Douglas A. Stewart

Douglas A. Stewart was born in Lobo Township February 18th 1870.  He attended school until the age of sixteen when he left to help his father care for the family farm. In 1898, Douglas got married and moved to Poplar Hill to attend Detroit Business University. He only spent six months at university before dropping out and apprenticing with a veterinarian in London.  After a year of training he enrolled in the Toronto Veterinarian College. He graduated with honours two year later and returned to Poplar Hill where he practised veterinary medicine for eight years.  In 1904 he took over an undertaking business which he ran until 1909. It was during that time his wife died leaving him to take care of their three children alone.  Douglas found himself unable to do both and sold his undertaking business and veterinarian practice to spend more time with his children. He found work as an electrician and conductor with the Canadian Railway when the First World War broke out. He decide to join the Canadian war effort in 1916, and joined the Canadian Veterinarian Corps in 1916.

During his service Douglas became friends with Sir Adam Becks and the two were tasked with purchasing remounts for the Canadian Army. Despite being a specialist in surgery, Douglas found himself called upon to assist his unit in more mundane tasks such as shoeing, clipping and administering medicine to horses. That last task proved to be more dangerous than it appealed as it ended with Douglas being crippled.

In August of 1916 Captain Stewart was asked to assist in administering medicine to an unruly horse. In order to accomplish this, they placed the horse in a 6×9 stall and tied a rope around his body to keep him secure. They then placed another rope in his mouth to raise his head to ensure the animal would swallow the medicine.  The horse upon tasting the medicine, twisted its body and threw itself on top of Captain Stewart knocking him to the ground. The 1100 pound animal proceeded to stand up and stomp Captain Stewart. The animal panicked trying to break out of the stall and nearly killed Captain Stewart before the animal was released by the other vet. Captain Stewart was quickly rushed to a doctor where it seemed he had gotten off easy. He had some cuts, bruises and a few minor fractures but was otherwise fine. His wounds were dressed and he was returned to active service that day.

The extent of his injuries were revealed a few weeks later when he was re-examined. His fractures had been more severe than first thought and his shoulder had healed wrong.  As a result, he lost most of the mobility in his right arm and it pained him whenever he was forced to use it. Four of his teeth had been badly damaged by a kick to the face and they fell out over the course of two years.  His right leg had been fractured and also never healed properly which made it hard to run and carry heavy loads.

Despite his injuries he continued to serve until 1919 when he was discharged and returned to London, Ontario.  After a few years Captain Stewart requested a pension as his injuries left him unable to do manual labour. He stated that while he was fortunate enough to have a position which did not require manual labour, if he lost his job he would struggle to find work.  The pension committee ultimately ruled against granting a pension as Captain Stewart’s injuries did not prevent him from finding work in veterinary medicine which did not require large amounts of manual labour.  Captain Stewart did find employment as a London veterinarian and married his second wife. They lived together until his death in 1934 from lung cancer.

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