Rudy de Meester, Nov 7, 1953 - Oct 28, 2012
Some people are electric in their presence, their eyes lit by a life fire that readily sparks and flares gorgeously with the least provocation - a kind word, an interesting thought, a new idea, an animal or person in need, something funny, and the pure sensuous joy of life itself in all its flavors. My Belgian friend Dr. Rudy de Meester was an electric man. To watch him enter a room was like watching a current flow through wire. One by one, faces would light up as the awareness of his presence reached out from where he stood.
I once sat and watched him turn a room of calm, happily breakfasting people into a collection of joyful, smiling, laughing, delighted people -- all accomplished just by being there. He approached, and people turned toward him, as flowers turn toward the sun. That memory is so clear in my mind it is like watching a favorite movie.
Hard to explain the brilliance of his smile. Impossible to say how his dark eyes danced and shone, and how they seem to see right to the essence of a person. To be face to face with Rudy, to make him smile, to be offered the gift of his laughter, to feel the power of his hugs --- oh, these are memories that all who knew him will cherish.
It seems paltry at best to say that Rudy was a gifted and dedicated veterinarian who specialized in behavior. He felt deeply for animals and for the people who loved them. He wanted people to understand animals better, wanted the best ways to help troubled or hurting animals. And he gave generously of himself in so many ways to that end, as a mentor to countless students, as a colleague to other vets and behaviorists and trainers. This was a man who was a true animal man, who understood animals, who loved animals.
I met Rudy at the first European Dog Trainers' Conference in Brugge. He was giving a lecture on Separation Anxiety, and he opened with this line: "Separation anxiety is not a pathology; it is the normal response of a social animal to being isolated." I nearly leapt to my feet yelling "Bravo!" but restrained myself. Later, I charged up to thank him, and got a bit carried away in my enthusiam for his take on separation anxiety: I offered to marry him and have his children. Although taken back by this crazy American, he nonetheless was polite, and realized I was sincere in my appreciation. Later, we ended up having an intense conversation about behavior, dogs, brains, neurobiology and more. I was amazed that given his considerable expertise he would be willing to talk with me about these things. We had a grand time, and our friendship began.
Though I am not as a rule an envious person, as time went by I found myself envying those who were fortunate enough to know Rudy for years, to have him as a mentor or colleague, to work with him regularly. Watching them, I fiercely hoped they knew how blessed they were. I only got to see him intermittently, always with great joy, always coming away with lovely new memories and ideas. And always with the gift of Rudy's belief in my work, something that moved me beyond words and cheered me in grey times when I was not sure that my work had value.
I believed the future held countless years of friendship with Rudy. I looked forward to being challenged and pushed by Rudy to do my best, be my best, and to working with him on various projects. The news this spring of his serious illness seemed unreal, but it was shockingly fast from that news to Sunday, Oct 28, when he died at home surrounded by his family.
Rudy's goodness will continue to spread out into the world through the countless people who knew him, loved him, and were loved by him, taught by him. It is impossible to fully grasp how much good he did in his life, or to know how deeply he will be missed.
Goodbye, dear Rudy. It is an honor to have been called friend by you. Thank you for everything.