A league of extraordinary people

A league of extraordinary people

This column was written by Curtis Crawford, DVM, CVMA board member and AVMA alternate delegate.

Five years ago, our local rodeo chose to honor a hero. The Sky-Hi Stampede prides itself on not only being the “Oldest Pro Rodeo in Colorado” but also on recognizing community members that give of themselves to better our world. Colorado Army National Guard Staff Sargent DJ Enderle was a recruiter stationed in Alamosa and had been on a day-hike climbing Mount Blanca, a “fourteener” on the east side of the San Luis Valley. He was approached by people needing help with an injured hiker. With his extensive military experience and big heart, Sgt. Enderle could not say no, and readily went to the aid of the hiker, putting the rest of his day on hold. Search and Rescue (SAR) was called, but they wouldn’t be able to get the hiker off the mountain before nightfall.

Sgt. Enderle could have left and made it down the mountain. But he chose to stay with the person he had taken responsibility for saving. SAR made it up to the accident scene just before the dark of night closed in around them. A severe thunderstorm shrouded the mountain with clouds and the cold, whipping rain that only happens in the Colorado Rockies. Lightening danced across the sky and thunder crashed around them as they hunkered down for the long, dismal night. After the storm had passed and it was prudent to move, Sgt Enderle helped the SAR crew bring the injured hiker down to safety.

For his actions, Staff Sargent DJ Enderle rightly earned the Soldier’s Medal. The Soldier’s Medal is the highest commendation the military awards for heroism in a non-combat situation. He was willing to lay down his life as he risked hypothermia, lightning strike, and serious falls and injury for a person he didn’t even know. He was honored as a noble example of extraordinary courage, generosity, and compassion, an inspiration for his fellow man to aspire to.

There is a bit of the “rest of the story” component to this tale. Staff Sgt. DJ Enderle is simply known as DJ to us here at our veterinary clinic. He is the spouse of one of my colleagues, Dr. Carla Enderle. What he did is no surprise to us. That is just who DJ and Carla are.

And my son, James, was part of the SAR team that left the warmth and safety of their homes to answer the call and climb up Mount Blanca on that stormy night to save the stranded hiker. I watched the mountain through my back door that night as lightning lit it up with almost continual bolts of electricity. I imagine it was just as terrifying as Mount Sinai must have looked when Moses went up to get the Ten Commandments. James gave up his sleeping bag to help warm our friend DJ as they waited out the cold and storm for the safety of daylight.

I teased James a bit that he deserved a medal too. His answer was a brief chuckle and a definitive “Nope.” DJ had gone above and beyond what was expected of an ordinary citizen that day. But as for the SAR team, well—that was their job. What is considered extraordinary for the average person is ordinary for someone who trains to do it.

I couldn’t be any more proud of that young man if he had won that medal himself.

Sometimes in our daily grind of caring for God’s creatures, we get worn down doing “ordinary” things. We fail to remember that what we do is nothing short of miraculously extraordinary to the average person. Alleviating pain and suffering or curing diseases that could take someone’s beloved pet from their homes and hearts may be routine to you, but to those clients you are a hero. Don’t believe me? Open up that desk drawer where you stash those thank you notes. Look up at that bulletin board above your desk at the pictures of happy clients and their animals or the handmade drawing from a child of his pet. You. Are. Amazing. But why, just like Underdog, do you downplay your contribution to making this world a better place for all?

Underdog was a 1960s cartoon dog superhero. His mild mannered “regular” persona was the humble and lovable “Shoeshine Boy.” But when villains threatened, he jumped into the nearest phonebooth (do you remember those?) to change into a mask (different than the ones we are wearing today) and transform into the cape-wearing superhero Underdog, destroying the phonebooth as his superpowers came online (maybe that’s why there aren’t any more phonebooths?). At the end of each episode after saving the world or his girlfriend, Sweet Polly Purebred, he would fly through the sky while people on the street would look up and exclaim, “Look up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!” And some nearsighted onlooker would call out “It’s a frog!” Then Underdog would quietly answer, “Not plane, not bird, nor even a frog. It’s just little ol’ me, Underdog.”

Don’t let your self-deprecating humility hide who you really are from yourself. There are people out there that see you as something extraordinary. And they are right! We at the CVMA recognize it too. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, you have risen well above and beyond the ordinary to keep your practices open and safely provide care for the public and animals in our stewardship.

CVMA has also zigged and zagged, adapting to continue providing relevant service to the membership, especially in meeting your needs in areas of CE and advocacy in a time of social distancing. It has not been an easy task for either of us! And while we may have destroyed a few phonebooths along the way, your superpowers of adapting and evolving to a new world have shown brightly.

So we invite you to celebrate the extraordinary efforts of all you extraordinary Colorado veterinarians on the evening of December 6 with a virtual CVMA Annual Membership Meeting and Celebration. We’ve missed seeing each of you in person and want to connect while toasting your courage, tenacity, and compassion.

Will you join us? After all, this is the CVMA and we welcome you to the herd. This time, with a party!


CVMA Annual Membership Meeting and Celebration (a virtual party!)
Sunday, December 6 | 6-7:30 p.m.
Click here to register.