Doc Young

The last few weeks have been very hard on all of us. I wanted to write a funny, happy piece today, but instead I’ve decided to write a personal blog about death, and how it shapes us.

Sorry for the bummer. (Spoiler alert: this is not about M. Noir in the above photo. He is hail and hearty.)

This was a man who just retired. It was standing-room-only-lines-out-the door at his retirement party. We were all going to miss him sorely, and already rued the changes that would affect us in not exactly comfortable ways.

This man retired, but he came to his office twice a week to check mail and catch up on things. Then, he got the bad-news diagnosis we all dread—lymphoma. Beatable or at least even with a poor prognosis, life can go on for quite a while. The chemo deprived him of his lush, wavy gray hair and signature mustache, but he still came to the office twice a week to check mail and catch up on things.

Then, then, he died. Fatal heart attack.

The news came to us on Facebook, and Allentown Next Door. Stunned, we tried to dry our eyes and hugged our dogs who would never visit him ever again.

Douglas R, Young, DVM, bought his practice at Rainier Beach Veterinary Hospital in Seattle in 1971. I’ve learned so many things about this gentle man just by talking and reading the posts of people who brought their beloved pets to him for at least as long as we have. 27 years ago I got my first dog. I’d had cats for decades, and schlepped them across Seattle to my current vet, but as our furry group home expanded, we had to find someone closer to our Columbia City house.

That’s when we found Doc Young.

The clinic is on a corner where Rainier Avenue in South Seattle, sitting nervously next to a shopping center and the state liquor store (at the time). South Seattle was, and still is, sadly, the closest the polite northern city of Seattle has to a ghetto. Crime, low-riders, booming speakers, trashy apartment buildings, empty storefronts. Columbia City was at that time mixed—equal parts African American, Vietnamese and white, a neighborhood looking at a transition from old blue collar homes to gentrification.

Doc Young served this community. There were no appointments—walk-in clinic hours only. There was no “upselling” of useless diagnostic tests, blood draws and medications. Treatment was affordable, careful, loyal and caring. People who brought their pit bulls and pekes and old cats couldn’t afford anything more than that. Doc Young worked that clinic for years alone. Six days a week, 52 weeks a year. He took dogs and cats home to watch overnight. His staff in those days was known by first name to us, and knew our dogs and cats’ first names and our first names and always greeted us with a joke.

When we got our first pit bull, Roxy—a colleague to begged me to take her because she was going to be thrown away and my colleague knew we were soft touches—one of the technicians at the Vet’s smiled when we brought her through the door.

A moment later, she emerged with a brindled pit bull puppy, who had been abandoned at the vet and whom they were trying to home. We went home with him then and there.

After many years, facing hip-replacement, Doc Young hired another vet. Dr Deal’s laugh is wonderful to hear. During a tragic emergency with one of our dogs, she picked up the 90 lb Jack and ran inside the hospital with him in her arms.

I’ve been reading reviews on Yelp, Facebook and Next Door. After the Doc retired, and the hospital was merged with a local larger chain, things went bad. Walk-ins no more. Pressure to undergo those needless blood draws. And, you guessed it, higher prices. Dr. Deal is still there, thank the goddess, but most of our friendly staff are gone elsewhere.

But they showed up at his retirement party. The speech one of them gave in his honor brought tears to my eyes.

So where is the joy, here, hope and a glimmer of love? One can find it in the gaze of a dog or the purr of a cat. Holding hands with your best and most loved friend and partner.

Maybe helping, somehow, in some way.

Again, sorry for the bummer. But I am proud to have known this man.



About Jill Zeller

Author of numerous novels and short stories, Jill Zeller is a Left Coast writer, 2nd generation Californian, retired registered nurse, and obsessed gardener. She lives in Oregon with her patient husband, 2 silly English mastiffs and 2 rescue cats—the silliest of all. Her works explore the boundaries of reality. Some may call it fantasy, but there are rarely swords and never elves. More to the point, she prefers to write as if myth, imagination and hallucination are as real as the chair she is sitting on as she writes this. Jill Zeller also writes under the pseudonym Hunter Morrison


Doc Young — 4 Comments

  1. I’m so sorry. He sounds like a great vet; someone who remembered why he got into that career.

    I know everyone who knew him is grieving. What a wonderful legacy to leave.