It was 1999. I was fairly new to the Radio biz, doing mostly fill-in, plus part-time on weekends. My boss, Rich Barnes, called me one evening and asked if I could possibly be on call for one of my co-workers the next morning.
“Pamela has a very treasured dog,” his voice was firm, yet sympathetic. “Max is about 12 and has been pretty sick to the point where she may have to have him put down.”
“Of course, yes, I’ll be prepared,” I answered, without missing a beat.
After Rich’s call I gave Pamela a quick call to let her know I would be there for her if necessary. She was gently weeping, but managed to express her gratitude.
At 3:30 the next morning I heard from Pamela. She actually sounded better, but she did indeed request that I go in for her that morning. She wanted to spend the next few hours with Max.
Later that morning as I reported traffic and read the news on Pamela’s stations, I overheard from across the room a conversation between a somewhat obnoxious male coworker, Chris, and our producer, Mark; they were talking about Pamela. “It’s just a dog,” Chris opined, rolling his eyes, “jeez!”
I stood up and leaned over the console that separated us. Looking him square in the eye, I fired, “That dog is the closest thing Pamela has to a child, so lose the attitude!”
Mark nodded sheepishly and said to Chris, “C’mon, she’s right, dude.”
I heard some mumbling after that, but I didn’t care. I simply put my headphones back on and waited on standby for my next report.
Fortunately that was the last time I ever heard anyone utter that insensitive and ignorant phrase. These days most people know better, and even more so, many folks are sensitive to the fact that they cannot dictate where, why, how and with whom other people’s emotions run deep. They just have to accept it and hopefully be supportive. If they find it hard to accept, then they should be prepared to keep quiet, as they may find themselves in the minority.
I was there for Pamela that day, and not just to fill in on her shift. In the back of my mind I knew I might be in her position one day, and need the same support and understanding. It’s really not that complicated, especially to dog people.