Bonnie's story brought to mind my own experiences with my mother, her dog Skippy, a residential nursing home and those who
made a difference.
My mother, Ella Osborne, lived in Richmond, a small town in central Indiana about three to four miles from the Ohio border.
She was a generous and fun-loving wife and mother.
I left Richmond in 1958 to attend Purdue, where I obtained my DVM degree. In 1964, I moved to Minnesota to become a clinical
intern. I have remained at the University of Minnesota as a professor/research investigator.
After my father (Andy) passed away in 1987, my mother shared her three-bedroom rambler home with a blind Springer Spaniel
named Mollie. My mother declined all three of her children's repeated invitations to move closer to them.
A few years later, shortly after Mollie died, my mother adopted a young (about 1 or 2 years old), energetic dog from the Richmond
Humane Society. She named the dog "Skippy," after a Doberman that I can barely remember as a preschool child.
It wasn't long after adopting Skippy that he trained my mother to respond to his commands. He was undisciplined but loveable.
As the years passed, it was becoming obvious that my mother (now in her 90s) was losing her cognitive skills and short-term
She had several medical problems for which her family physician was prescribing medications, but she was not following the
recommendations. This problem, combined with apparent confusion about payment of monthly household bills, prompted my sister
to explore assisted care at a residential home in Richmond.
About five years before, my mother asked me to care for Skippy if the time came when she was unable to do so. Of course, this
was a promise I meant to keep. She reluctantly agreed to move to the extended-care facility, but only oncondition that Skippy
could move with her. This was arranged, and Skippy became the mascot of the ward.
Skippy must have thought he was in Paradise. Not only was he fed by the staff twice a day, he also had access to an ample
supply of table scraps.
A wonderful veterinarian, Dr. Susan Cayard (DVM, Purdue 1989) who had a solo practice in Centerville, Ind., cared for Skippy
My mother died in the spring of 2002. When I returned to Richmond for her memorial, I thought she would appreciate it if I
could give the memorial talk accompanied by Skippy. This I was able to arrange.
The morning of the memorial, we dove from Indianapolis to Richmond. We were on a tight schedule. When I arrived at the facility
to get Skippy, he looked like no one had brushed him for the last two to three months. I didn't have the time or equipment
to groom him, so I opened the windows of the rental car and put Skippy in the back seat with the expectation that some of
the loose white hair would blow outside.
This resulted in good news and bad news:
The good news was that Skippy enjoyed the ride, facing the breeze coming through the open windows. The wind blew off some
of the loose hair.
The bad news was that by the time we arrived at the chapel, I had almost as much of Skippy's white hair clinging to my dark
suit as Skippy had on him. Also, the open-air distributed Skippy's white hair almost everywhere inside the rental car.
Skippy and I went into the large room where many of the family's relatives and friends had gathered. Skippy was an immediate
attraction until his fur started to cling to all the immaculately dressed friends he greeted.
When he wagged his tail, fur flew everywhere. The staff at the chapel also appeared to be somewhat stressed because other
events were scheduled after our service. But they kept their composure.
However, as we stood in the reception line after the service, we noticed the staff using two or three huge vacuum cleaners
to remove the evidence of Skippy's visit.
This tale of Skippy's life wasn't yet over. It ended with his hair becoming redistributed from inside the rental car to everyone
who rode with me to Earlham Cemetery. I am certain my mother would have laughed.
Skippy remained at the extended-care facility for a year or so. Then I learned that he was not wanted there anymore. I received
an e-mail from Dr. Cayard notifying me of the predicament.
Dr. Cayard was willing to accept Skippy as a resident-mascot in her hospital until I could arrange to come to Centerville
from Minnesota. But before I could make arrangements, she found him a good home — or so we all thought.
But, not long afterward, he was found roaming the streets of Centerville.
We asked Dr. Cayard again to help us care for Skippy and she did. Then the Lawrence family (young daughter Tristen, and parents
Patrice and Jeff), of Muncie, Ind., came to the rescue. They loved dogs and shared the same values about life as did Dr. Cayard
and Bonnie Muffoletto. They adopted Skippy.
Jeff Lawrence recently sent me the following account of Skippy's life with them.
"I first met Skippy at Dr. Cayard's office. I was making my monthly visit to the hospital as a veterinary-supply distributor.
Skippy was running around the clinic and I inquired whether he was the new clinic dog. I think he probably was 10 or 11 years
old at the time.
"They explained that Skippy's owner had died and they were caring for the dog until a suitable home came along.
"I was touched by Skippy's story and decided he would live the rest of his life in our home (which we share with many Great
Danes). Skippy spent the next three years of his life begging for food (which he usually got), sleeping on the couch, traveling
in our motor home to dog shows and making us smile every time we looked at him. He was a wonderful dog and we were blessed
to have him in our life."
I received word from Jeff Lawrence that Skippy died in the spring of 2007. If Skippy could write, wouldn't it be interesting
to learn about his life story from his perspective? What would he say?
From my perspective, Skippy's life was filled with the altruistic acts of those who value life and who are willing to go extra
miles to protect it.
I am indebted to these kind-hearted folks, and pledge to them and others to do my utmost to make a difference.
I have put my thoughts to the pen as follows:
"My professional mission is to devote my God-given energies, talents and resources toward caring about others.
"By practicing the Golden Rule, I will teach others as I would want to be taught, and treat patients and their families as
I would want to be treated. I will try to give others reason to smile, help them cry and provide them with a sound basis for
As a member of the veterinary profession that abides by an ethical code, I am committed to a service rather than a profit
"To this end, the greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more.
"And until the day arrives that my lamp of service is extinguished, my mission is to continue to use my possessions, my thoughts
and my time in behalf of others." — C.A.O.
Dr. Osborne, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, is professor of medicine in the Department
of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota.