Change is in the air. Not just the autumn changes of those bright yellow big leaf maples littering the pavement, nor the huge chestnut-colored buckeyes rolling down the lane. Yes, the morning sun is a little paler, low in the sky and the evening chill sets in suddenly with dark. But there’s a bigger change evident in our little village.
The new is replacing the tried and true, and despite the fact that we obviously welcome these changes, they involve a few wistful goodbyes.
We have a new dentist – two, in fact. We have a new vet – two, in fact. Plus, there’s a new psychologist up the street, a food truck parked by Bob Marshall’s (now Kevin Flores’) garage and a manicurist who’s moved in with Roseann and Sharon. That latter team would be Fanucchi and Burns, of course, who have become an institution in our fair village. But let me start with two dear friends, also neighbors who have been here a long time and have served us all so well.
Dr. and Mrs. Wag
We begin with our dear vet, Bob Wagner, mostly known in these parts as Dr. Wag. Rumors report that happy dogs bark his name and contented cats purr it. He’s beloved by animals, as much as by their owners. His helpmate and sweetie is Pam Wagner, much appreciated by all of their clients. Their family has included at various times, Miss Tillie, Thistle, Hawley, and BBD (Bob’s Boxer dog), if my memory serves me well. Which, as many subjects of this column well know, it doesn’t always. So, takes these “facts” about the Wagners as my version only. Then, ask for theirs.
Bob will freely tell you that “I’ve been here all my working life,” noting that these days, he even greets grandchildren of clients continuing the good old Glen Ellen tradition of having their pets cared for by dear Dr. Wag, our local vet.
Bob has fond memories of time spent here in Glen Ellen as a kid. He grew up in San Francisco, but summered in Glen Ellen. San Francisco mamas would often bring their kids from the City to spend the summer in the sunny climes of our Valley, with papas arriving on the weekend. Bob’s memories of good times in Glen Ellen are extensive.
He describes a bucolic Sonoma Valley with cattle, dairies, orchards and beautiful hot weather as a respite from the cooling fogs of San Francisco.
It was a sleepier town in those days. “I could walk down the middle of the street in Glen Ellen then,” Bob smiles. I respond with fact that both of my dogs did that, too, in their day. Bob laughs with memories of that, both of us acknowledging that no one would do that now.
Cars, trucks and vehicles of every size and shape now speed through our little town at a velocity that threatens both man and beast.
Studying sick sea lions
Bob joined our local Glen Ellen Volunteer Fire Department at 16 and stayed with it until he left town around 21. “Warren Mak was the chief back then,” Bob says. In later years, Bob served on the GE Firefighters’ board of directors.
Just out of high school, Bob Wagner attended the local junior college, then moved on to Sonoma State University, where he earned his master’s degree in bacteriology working with professor John Iversen studying infectious agents causing a sea lion die-off. The two co-published scientific papers on their findings, aiding scientists everywhere studying this problem.
Post college and eager to see more of the wide world, Bob hopped on a motorcycle and left for Aurora, Colo., continuing to cover a lot of territory on his motorcycle. Eventually, he ended up at Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, where he was offered a good stipend and was able to teach bacteriology and virology while earning his medical degree.
Graduating with his doctor of veterinary medicine degree, he found his first job in Kelowna, B.C. It’s also where he found true love.
Bob met Pam Welland in Kelowna. She worked as a vet’s assistant in Kelowna, though originally from Toronto. Pam easily recalls, “I met Bob on June 1, 1977, He walked in on a horse call.” For five years, they were best of friends, working together, hiking, biking and even flying.
Bob, not merely an adventurer on a motorcycle, also had his pilot’s license.
I’m not sure whether it was on a crazy spin when Bob gave Pam a thrill of a plane ride, or later on some other adventure, but in time, they both realized this was more than just a friendship. They were in love.
Married three times
And they proved that by having not just one, but three weddings. On Aug. 12, 1983, Bob and Pam were joined in the courthouse in Vancouver. Next, came a small wedding in a protestant church in that same city. Those two were followed by a gala celebration with his California family when Monsignor Jack O’Hare married them here in the Valley. You’ll have to ask them which date sticks as their anniversary; maybe they have a tri-umphant celebration yearly. That final ceremony was especially pleasing to Bob’s mom, Louise Wagner. She, by the way, is a great golfer, just like her son. They both have the distinction of making a hole in one.
As for Pam’s Canadian parents, Doug and Margaret Welland, I’m sure they appreciated the home country weddings. But first, they had to approve Bob. Turns out that Doug Welland actually did that by flying all the way down to California to surprise Bob, who was back here before the weddings to set up their futures. Doug, no doubt, wanted to make sure that Bob was the right man for his daughter, though he merely told Bob that he just happened to be in the neighborhood. From Toronto? Yes, Bob quickly figured out Doug’s purpose and, on his best behavior, apparently passed muster.
All four of their parents, including Bob’s dad Richard Wagner, are all long since gone, but as Bob and Pam talk about them – the three of us huddled up in the tiny office adjacent to the veterinary waiting room, loud with sounds of people and animals – the two families come alive, as does the long and winding road that brought these two wonderful folks to our town and kept them here for so many years.
Two dogs, four cats, three turtles, and little Levi
Now it looks like they may be moving on. If all works and if escrow goes through as planned, Bob and Pam will hang up their veterinary hats and move to North Carolina where they’ve discovered a sort of paradise for folks who love golfing and horseback riding, as Bob and Pam respectively do. Their enthusiasm for Pinehurst had even me, who can scarce imagine leaving California, Googling the town.
Meanwhile, our town is set to welcome two new veterinary doctors, David and Nichole Brooks, along with the youngest member of the family, little Levi, 10 months old. The day I met him, he was busy drooling his way to a few new teeth, so not much information was exchanged. I can tell you he’s a cutie, though.
Nichole Brooks was born and raised in Sebastopol. Her family is still located in Sonoma County. David Brooks is from Atlanta, Ga. They met during veterinary school and married in 2009. They have a bull mastiff named Amelia, a Boston terrier named Napoleon, four cats, Pickles, Poseidon, Kellar and Oscar. Rounding out their menagerie are three turtles, Alpha, Beta and Gamma.
Nichole and David were effusive about our little village and say they “can’t wait to begin our journey here in the town of Glen Ellen.”
We welcome them and suggest that you, my dear readers who have also relied on the Wagners for animal care over the years, come by soon to say a fond farewell to Bob and Pam. For three reasons: First, of course, is to let them know how much you appreciate their years of dedication and love to all of our pets. Second is to get the story straight. Pam and I talked for hours one afternoon (while Bob was in and out of the conversation to care for scheduled and unscheduled visits), in one of those lovely friend-to-friend non-linear conversations. There were a few tears, a lot of laughter and many good memories shared. What facts I misquoted, Bob and Pam can correct.
The third and final reason to stop by the Glen Ellen Veterinary office? To say a grand, good, Glen Ellen welcome to Nichole and David.
Our animals knew them well
As for me, I’ll miss Bob and Pam a lot. A few physicians after Leigh Hall closed his medical practice, the new vet moved in. Our family’s wild, mischievous, mongrel Sam provided plenty of opportunity to get to know both Bob and Pam over the years. Thirteen years later, when Sam was too old and sick to continue on, Bob came to our house, helped me through the ordeal of putting Sam down while I held my poor dog in my arms, sitting on the kitchen floor sobbing. Bob took it all in stride. That was a blessing I’ve never forgotten. Then, when we unwisely fell fast for our next family dog Betsy, the wish-I-were-an airedale, Bob and Pam watched over all of us as we learned to deal with another challenging alpha dog.
Additionally, the Wagners have been our good neighbors up the street on O’Donnell Lane for years. The changes on that lane could fill a month full of columns. I’m learning: change isn’t always easy, but “it is what it is,” as a dear friend, so much more practical and realistic than I, is fond of saying. And, no doubt, much good comes of change, too. Bob and Pam can’t stop talking about all the good things they anticipate in Pinehurst: “Yes, Bob will definitely take his Harley and I’m pretty sure my horse is going, too,” Pam shares. And so, the stories of our lives continue.
Players change as the play goes on
Nichole and David Brooks are just the first of the new folks in our town to welcome. In columns to come, I’ll introduce you to Dr. Lee Tetz and Dr. Rally Varlakova, the husband-and-wife team who will be taking over Dr. Richard Prince’s dental practice. Then we’ll meet Paula Siegel, a therapist who could sweetly sing your troubles away, though has many more professional techniques than that (it just so happens that I love her voice and the music she shares). We also welcome Jerry Howlett, who has parked his food truck in town and, according to several folks, has the best potato salad ever, while others rave about his tri-tip. Finally, we’ll tell you about Melanie Heffernan, who grew up in Tomales, surfing the waves, and roaming the fields. Later she escaped to Ireland, returning to Glen Ellen, a true Irish lass. I even felt that I could detect a lilting Irish brogue when she speaks of the good green isle.
While the purpose of this column has never been to tout businesses in our village (that is the job of ads, after all), we do find that the folks of our village, who become our neighbors and our friends, form the weft of the cloth that is our lives, blending with the warp of dailiness, creating the colorful life of Glen Ellen.
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