On October 30. 2014 this paper published my first column, “Your Pet and Ebola.” It was written to inform how pets fit into the Ebola epidemic that was sweeping through Africa at the time and the fear it was going to become the next epidemic in America. Not that I thought it would ever happen, but I felt something was needed to give the public some degree of confidence and to help people not look like complete idiots. A lofty goal and a pretty much an impossible task. It was as clunky as any high school book report I ever wrote the period before it was due. We all have to start somewhere.
The next couple of columns dealt with pet care topics such as pet insurance, aging, and holiday tips. All good solid columns on important topics, but pretty standard fair for a veterinarian writing for a paper. They were just the facts of the situations and in my opinion, lacked any semblance of my personality, something I want to share with the readers, something I never thought anyone would have an interest. Sure I had lots of stories about my career which made good cocktail party conversation, but I was inexperienced sharing them in a print forum. Then I wrote a column about a dog who was a week late on receiving his annual rabies vaccination and was euthanized after being exposed to a rabid skunk. It struck a chord and I received an unexpected and positive response form the readers to the column.
I read that column over and over and in the process discovered I was able to tell a story in a way readers found entertaining and informative. I found writing in that style fun and it gave me the idea and permission to exploring being a veterinarian from the perspective of my personal and collective life experiences. I found my voice and it resonated not only with the readers, but also with the paper’s management. It resonated to the point they sent a professional photographer to my home who captured a photo of me and one of my dogs for use with the column, replacing what I thought was a perfectly nice black and white photo of me and a Pug taken with a camera phone. I guess they decided to make the investment to keep me around for a while.
My writing started to become more and more personal and people responded positively. The experience was and is gratifying to say the least. I began to write in a way I was not completely aware of as it was occurring: the dog named “Nigger Killer,” my inability to gain entry into a gated community to see a client, my mother and her dog Gracie. I was not just telling stories; I was telling MY story. Not just stories about pets, but about events and relationships which not only defined me as a veterinarian, but as a son, a black man, and a man just working his way through a world that sometimes goes mad with police shootings, reactions to racial issues, and even the degeneration of a personal relationship. I found what I was presenting to be very powerful often times to the readers, but consistently powerful and cathartic to myself.
I am excited, honored, and blessed to have the privileged to present the insights, views, and adventures of a guy who got the opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian in print and on the internet on a weekly basis. I recently had the opportunity to spend time at the South Florida Times booth at the National Urban League Convenience in Ft. Lauderdale, meeting many readers who actually know who I was from the paper. It was an amazing and humbling experience. Thank you everyone.
Dr. Pierre Bland is a small animal practitioner who offers office and house call appointments to his clients. His offices are located at 3225 N. Andrews Avenue, Ft. Lauderdale, FL and can be reached at 954 673-8579.