Episode 214

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Published on:

23rd Dec 2021

Three Dog Xmas Night at the Aberdeen Animal Hospital with Bruce Hilliard

Hello hello and Merry Christmas to all. There’s been a generous response from our listeners regarding hometown nostalgia material on the show. Being from middle- everything Aberdeen WA in the early baby boomer years, there are endless small town-everywhere stories for you. 

I somehow gravitate to stories about my Dad, Dr. Glenn A. Hilliard, DVM. (reverb) 

Christmas is extra special when your dad is a veterinarian. A vet is the guy you call on Sunday night because your kid, a human kid, has a fever. The reason the callers would call the vet and not an MD?: “I can't call my people doctor, it’s Sunday evening.” So they called Dad, the town veterinarian.

Sometimes it was serious. Or sometimes just a comforting word from a trusted doctor was all it took. The call was always during dinner. It wasn’t uncommon to hear the the caller’s voice freaking out in Dad’s ear with “my cow broke his leg, fell in the river, drifted downstream for a spell and is stuck on a snag and gettin’ dark.”

When I was a small boy I was told by classmates that “your dad…he killed my cat.” Later in life I heard my peers say “Thank God for you dad, he saved my cat.” Even as a snot nose kid I knew my dad wasn’t in the business of killing cats. He was crazy devoted and had a gift both earned and inborn.

It’s raining and dark. It is evident Dad is the only vet available in the entire free world, so out he goes to save a cow…on a Sunday night. A cold outside but warm inside Disney, Ed Sullivan Bonanza Sunday night.

Christmas was a special time for Dad’s employees at the Aberdeen Animal Hospital. He always felt Christmas day was a day for people to be home with their families. So, in order to accommodate his helpers, Santa Dad would give them all Christmas day off. This meant Dad worked Christmas day and we spoiled baby boomers got to open presents on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve…a night of magic.

This changed everything for us present openers. My two brothers and I were always stoked to open presents on Christmas Eve to allow the Christmas day off for “the girls” as he called them.

Christmas Eve, like every day at closing, dogs and cats are fed, treated and cages cleaned. I was sure to tell the animals I could get them out on good behavior. But on Christmas Eve there were secret little boy conversations with the inmates. The cats especially. They’ve always got a plan.

Hello hello hello and Merry Christmas little orphaned kittens. Don’t worry. My dad won’t let nothin’ happen to ya. He’ll keep all of you until he finds homes for you.

Kittens are fun but even more so--sometimes I’d take a cage full of puppies out for a roll on the floor. Puppy breath.

There was a certain silence in the animal world on Christmas Eve, just me and Dad this year. 

Wet food, dry food, an occasional pill, special tuna for the meow meow that won’t eat. 

Some of the animals were there strictly as hotel guests for the holidays. No Bing Crosby at this dive. It was clear the fuzzies were a bit broken-hearted about not being home with their families. As the evening got closer and closer to dad and I locking the doors and heading home for the annual Christmas Eve unwrapping, the gang gets gradually louder until it sounds like a rock concert with a dog and cat mosh pit.

Class, class, class, SHUT UP!!! Thank you. All they need is some lovin’.

Finally we’re done with the tasks required to secure Noah’s Arc and go home to see what's under the tree. The lights are out. It’s dark except for the glow from ultraviolet lights. We’re almost out of the building when there’s a scratch at the front door. I could see through the glass it was a large brown dog with a sad expression.

Dad opened the door and in limped a big wet dog with no signs of an owner. He looked tired and neglected. Dad had him up on the table, treated and bandaged his right front paw. I gave the patient a milk bone and out he went. Not thirty seconds later he scratched at the door again. 

Dad said, “Oh, he’s telling me I didn’t give instructions for the bandage removal.”

He pulled out a Sharpie and wrote “Remove after five days.”

The canine wanderer went back into the dark night and we made another walk though. The animals went back to sleep so I’m careful to be quiet and not provoke a riot or stampede. I’m getting little-boy-anxious and would really like to get us home and finally after long stressful December days of gift guessing, shaking a box and staring into space, we’ll open presents. There’s the dog back at the door.

Our wet and wounded friend knocked at the door for the third time. 

3(noise deafening and stops)

“I didn’t tell you five days from what date.” Dad wrote 12/24 as the wrap date and 12/29 as the unwrap date. All done. Peace out. The dog left happy, still with no owner on Christmas Eve. So that was a wrap for the three dog night.

Dad took ownership with all animals. The money was secondary to keeping creatures healthy and happy. As I went from a boy who was told by classmates that my dad “killed my cat” to a young man that in later life heard my peers say “Thank God for you dad, he saved my cat.” I was always happy for the change in relationship with the town cat executioner.

Christmas Eve at the Hillard’s involved dinner in front of the TV (just got a color one) while eating like cave dwellers , watching a little Rudolph and taking a drive through town to look at the lights. We were all there that year. Mom, Dad, my Gramma Haddow (mom’s mom) that lived with us my entire life until my late teens. There were brothers Rob and Gary and poodles Mitzi and Cookie. 

I’ll always remember the over-the-top generosity of it all. Way more presents than any one family deserves. The wild three piece modular tree cut down from three different locations and morphed by dowels into one Charlie Brown deluxe with tinsel the dogs would try to eat. And the fireplace with the quintessential Yule look.

That was my I’m Going Home song for all occasions. Next up, we drastically need snow for this cold and lonely song I co-wrote with Russian born German married Victoria Lye on vocals, piano and flute. Here’s Snow Angel.

Kerri, a song I wrote for Kerri and her daughters Freya and Annie. We’ve got I Remember Christmastime by a recent guest, son of The Christmas Song Mel Torme Velvet Fog, Steve March-Torme with his heartfelt I Remember Christmastime.

So now that the dogs are fed and the cats are climbing the tree, I’d like to take a sec and thank everyone for listening to the podcast that exists to promote music from everyone and everywhere. I wish you all the best for the upcoming year and be safe, come and see me if you get a chance…and Merry Christmas to all.


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About the Podcast

Better Each Day Podcast Radio Show with Bruce Hilliard
Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better.--Emile Coue
This is a platform, a stage for singers, songwriters and the creative to share their work, backstories and positive words.
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About your host

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Bruce Hilliard

Host Bruce Hilliard has an appetite for music, “the soundtrack of our lives.” His personal journey has included opening for Rock & Roll Hall of Fame artists Heart, the Ramones and Dr. Hook. His degrees in music and journalism he says “are cool but everyday in every way, get better and better.” Interviews with everyone from young garage bands where it all begins, to seasoned veterans...all compelling. And there’s music.