Steve has written my post this Friday in the form of a reminiscence of our earliest days as newlyweds and in starting Pearson Animal Hospital. In it, you will catch a glimpse of his personality and the reason why he’s my very favorite person on earth. We celebrated our 46th anniversary a few days ago. I think I’ll keep him.
This is us…newlyweds
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Connie and I got married just days before the beginning of my senior year in vet school. She’d been at Samford University for 3 years, but she finished her degree in piano performance at Auburn in December 1971. She knew nothing about veterinary medicine, and I knew less than that about music. That was about to change for both of us, of course. It meant I’d get my first exposure to classical music, and she’d get her first experiences of eating dinner with a man who reeked of barnyard odors.
“I think I’d like to open a practice in either Hartselle, Alabama or somewhere in Australia.”
Yes, I was serious when those words came out of my mouth. But, that was way out of character for me. I’ve always required a lot of prodding to get out of my comfort zone. No doubt, those were words from a lovesick boy trying to impress his new wife. Together we made the right decision and decided to see how things went in Hartselle first.
On April 2, 1973, we opened for business on Main Street in Hartselle, AL. I’d used a stencil to paint PEARSON ANIMAL HOSPITAL in white letters on a dark red four-foot long plywood “sign”. It hung over the door to our 3-room rented office space. It was one of four identical spaces in a row, which included a real estate office and insurance agency.
Connie, my musician wife, became our first receptionist and vet assistant. She may not have known a lot about veterinary medicine, but she sure knew how to treat people well and build lasting relationships. Even though her tenure at Pearson Animal Hospital was short, her demeanor helped us develop a nucleus of loyal clients. Many of them are still friends today.
Later the same day I was pacing the floor as I waited for Connie to return from her doctor appointment. Brown coveralls were zipped up so that only the knot of my necktie was showing. Black rubber boots made their distinct sounds with each anxious step. A farm client called while she was gone, and I didn’t want to keep him waiting. It seemed risky to close the office and leave the phone unattended, and I knew she should return at any moment. Why did she have to go see a doctor on our very first day of business anyway? Balancing work and life is never easy for a practicing veterinarian.
When she finally came through the door, I knew the farm call would have to wait a little longer. Something was different. Her face showed a combination of concern and joy like I’d never seen before. Why she had to tell me, I’ll never know. It should have been so obvious. I was about to begin learning how to make my family a priority over my profession. At least I did stop pacing long enough to hear her say, “We’re having a baby!”
Immediately hugging and dancing and laughing erupted in that little room right on Main Street in Hartselle, Alabama. If we could have known anything about the little one who’d arrive on November 1, 1973, our hearts could not have contained the joy.