Final whistle sounds for Doc Brown

Published 8:49 am Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Perhaps everybody has their favorite “Doc” Brown story.

Mine came sometimes during the early 1960’s. I feel comfortable that it came before my 10th birthday, which would have arrived in 1963.

As was the Bryant family tradition back in those carefree days, we took a week’s vacation to White Lake (near Elizabethtown, NC in Bladen County) over the summer.

It was during that time in my life where I had a pet Cocker Spaniel by the name of “Polly.” She was a sweet, mild-mannered dog whose claim to fame was roaming the neighborhood (the Pinetops community in Northampton County) and eating the table scraps tossed out by the neighbors. Polly loved to eat and it showed in her girth.

Anyway, one summer my dad, Ray Bryant, opted to ensure there would be no little Pollys roaming around our neighborhood, so he took her to Doc Brown to be “fixed.”

The operation was to take place while we were on vacation. I remember riding with Dad to Doc Brown’s little office just outside of Rich Square where I recall being very nervous about leaving my beloved dog in the care of a stranger.

Heck, I thought Doc Brown was old back then (of course everyone appears ancient when you’re 8-years-old).

Remembering like it was just yesterday, I recall how kind and gentle Doc Brown was with Polly. She was the center of his attention.

Still, it was tough leaving my dog behind, but the thought of a week of fun at White Lake eased my apprehension.

After we returned home, I rode with Dad to pick-up Polly. She was, of course, elated to see her human family and she appeared healthy and happy. The smile I remember seeing on Doc Brown’s face assured me that she was just fine.

Over the ensuing years, Doc Brown took care of Polly, just as he did for thousands of animals all over northeastern North Carolina and southside Virginia. She lived to the ripe old age of 15, thanks in some part to Doc Brown.

Later in life, I became good friends with Tom and David Brown (two of Doc’s nephews). We played a lot of softball and chased a lot of women together.

Even Doc and I forged a friendship, one nurtured by our shared love of NC State Wolfpack athletics.

We lost Doc Brown last week. He was 90 years old. At the time of his passing he was the oldest practicing veterinarian in the state.

Doc died a happy man. He was in Birmingham, Alabama where he was to attend the Dec. 29 Bowl featuring NC State vs. Rutgers. He attended a pre-game party the night before, one where he was featured as the oldest fan in attendance.

Doc never made it to the game, but in the game of life, he scored early and often and even though his final whistle has sounded, Doc Brown went out a winner. He’ll be missed!

(Cal Bryant is Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached at or 252-332-7207.)