This is the last column for 2007, and many things have happened. I have written about cats, people, horses, places and travel, but it would be unthinkable for me to close this year without writing about a man who made every day of his life count not only by contributions to organizations and people but also to the animals, no matter their financial or social standing.
This man who could tell a story better than anyone I know. He was a man who had time to listen and a man who could not stop working. When his retirement was announced for the second or third time, his friends just smiled, and the Animal Clinic was opened again the next week. He loved the Marine Corps, but none of the toughness or formidable bearing was apparent, although he had a straight back and a kind of regal carriage. That must have come from flying planes and standing at attention.
This last part of this year has been heavy with sorrow for those of us who knew Crack Anderson. His passing has affected all of us and will continue to change our lives for a long time to come.
He was a simple man; he gave generously and with joy. I well remember the first year his wife Betty's shop was moved to downtown Chester. Crack was there, his big frame moving carelessly between decorated trees, shaking some and almost tilting others. "Whoops," I said, you almost toppled that tree." "No", he answered, "that tree knows better than to fall over." I looked at Betty, and she laughed. They both trusted in his ability to do anything. He was a great storyteller, but the ones told about him have become legends that make remembering a delight. It would be easy to fill a book on the happenings and people that ambled through the life of Crack Anderson, but oh my, think of the stories that cats and dogs could tell.
Everyone has a favorite, and most of us have many, so it becomes difficult to separate them and tell just one. However, the one that most touched my heart was the story of a late evening visit, just as the clinic was closing, when an elderly man with his equally venerable dog arrived. "Crack," he called from the waiting room. "Come on in," Dr. Anderson answered, and man and dog walked into the examining area.
"What's the matter, fella?" the doctor asked, and the dog clearly understood but he just wagged his tail. His owner said, "Well, he's been actin' poorly lately, you know, just kind of hanging around, like he got no interest in anything. He even stopped chasin' the cat that he's been trying to grab for years."
Anderson shook his head in an understanding manner and then dropped to one knee. The dog moved toward him, and it was as if they had been friends for years. Crack examined his eyes with intense interest and then his ears. He let his capable fingers linger under the right leg. The dog stood quietly, and he, too, seemed interested in his own physical condition. Crack's well-trained hands glided around the dog's throat and then down the side of his face; he felt under the sagging neck of this elderly canine and then asked him to lie down, and the dog obeyed. Crack palpated his stomach and thumped on his chest, and he seemed to like what he heard. He gently patted the dog's head and said, as he laboriously got to his feet, "I think he is all right, just a little tired like all of us. I am going to give you some pills and keep him in the house for a few days, and he will be as fit as a fiddle. Be sure you warn the cat when he is feeling better."
The man, whose eyes were filled with gratitude, extended his hand and said, Thank you so much, and how much do I owe you?"
Anderson turned and was walking away when he quickly said over his shoulder, "You don't owe me anything. I have made enough money for today; just take care of your friend." There was no waiting for a sign of gratitude. Crack Anderson was on his way home. Acts of kindness and generosity were staples in his life and he will always be honored for his goodness.
So, now we face a new year, but it would be unthinkable to close this one without me writing about a man who, in one afternoon, told me things about the care of animals that changed many habits. We talked about life, death, and his beliefs on euthanasia. He made me believe that when an animal is eating and wagging his tail, he is having a fine time. So life was extended by more than a year for our old German shepherd, Bella, who wagged and ate.
I truly believe this man passed by St. Peter with a smile and a handshake and is surely walking down the Glory Road laughing and talking to old and new friends, just as he did for all of his wonderful life, right here in Chester County.