Tiny and the Oak Tree
He was scary-looking. Standing about
six-foot, six inches tall, he had shoulders
the width of my dining room table.
His hair hung to his shoulders, a full beard
obscured half of his face; his massive arms
and chest were covered with tattoos.
He was wearing greasy blue jeans and a
lean jacket with the sleeves cut out.
Chains clanked on his motorcycle boots
and on the key ring hanging from his wide
leather belt. He held out a hand the size
of a pie plate, in which lay a tiny, misshapen
What's wrong with Tiny, Doc?" he asked
in a gruff voice.
My exam revealed a birth defect. Tiny's
spine had never grown together, and he
was paralyzed in his back legs.
No amount of surgery, medicine or
prayer was going to fix him. I felt helpless.
The only thing I could tell this big,
hairy giant was that his little friend
was going to die. I was ashamed
of my prejudice but I felt a little
nervous anticipating the biker's
reaction. Being the bearer of
bad news is never pleasant,
but with a rough-looking character
like the man in front of me,
I didn't know what to expect.
I tried to be as tactful as possible,
explaining Tiny's problem and
what we could expect, which was a slow,
lingering death. I braced myself for
But the big fella only looked at me with
eyes that I could barely see through
the hair on his face and said sadly,
"I guess we gotta do him, huh, Doc?"
I agreed that, yes, the best way to help
Tiny was to give him the injection
that would end his poor, pain-filled life.
So with his owner holding Tiny,
we ended the little kitten's pain.
When it was over, I was surprised to
see this macho guy the size of an oak
tree just standing there holding Tiny,
with tears running down his beard.
He never apologized for crying,
but he managed a choked "Thanks, Doc,"
as he carried his little friend's body
home to bury him.
Although ending a patient's life is
never pleasant, my staff and I all
agreed that we were glad we could
stop the sick kitten's pain.
Weeks passed, and the incident faded.
Then one day the oak-sized biker
appeared in the clinic again.
It looked ominously like we were
about to repeat the earlier scenario.
The huge man was wearing the
same clothes and carrying another
kitten in his pie-plate hand.
But I was enormously relieved
upon examining "Tiny Two" to
find he was absolutely, perfectly,
wonderfully normal and healthy.
I started Tiny Two's vaccinations,
tested him for worms and discussed
his care, diet and future needs
with his deceptively tough-looking owner.
By now, it was obvious that Mr. Oak Tree
had a heart that matched his size.
I wonder now how many other Hell's Angel
types are really closet marshmallows.
In fact, whenever I see a pack of
scary-looking bikers roaring past me
on the road, I crane my neck to see if I
can catch a glimpse of some tiny little
kitten poking its head up out of a sleek
chrome sidecar or maybe even peeking
out from inside the front of a black leather jacket.
Dennis K. McIntosh, D.V.M.