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If you have to ask…


If you have to ask, explanation won’t help. It’s that simple.

I’m not trying to dodge the question of why we value the four-legged members of our family so highly. We just do, and no one who thinks otherwise can be made to understand the lengths we will go to afford them aid and comfort. Our commitment these last few days to Bob, our cat—even though he has a long way to go in the healing process—reminds me that Agincourt lacks a veterinarian. I’ve tried to entice a Fargo-Moorhead architect (who shall not be named) to tackle the design of a contemporary animal hospital and have thusfar been unsuccessful. Recent experience with at least three DVMs in Fargo, however, tells me to further the story of veterinary medicine in Fennimore county.

Our cat Bob has been very sick for the last five weeks with Feline Triad Disease. Several visits to the vet and a weekend in the emergency animal hospital have only strengthened my resolve to weave veterinary threads into Agincourt’s fabric and build on the stories of Finlay Dun and “The night of the albino calf” and of Martha Tennant’s role in founding the community’s first animal welfare society.


At the “Gold Rush” flea market held at the Olmstead County fairgrounds each year, our friend Karen and I happened on the same item almost simultaneously: it was a worn book by W. P. Pycraft titled The Animal Why Book, illustrated by Edwin Noble (actually, John Edwin Noble) in an Arts & Crafts-like style reminiscent of Sir William Nicholson. We have several Nicholson prints on the dining room plate rail, but Noble’s work—similar yet not derivative—was unfamiliar. Karen and I tossed a coin to see who the lucky buyer would be. I won.

The internet yielded considerable information on Noble (less on Pycraft) and a growing list of books he had both illustrated and written. Along with the Animal Why Book, there were two others in a series with similar treatments of animal-related topics: Helpers Without Hands about humankind’s dependence on domesticated stock, and Pads, Paws & Claws on wilder species around the world. I found pretty good copies of these two and several other marginally less attractive volumes illustrated by Noble, a few of which were written by him as well.


Beyond his beautiful images of species ordinary and familiar, rare and exotic, Messrs Noble and Pycraft may have given us a name for Agincourt’s current veterinary practice: Pads, Paws & Claws. Hooves probably belong in there as well — this is a rural community, after all — but the Pycraft-Noble book is too beautiful to pass by without mining it for ideas.

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