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Remembering Dr. Jack Tuttle

By Walter Geiger Beloved local veterinarian Dr. Jack Tuttle died January 8 at age 89. This column was originally published on August 10, 2004 on the occasion of his 80th birthday. A cool breeze blew through my hair before Adaylight Friday morning as I walked down the sidewalk to retrieve the newspaper. Football weather, I thought. My step was a little lighter as I sauntered back up the drive, thinking of fall Saturdays in Athens. I thought also of Dr. Jack Tuttle. Nobody is a bigger Bulldog fan than Dr. Jack who celebrated his 80th birthday Friday. Dr. Jack ministered to animals of all shapes and sizes hereabouts for decades. His office was in his home so ‘“ like it or not ‘“ he was always on call. ’Bring him on,’ was his standard reply when awakened in the middle of the night with urgent news of a sick or hurt animal. Often, those animals were too big to come to Dr. Jack so he made barn calls, pasture calls, corral calls and God only knows what all else. My first patient for Dr. Jack was a fine Gordon Setter named Clyde. Laura and I brought the bird dog with us to Barnesville when we moved here from Dalton in 1979. Clyde was named for Clyde ‘˜The Glide’ Drexler, a standout basketball player in the Phi Slamma Jamma era of the Houston Cougars who scored over 22,000 points in his NBA career. His namesake, Clyde the dog, was not sick. He had been born and bred in the mountain country near Villanow and just wasn’t cut out for the genteel life on Thomaston Street. Clyde roamed. Often he was gone for weeks, only to turn back up at home near dead from exhaustion. Dr. Jack castrated Clyde. When I went to pick him up, Dr. Jack said, ‘He’s fine but I can’t replace the gleam that was in his eye.’ I laughed until tears ran down my cheeks. I think even old Clyde choked back a chuckle. Clyde became an outstanding pet and model city dweller when the last of the testosterone drained from his body. Some years later, Dr. Jack fought valiantly to save him after he was hit by a car and placed his body in a big plastic bag for burial so Laura would not have to see it again. That day, Dr. Jack and I both shed a tear or two in his office. Dr. Jack was a big believer in soil and water conservation. He had lived through the dust bowl days when dust clouds emanating from the midwest blotted out the sun on his family’s south Georgia farm at high noon. ’It got so dark, the chickens went in to roost,’ he told me. Dr. Jack had a stroke seven years back. His ability to speak is impaired but he can walk some and gets around in a golf cart. He still has the gleam in his eye. He was cheerfully greeting birthday visitors when we dropped by his house Friday for a celebration. It dawned on me that I still owe him either 20 or 40 dollars. That was basically Dr. Jack’s price list. Depending upon its initial prognosis, your animal had either a $20 problem or a $40 problem. Years after Clyde’s death, another of our beloved dogs fell ill. This one was a big Golden Retriever by the name of Sudsy. I bought him from a man named Henry Hortman down near Reynolds. When I arrived at the Hortman homestead, the yard was full of romping golden puppies. It seems Mr. Hortman’s breeding stock had several litters at about the same time. Only one of the pups paid any attention to me. He wandered inquisitively over to sniff my leg. He had a battered beer can in his mouth. I picked him up, scribbled out my check and took Geiger’s Golden Suds, as the AKC knew him, home. Sudsy was another great pet. He disdained balls and chew toys but could gnaw a beer can like no other dog I have ever seen. The plan was to train him to retrieve doves. The plan failed. Sudsy loved the dove field but he didn’t pick up many birds. He moseyed from stand to stand, charming the inhabitants and bumming whatever treats they had brought to the field with them. Before his ninth birthday, Sudsy fell ill. Dr. Jack pondered over his illness. Hooked up to IVs, Sudsy stayed at Dr. Jack’s house for weeks. The kind vet set his alarm to get up in the middle of the night to check on his patient. Finally, we took Sudsy home to die. For months, I hounded Dr. Jack for a bill. I never got one. Finally, I cornered him at a party and insisted upon paying him. He looked me in the eye and said, ‘Damn it. I did it for the dog not for you so leave me alone.’ Happy Birthday, Dr. Jack ‘“ from me, Clyde and Sudsy. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of the Herald Gazette.

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