Adult Lifestyle Living


A man and his Dog

The story of Dr. David Mills and Flip

When it comes to considering getting a pet, there are a number of questions we have to ask ourselves – Do we really want to have a pet? What will it be - dog? cat? And how do we choose? Big or small? Where and how do we get it – adopt or buy? The questions seem endless when you are considering bringing a four-legged friend into our lives.

Stay tuned – I been asked to write a few articles on pets and the care of pets. It was a challenge that I did not want to pass up. In my next column I will try to help answer these questions and many more but today I would like to tell you how I got my first pet – it’s the story of Flip and I.

It was the summer of 1998 and I was in training to be a veterinarian. I had volunteered to work at an animal clinic in Morocco. The clinic offers free vet care to farmers who cannot afford medical care for their animals. Every morning, the large gates would open to a long line of people leading mules, horses, sheep, dogs and even cats in need of medical care. I would shadow the veterinarian or the head technician as they would move from one animal to the next.

My focus was on learning to become a veterinarian and at no time had I given any thought to getting a pet of my own, however, things didn’t quite work out that way.

One morning, while working in the kennels, I was greeted enthusiastically by a new addition, an eight-week-old German shepherd puppy. I learned that he would be staying at the clinic until he was trained and ready to go to his new home in one of the local palaces. I had grown up with pets but never responsible for the training and caring of one. This was going to be a perfect opportunity for me to learn how to train and care for an animal, after all, in two years, I would be advising others embarking on a similar adventure.

I took him into my care, confident that I would proudly hand over a well-trained dog on the day of his departure. I made no effort to name him, simply referred to him as “puppy”. When I went to work, I would leave him in the garden behind iron gates with his head poking through the metal scrollwork watching me until I disappeared out of sight. At lunch, I would sit on the grass reading and “puppy” would jump onto my lap, being as much of a pest as he could possibly be. Needless to say it wasn’t long before we became very attached to one another. One day I was told that “puppy” was ready to go his new home at the palace. My job was done and I should have felt happy and satisfied. Instead, I felt nothing but sadness and despair.

“Is there any way that I could get to keep “puppy” I asked the Veterinarian in charge. Instead of the reply that I was expecting…he said “ I have been watching with interest how you have become very attached to one another, I will give your request serious consideration and let you know tomorrow”.

It was an agonizing 24 hours before I got the wonderful news – “puppy” was going home with me. We may not always recognize those pivotal moments in our lives, the moments when the future takes a new and unexpected turn, but I know, for me, that moment was one of them.

It was time for him to have a name and for a number of reasons I chose the name Flip. Thinking back, I have often thought to myself how ironic it was that “ I had rescued him from a life of royalty”.

A couple of years later when I was sitting with my girl friend Hilary, I asked Flip to go and get a carefully wrapped present. I had trained him well and he didn’t fail me. He retrieved it and placed it on Hilary’s lap. It was her engagement ring. It was one of the happiest moments of my life when she said yes and agreed to marry us. Over the next decade, the three of us shared life’s journey. Just before Flip turned 12, I diagnosed him with a fractured leg secondary to bone cancer and it was time to say good-bye to our beloved friend.

After Flip, we have had other dogs and we’ve loved them all. We went through the decision-making process and after considering many different factors, eventually met and chose each dog specifically. With Flip, it was different and he will always hold a special place in our hearts. The bond that existed between us couldn’t have been planned, it just happened – maybe because I think it was Flip who made the choice.”

Dr. David Mills, veterinarian since 2000.