Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dr. R.K. Anderson - Farewell

It's with a heavy heart that I write. I wanted to blog for the last couple of days but couldn't seem to find a way to do it. But do it I must. 

On October 18th the world lost a wonderful man, a pioneer in veterinary behavior whose inventions, The Gentle Leader (co-created with Ruth Foster and named by the Smithsonian as one of the world's 100 Best Inventions) and Easy Walk Harness have improved life for countless dogs and their owners. I did the first major interview with R.K. about the Gentle Leader halter system and he told me later that he nearly had to put in another phone line for all of the orders.  We had met earlier at a Morris Animal Foundation meeting in 1990. His warmth and lack of any ego, his interest in everything around him and his quick, sharp mind instantly impressed me. A friendship began to grow, a bond of mutual respect and trust.

Born and raised in Colorado, R.K. became the Director of Veterinary Public Health in Denver after his stint in the Navy which had followed his graduation from veterinary school. Even in those early days he was positive, training shelter dogs with food instead of punishment. Such a gentle, caring man could do no less, especially one who had been raised around cows and horses; you can't put a choke collar on either of those animals.

Relocating to Minnesota in 1954 to become the University's first Director of Veterinary Public Health Program at the School of Public Health, he was also a researcher into such diseases as Brucellosis. 

By 1980 he was ready for even more knowledge and took a sabbatical. He went to University of California, Davis to study Animal Behavior and Psychology. 

One of the founders of the Delta Society, now called Pet Partners, he was a long-time proponent of the human-animal bond. He founded The Animal Behavior Resources Institute.

R.K. received many honors in his lifetime and there will, no doubt, be posthumous honors for this very special man. 

I remember R.K. telling me, at the very first meeting of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants that he came because he was told that I was there. Whether true or not, and I've never known R.K. to tell anything but the truth, I was deeply humbled and honored by his words.  He was honored there as well.  

He leaves behind family, a long-time companion, and many friends, colleagues and countless admirers. The world has lost a great man. Animals have lost a real hero who made life so much better for so many of them. And my heart hurts. 

Do some research about the man, learn more about his life, his work. He would never brag about it. And say a little prayer of thanks that he lived such a full, rich life and made such a tremendous impact on the world of people and animals.

Rest well, my friend.

1 comment:

Layla ( Cat Wisdom 101) said...

Thank-you for this tribute from the heart. His legacy lives on with his humane inventions. Millions of dogs are happier for that reason alone.