly loved her, much as I would have loved a cool older sister had I been blessed to have one. Today's post over at The Gold Puppy deals with the mysteries of how human beings can bring out the best and worst in one another, and while reading that post I realized that part of why I loved Julie Giles so much was because whenever I was in her presence I could not help but feel happier and uplifted. It literally was impossible for me to be in the same room with her and not smile. She brought out the happy and fun sides of my personality that usually live well beneath the surface, and for that I will always be thankful to her.

I have spent enough hours in Union Vet Clinic and in conversation with other pet owners over the years to know that I am far from alone in my adoration of Dr. Giles. There are legions of pet owners on Capitol Hill who trusted their pets' care to Dr. Giles, had great affection for her as a person, and found themselves leaving her office happier than when they arrived. As the Capitol Hill neighborhood over the last week gradually learned of Dr. Giles's death, a sense of loss and grief descended on the entire community.

Julie Giles was a great light in the world during her time in it, and she will be deeply missed and mourned by those whose lives she touched. Although she will continue to live in the hearts and memories of those of us who knew her, the world will never be quite the same without the woman herself in it. I hope that you at last have found peace, dear Julie. We all shall miss you.


willow said...

A lovely tribute to Dr. Giles.

e said...

Poor Adrianne, a double-whammy for you and your other pets during this time. As Willow says, a lovely farewell for your vet, Julie, and acknowledgement of her contributions to your lives and those of others.

Reya Mellicker said...

What a wonderful tribute! Her death was a shock to so many friends and neighbors on Capitol Hill.

I'm so sorry to hear this sad news. Thanks for writing this.

Lane said...

She sounds like a truly wonderful woman.

So sorry to hear you've had such a sad time recently.

Rebekah said...

Thanks, Adriane, for your heartfelt thoughts about Julie in her passing. Julie and I moved from NC to DC together in '89...and while I moved back to NC in '95, she and I remained best friends. The loss we all feel, especially Carolyn, is deep and not easily assuaged; however, tributes such as yours help more than you may know.

Rebekah said...

PS: Adrianne, I apologize for leaving out your other "n" above.

Adrianne said...

Rebekah, you have my deepest sympathies for the loss of such a wonderful friend of such long standing. Although I have never met Julie's family, Carolyn nonetheless has been in my thoughts continually, as have Julie's mother and siblings. As you said, it will take a long time for those of us who knew Julie, especially those of you who knew her best, to get over her loss. I am honored that you found this post helpful in that regard.

Carolyn Guthrie said...

Thank you, Adrianne, for your very evocative description of the Julie who delighted us, cheered us and made us laugh with her beautiful infectious sense of humor and laughter (to say nothing of her uncanny ability to channel the thoughts, protests, and relief of the creature under scrutiny).

We will be having a memorial gathering for Julie on Friday, February 27 in Washington at the Sewall-Belmost House. I wondered whether you would mind if use some or all of your tribute to her in a small booklet we are putting together for the memorial.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with all of us. I miss her so terribly that it is difficult for me to think of anything else. Your eloquence has helped me move past my sadness this evening.

Carolyn Guthrie

Kelly Keegan said...

When I got home a few minutes ago, I found a voicemail from Dr. Gross at Union Veterinary Clinic saying she had some news for me, to please call her... It was far too late to call, and I tried to figure out what her message could be. My precious cat died in December, and as I have no other pets now, I had no clue what the news could be.

Then I thought about Dr. Giles and her illness. So, I checked the Union Veterinary Clinic's website and read the sad and surprising news, then Googled her name to learn more and found your blog.

Julie wasn't a personal friend to me, either - I only knew her as my cat's vet - but she wasn't just a service provider. She was there for me - calling me at 9:00pm to follow up on test results, paying close attention to how my cat was doing, being a rock for me when my cat was sick a few years ago. She really, really cared about my cat and about me in relation to my cat, and I trusted her deeply.

We last spoke after she was released from the hospital. She called to say she had been told about my cat's death when she was in the hospital and how sad it had made her, and she shared some of the tribulations she was going through trying to live with the illness that hindered, frustrated and embarrassed her. I thought her so brave and full of life despite her problems, that I could never have imagined she'd be gone so soon.

Wherever she is, I hope she feels free and at peace now. She'll be deeply missed by those of us whose lives she touched with such heartfelt care.

Adrianne said...

Carolyn, you have my heartfelt sympathy and are in my thoughts daily during this difficult time. I am glad that you found some small comfort in this post. You are free to use it, in whole or in part and in whatever manner you wish, for the memorial service. Please let me know if there's anything at all I can do to help you in the days ahead. You can contact me at

JPB3 said...


Just sending love your way.


Teri said...

I came to your blog today, just to see how you were doing, and I see you have lost another good friend.

Those of us left behind when someone we love dies, are the ones that have to find a way to feel peace, don't we.

It will be healing for you to read the comments from those who knew Dr. Giles, just as it (still) is for me to read those comments friends left on Mike's Memorial Blog.

I feel she knew how loved she was, and that will be a comfort over the next months for her friends.

Teri and the cats of Furrydance

karen said...

sorry to hear of more sad news in your life. Julie sounds like an amazing woman, in so many ways... a lovely tribute to her..

Barry said...

I envy your having had someone like Dr. Giles in your life. There are far too few people so special in this world.

We can't afford to loose any of them.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Giles has been my vet for the past 5 years or so. I am deeply saddened by this news, and sad that my youunger pets will never get to know her. She was a wonderful person and will truly be missed,

Poppylee said...

Adrianne -
What a sweet tribute to Julie. She was the best Vet I'd ever known, but I am one-sided; Julie was my sister. She had always loved animals and animal lovers at an early age and she demonstrated that with her dedication to animals prior to, during and after Vet School. I have been extremely comforted by all the wonderful comments I have been reading in blogs, obit replies, etc. You guys got to know a 'Julie' I wish I had known better. To me she was a funny and sweet sister and your comments reflect that, too. But, your comments have, also, given me such a sense of pride - I knew she was a wonderful Vet - I just did not realize just how much she was adored and respected by so many - Thanks you all so much - Love to All - Lee Giles Ellis

Anonymous said...

I only had the honor of a few interactions with Julie, but would like to share one that will have a lasting memory for me. Julie was my mother's vet at dupont for all 4 of her old rescue dogs, and being that they were rescued because they had problems, my mother developed a kind affection and trust in Julie.
My mother suffers from dementia, and 8 years ago I decided to throw her a 70th suprise party. It was a success, the photos can attest, but I think the most special moment for myself and my mother, was that Julie and her partner came to be there for my mom. I remember so well seeing the two of them leaning over our deck looking out at the woods in Glover Park, and thinking what a peaceful sight. Since that time I also called on Julie's expertise for one of my several rescue animals, always feeling like she was the last word.
I remember my mom telling me of her illness, but never could imagine the heaviness my heart felt when I learned of her death.
She will be missed by us all.
Nancy Meyers

Rebecca said...

We were shocked to hear of Dr. Julie's death. When my husband came home from our dog Sam's fall visit and told me that Julie was sick I was saddened. We had no idea she would be gone so fast.

At our first visit to Union Vet with our rescue dog Samantha we were immediately smitten with Dr. Julie. She took one look at our funny looking beagle lab mix with front paws that always stand in first position and scooped her up with lots of kisses. She immediately declared Sam to be the "cutest dog ever" - although now I'm suspect that she probably told that to all of the new doggies. Although we only new her as Sam's vet we could tell from our brief meetings with her that she was an amazing individual.

What a huge loss to our community.

Rebecca Lindhurst

Bret (and Pogo) said...

Julie was a woman whose place on earth seemed so rock-solid with loving and being loved, being needed in the world. The child in me can’t quite take it in, can hardly believe that an illness could have dislodged her. How dearly I miss her. And how my heart goes out to her companion, her mother, her siblings — to everyone in her vastly extended family.

Val said...

there is an award for you over on mine xx

Alice said...

Adrianne & Friends:

Thank you so much for the wonderful tributes to Julie. Needless to say, my heart is broken. She was my baby daughter, and "my baby, she will aloways be."

Julie was a great joy to our family. We camped, we hiked, we played tennis, we walked, we ran, we skied - so much fun together. We were lucky to have had her for awhile. You wre the lucky ones to have had her the last while. She loved caring for your animals. Please know that if you ever left a pet over New Years, that pet got a new year's kiss from Dr. Julie.

I have no doubt Julie is now at peace with all around her, that she has learned to relax, not to resist, rather accept and to no long worry. Alice Giles

Anonymous said...

Adrianne & Friends:

Thank you so much for the wonderful tributes to Julie. Needless to say, my heart is broken. She was my baby daughter, and "my baby, she will aloways be."

Julie was a great joy to our family. We camped, we hiked, we played tennis, we walked, we ran, we skied - so much fun together. We were lucky to have had her for awhile. You wre the lucky ones to have had her the last while. She loved caring for your animals. Please know that if you ever left a pet over New Years, that pet got a new year's kiss from Dr. Julie.

I have no doubt Julie is now at peace with all around her, that she has learned to relax, not to resist, rather accept and to no long worry. Alice Giles

Michael Broadston and Tim Williams said...

Dear Friends,

My partner, Michael, and I are deeply saddened by Dr. Julie's death. It seems so short a time ago when we introduced her to our newest addition - and rescue from WARL - Winston.

Dr. Julie, although she thought us "crazy" at times, knew how important our babies are to us. Over the course of our relationship with Dr. Julie we had as many as five dogs and three cats ... at the same time. She showed the same compassion to both our family pets as well as our many foster dogs from both the DC Animal Shelter and the WARL.

She helped us face the deaths of our beloved Hannah, Abbey "Dog," Abbie "Cat," and Willie. She personally assisted us in helping Abbey "Dog" and Willie cross the Rainbow Bridge ... and shared in our tears. She was out during Lucy’s death but called us immediately upon learning of the news. I know they met her as she, herself, made the journey across The Bridge. I know she’ll keep them near until we join them. I take comfort in knowing this.

I have had many vets over many years but I have never had opportunity to tell them, "I love you." This was not the case with Dr. Julie. I shared with her how much Michael and I loved her ... and how special she was to us … and how grateful we were to have her in our lives. I take comfort in having done so.

On Thursday, Feb. 26, I took our newest edition, Mathilda, down to Union Vet for her final round of puppy shots. It was hard but thanks to Dr. Katts and the staff, it turned out to be a blessing. We shared our memories of Dr. Julie.

As several friends have noted, Dr. Julie saw each of our furry friends as individuals. Many of you have noted nicknames bestowed upon our pets by Dr. Julie. I mean no offense in sharing the nickname she gave one of our pack ... Milo. Milo is an eight pound mutt we rescued from the DC Animal Shelter. He's a special needs dog ... he's been blind since birth and experiences separation anxiety. However, he's My Boy. Milo hates everyone BUT me (well he sometimes hates me, too … like during trips to see Dr. Julie) ... including Dr. Julie. However, I know Dr. Julie loved Milo. She bestowed upon him the nickname "Bad Ass." He continues to wear it proudly. Each time my partner and I see Milo's "Bad Ass" side, we'll chuckle and remember a Milo-Dr. Julie episode.

I cannot share in words how much Dr. Julie meant to us. Please take comfort in knowing she was very special ... and will continue to live in the hearts of many. I cannot think of a better testimony to Dr. Julie's life and legacy than all the comments found on Adrianne's blog and the many Guestbooks. I hope they provide Dr. Julie's family with the comfort needed.

My partner and I will attend the Feb. 27 memorial and hope to share our experiences with her family and her partner, Carolyn. You are in our thoughts and our prayers.

I offer a special thank you to Mrs. Alice Giles. Thank you for giving us the gift of Julie. She made a difference in the lives of many and will never be forgotten. What a tribute to the little girl you raised. Our hearts go out to you and Julie’s siblings.

With our sincerest sympathies but also in celebration of Dr. Julie’s life …

Michael Broadston, Tim Williams, Macie, Chloe, Milo “Bad Ass,” Emma, Winston, and Mathilda.

laurie said...

I've just come from Julie's memorial gathering and Googled her name, thus your blog came up, and I thank you for this opportunity to share. I totally relate to your reaction to her death - she touched us all. When my 12 year old, cancer-ridden 146 lb. Great Pyrenees broke his leg, we hoisted him into the hatchback and drove - no appointment - to Julie. Her staff came out with a guerney. No way was I going to put him on a steel table - my dog was already in his favorite place in the world - the back seat of the car, with the hatch open, the sun shining, the birds chirping ... Though she was already quite debilitated, Julie climbed into my teeny hatchback and stroked him through his final journey. She hugged me and shared a tear with me, then remarked, "Gee, I've never done it in a CAR before..." How could you not smile at that? I will NEVER ever forget that kindness. Julie will live on in our hearts.
- Laurie

Reya Mellicker said...

Adrianne this is amazing - the way your tribute became an altar to Dr. Giles. What beautiful comments! Thank you.

Blue's Mom said...

Yes, thank you for this altar, Adrienne. My partner Laura and I went to Julie's memorial but only briefly; we were out of the country when Julie passed and learned of it just minutes before the memorial itself was scheduled to begin -- as Laura was returning home I was sitting in the living room and I saw her coming up the walk, bend down to pick something up, and finally come in. She looked at me so sorrowfully and was hesitant to hand me the paper. It was the Voice of the Hill with the announcement. I couldn't breathe. Much like Adrienne's own description, I couldn't accept. I started shaking my head, refusing to accept saying "no, no, no, no please no" until I collapsed on the sofa in tears. She'd seemed so much better when we last saw her! And my sister; my sister was diagnosed with MS 30 years ago!! This couldn't be right, it just had to be a mistake.

We immediately walked over to the memorial. We didn't know many people there, just a couple of Union's wonderful staff. And I know we must have looked as stricken and sick as we both felt, having just found out. We spoke briefly w/Julie's dear friend Rebekah, who I believe saw how lost, shocked and pained we were and as such made a point of saying hello and introducing herself to us. We thank you for that, Rebekah, as we felt desperate to pay our respects and express our sorrow to someone close to Julie. We didn't get the oppty to speak with Carolyn, but Carolyn, Mrs. Giles, sisters, all of you, please add our voices to those who loved -- yes, loved -- Julie. Did I really even know her, personally? Not at all. We shared aspects and details of our lives, who our families were, names of our partners over the year. Both Julie and I are from Greensboro so there was always lots to talk about. But even without those similarities I've no doubt I would still feel the same: that was Julie's gift to us -- no strangers, only animal lovers and their animals she then loved so very, very much.

Julie cared for my adult cat Blue through her still healthy early adult years. Then she cared for her in her senior years. And in her final elderly years, when Blue developed Chronic Renal Failure, she cared for and loved her -- and me as Blue's Mom -- even more if that's possible. And on a summer day this past June she helped us with the easiest, most loving and peaceful passing for our 19-year friend than I'd dared hope possible. Miss Blue was not in the best moods and she was in pain at the end, so we feared that her final moment would be her worst. Julie knew we coulnd't live with that, and neither could she. Without going into specifics she ensured that that would simply not be the case. She shed some tears with us, then thanked us for taking such good care of Blue for her whole life. She kissed Blue, stroked her head, whispered to her (it's okay, girlfriend. everything is gonna be okay now.") then helped Blue slip away, gently and peacefully in my arms, purring all the while Blue purred right through it. Her little body was still emitting purrs even after Julie told us she was gone. How was she able to do that? Julie love and Julie magic.

And when we found a starving, dehydrated emaciated little orange tabby in the back alley of our home searching for scraps of food we immediately took him to Dr. Julie. Explained to her what she already knew -- 2 dogs, 2 cats, small rowhouse meant we were at max capacity -- but that if he got a good bill of health from her we would find him a good home and if not, we'd just manage to take on another ourselves, space and capacity be damned. Julie herself just up and offered to take him for a while and help find a home for him ("He can live here in the clinic with Mow for a while! I know we can find him a home, he's a male ORANGE TABBY!! Male orange tabbies are the BEST cats of them all, you know!) We didn't accept her gracious, heartfelt offer and did end up finding the orange boy a good home but we knew we had backup of the best kind if we didn't. Oh, and Dr. Julie refused to charge us her fee for checking out and medicating Orange Julius. We were stunned at her generosity, even knowing it was Julie, and we tried to refuse her offer but she wouldn't hear of it. Then she hugged us and once again, thanked US for what we were doing.

Finally, when we brought our most recent two adoptees in to meet Dr. Julie -- dogs Ruby and Sadie -- she did her usual....couldn't stop kissing them, loving them, laughing at them, calling Sadie "Little Badass" (she is!) and almost making you forget that she was in pain. She hid it from us, so, so well. And a few days later we even received a handwritten note from her telling us how much fun she had with us and getting to know Ruby and Sadie (she had spent almost a full hour with us!), and ending her sweet words with "Gosh, guys, I just love your family!" And she meant it, we knew it. Nothing disengenous about Julie, not ever.

So yes, we love you, Dr. Julie. We miss you. You are and will always be Union to us, and Union is you. I'm sure we'll continue to go there and work with the other wonderful doctors and staff, and I know they will provide good medical care for our animals. But the love, the geniune, full-on, no holds barred love of them that you're one of a kind. And right now thinking about the prospect of no more Julie grabbign up the animals, kissing them all over, laughing at their individual personalites, loving them so much and loving us as their just really hurts. And will for a long time.

You will not be forgotten. And from the bottom of our hearts our family wishes you peace, we wish you love, we wish you the ability to leap and run and embrace this next place wherever that is. And if there is a God there, there will be animals in need of your love and your magic.

God speed, Dr. Julie. And thank you, thank you, thank you.

Lori, Laura, Franny, Harden, Sadie, Ruby. And most of all, gone but never forgotten, Miss Blue; Miss Blue sends you her special love and thanks, Dr. J.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Adrainne for saying all the things that so many many of us are feeling.

My dear Angel/Binkie Schnauzer was attacked and mauled in La Jolla; and who did I turn to for love and assistance? Dr. Julie took my calls and helped me through this sad time.

Dr. Julie was the Champion of all vets, and I know that all of the pets who have gone before her are so glad that she has reached them at last.

The rest of us will grieve, but in time our hearts will heal.

Love and prayers to all,


Anonymous said...

Adrianne - Once again, I thank you for your allowing so many to express their feelings about Julie. I was able to get her childhood bear named Buzzy. In any other case, my doggies would be quite pissed that a strange animal was sleeping with me, but they have chosen not to attack. I think they realize that I am sleeping with and loving this bear for a reason. I want Buzzy to know that his childhood 'aunt' will comfort him in the absense of his mommy.

To the DC Community, I love you all and appreciate your love of Julie - she was amazing! I do not think I can personally thank you for your kind words, but I can say thank you by way of Adrianne's dedicated site.

Many of you got to know Julie better than her own family - she was just so connected to all her friends in the DC area - I am partly jealous, but not angry. I met a couple named Mary and Ben at the Memorial on 2/27 and expressed this feeling. They, both, gave me a little bit of comfort about this - They more or less made me realize that the Julie you all came to love was a sister, daughter, etc., that was raised in a wonderful family. Hence, her passion for the animal babies, her lack of concern for the mighty dollar when animals are involved and her wonderful and just plain kindness. So, basically, Julie's wonderful ways were instilled in her youth and her family love as a child. Thanks Ben & Mary.

Finally, Double R - Thanks for lifting a huge load off the evening. I needed to laugh and yes, I am still funny about germs!

Love you All - Lee Ellis (Julie's Sister)

Stephanie said...

We're several months behind in getting our kitties, Pippa and Bix, in for their annual checkups, and I think the guilt I was feeling led me to check the clinic's website this weekend. My husband and I were devastated to read of Julie's passing - I am so sad that we missed seeing her again.

Julie gave me so much comfort when the time came to say goodbye to my first cat, Percy, in 1993. She helped me keep dear Lucy going with sub-cutaneous fluids, and she nearly made it to 19. We got dear Fergus from Dupont (a "Gloria Scott kitten") through Julie and it was she who helped us say goodbye to him in Aug. 06.

Julie seemed to live with her whole heart, and I will never forget her.

Anonymous said...

i am in shock. like others who have posted, i just learned the news through the Union Clinic site. i clicked on the tab for the Julie Fund, and there it was.

googling Dr Giles' name led me here, for which i am grateful. i knew Julie many years ago -- when she first moved to DC and was practicing at the old Janes Veterinary Clinic, where i was a receptionist.

i knew Julie as a sweet, earnest, and very kind young veterinarian. it was clear how much she loved animals and wanted to become the best advocate for and helper to them that she could.

it has been wonderful to read these posts and realize how much of her dream she was able to accomplish. while i am immensely saddened to learn of her illness and passing, it helps to know how many animals and their people she touched along the way.

thank yous to Julie's family and to Adrianne. and most of all to {{{ Julie }}} herself, for allowing us into her life.


gwadzilla said...

I miss Dr. Giles.

It saddens me that life can be so cruel.

Dr. Giles was a special person
she obviously connected with people and animals in a dynamic way.

gwadzilla said...

my blog about my dog Roscoe after he died

my other dog Brutus is alive and well

today he went to Union Vet Clinic for a check up

it was not until today that I learned of the passing of Dr. Giles

my wife laughs that I had a crush on Julie Giles

she was special

kay said...

I read with deep sadness last year of Julie’s passing. At that time, I wondered why one so young and so full of life had died so young. It has taken quite some time to process what must have happened. How I remember with such fondness the times we spent in our high school years going hiking and skiing. What a natural athlete you were and so much fun to be around.
As I have visited with your mother, Alice, I have seen the depth of her sadness at first learning of your disease that took such a toll on your young and vibrant life as a veterinarian in DC. Alice had been such an inspiration to me in high school at a time when my mother had moved on from our presence. Alice was always understanding and encouraging and included me in your family events. I will always be grateful for that inclusion and the fun we had together.
I have read with interest of all the clients Julie had and the love she had shown each of their pets as she treated them or, in worst cases, ended their lives. I have been so sad to learn that you, Julie, had to die alone when your hope had left you concerning the healing sought. What kind of “humane-ness” do we have as humans when we cannot make choices like this and include loved ones as vets across our nation do for animals?
I know you have had the constant and steadfast love of your father, mother and sisters and brother.
I have had lunch with your mother and with Cynky and we have shared the loss of a daughter, sister and friend.
Julie, I hope you look down on all of this knowing you will always be remembered as a giving, loving, caring, and compassionate person that was loved deeply by so many. We will carry your life in our memories as we each move forth in our own lives. As long as we live, you will be a part of us and we are all so thankful for that shared relationship. Rest well, dear one, we miss you beyond our ability to express. You are missed among us; yet we feel your presence in our spirits daily.
Your friend,