A Great Creature
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
Cecil Frances Alexander
So true, isn’t it? When the Bible said humans were given dominion over the animals, most assumed that meant domination. But the ancient definition of dominion actually means stewardship – protection and nurturing.
In addition to being touching, this poem is also the title to a series of books written by James Herriott, a veterinarian who lived in Yorkshire many years ago. Dr. Herriott (his real name was James Alfred Wight) wrote humorous, yet poignant stories about the people and animals who graced his path. Through his books and subsequent BBC series, we watch him mature as a person and veterinarian. We also meet some great characters along the way.
James Herriott died February 23, 1995, so I thought the anniversary of his passing would be a good time to introduce him to those who haven’t had the pleasure of reading his works. There are so many wonderful animal books on the market now, but as far as I’m concerned, all the authors must bow down to the master. If you haven’t read his books or seen the series, do yourself a favor – whether you’re an animal person or not. You will laugh and cry, and learn so much about life. I am not ashamed to admit that I diagnosed one critical emergency case as a young vet very quickly because I remembered the story of James tackling the same problem. I’d like to think I would have solved the mystery easily myself, but I am still grateful for his help. I wonder how many animals and people are better off because of his work.
Herriott’s gift of humor got him through difficult times as a vet, and brought his stories to life. His son (also a vet) wrote a forward for a compilation of stories by his father. It turns out that his favorite tale was also one of my most loved. It told of Tricki Woo, a very pampered pooch owned by Mrs. Pumphrey, a wealthy and powerful woman. Tricky often sent goodies to Uncle Herriott. James made the mistake of addressing a thank you note to Master Tricki Woo, instead of Mister Tricki Woo, Esq. According to Mrs. Pumphrey, Tricki was quite offended. Luckily a letter of apology set everything right!
You may be tempted to pick up one of the many Herriott compilations, but my advice is to read each of the original books in sequence (the first is All Creatures Great and Small). I promise you will enjoy the journey.
Feel free to share your favorite humorous animal story – whether it is about a pet, farm animal or neighborhood squirrel. Let’s dedicate each one to the master storyteller, James Herriott.