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.
A Fond Farewell - Hear ye, hear ye, the end is here. I mean, the end of the Gold Puppy blog. I've been thinking about it for awhile now, wondering what in the hell I'm do...
3 years ago