New Year’s resolution
A phone call 20 years ago and decades of monthly writing changed my life. Maybe I’ve got a resolution for you that could change your life too.
I’ve been blessed—blessed so much that I don’t really understand it. As we start a new year, I look back on this wonderful career and wonder how it all happened and how fast time has passed. I’ve wondered how my wife and I went from being 28-year-old neophytes scared to death of $130,000 in school and practice debt, to a happy family with more than we deserve. Well, let me tell you one of the biggest reasons I believe we’ve thrived.
‘They wanted one article a month’
When we came to this small town in west Texas, the local paper asked me to write an article for the hometown paper, the Lamesa Press Reporter. They wanted one article a month. (The paper only comes out two times a week.) I agreed.
The first few articles I wrote went over things like parvo in dogs and why you needed to get a Coggins test for a horse. I went over common cattle diseases and why cats spray urine on the curtains. I wrote articles on getting rabies shots and cleaning teeth. I Imparted great wisdom on heartworm prevention and house breaking. And you know what? No one read them.
So one day I wrote the article of overweight Otis, my first case as a veterinarian. People loved it. In fact, people came to clinic just to tell me how much they laughed reading about the life of a veterinarian. The editor of the paper called me and asked if I could write more funny articles. He said no one read the scientific one, or if they did, they never told him.
‘I was so honored’
I started looking for the funny things that happen every day at a veterinary clinic and writing them down. It kind of gave me a new perspective. Instead of focusing on all the depressing things that happen when animals can’t be fixed, I was focusing on all the steps we take to try to fix them. It changed my life.
This went on for a while and then one day I got a phone call from a fella at DVM Newsmagazine (now dvm360). It seemed an older lady from Lamesa had sent a copy of a funny article I wrote to her grandson who was a veterinarian in a faraway state. The veterinarian loved the article and sent it to the editor of DVM, and that fella loved it too. He was calling to ask whether he could put it in the next issue of the magazine and if so, could I send one a month to put on the back page of the magazine?
I was so honored I just kind of sat in silence on the phone for a minute. I’d been receiving that great big magazine in the mail every month since I was in veterinary school. I told him I’d be honored. That was 20 years ago.
So, 20 years ago I started writing for a magazine that went all over the world to veterinarians. It wasn’t anything I ever planned on doing. I had no idea I could even write. In fact, I almost couldn’t get into veterinary school because the best grade I could ever get in English was a “C.” I was so bad that the professor sent me to a remedial writing lab to learn with people learning English as a second language.
Looking for a reason to smile
I write about 12 articles a year for this magazine. That’s about 240 articles in 20 years. And I’ve learned something in all that time: When you go through life looking for humor, you find it. When you go through life looking for meaning, you find it. Somehow, a simple phone call from an editor in the year 2000 changed my life, my practice, my ambition and my happiness. Some fella named Dan Verdon just thought he was calling to get another author for the back of his magazine. But in fact, he was changing my life.
There were a lot of things that went into growing a veterinary clinic in the middle of nowhere. Hard work was certainly a part, dedication and motivation had to have fit in, passion for animals and people was woven into the formula, and luck was a big part too. But the intangible factor that may have been the thread that held them all together was me—me just looking for a way to make you smile.
The title of this article is “New Year’s resolution.” Many of us make them, and most of them we never keep. I hope you’ll make one this year: I hope you’ll spend every day looking for a reason to smile. I pray that you take this resolution so seriously that you even write an article once a month about what you found. Maybe it’ll never get into a magazine or be read by anyone. But it will change the way you see each moment of every day.
Bo Brock, DVM, owns Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas. His latest book is Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere: Tales of Humor and Healing From Rural America.