The memoir spans Schechter’s life, from his youth in New York to moving his family to Atascadero and his veterinarian practice
ATASCADERO—My Small World, written by well-loved Atascadero veterinarian, Robert Schechter was self-published in January 2021. The memoir spans Schechter’s life, from his youth growing up in New York to moving his family to Atascadero in 1987 and then opening his veterinarian practice.
“My wife and I came back from Australia in March of 2020. We got back, and COVID was here. We barely got out of Australia. I couldn’t go to work for two reasons. First, I might carry the disease, and two, at age 82, I couldn’t open myself to everybody and get the disease. I didn’t know what to do, so I said, “it’s time to sit down and write this memoir,” Schechter said about writing his book.
Schechter faced many learning challenges from his early childhood throughout his medical career and has been diagnosed with an attention deficit with a visual memory disorder. It plays a large part in his book. Still, he didn’t let that stop him from succeeding in everything he set his mind to.
He explained, “I was diagnosed with a problem with visual memory. I could never spell words. I don’t picture them. So when I wrote the book, I lived with my phone spellchecking or the computer spellchecking.”
Schechter’s father was a first-generation immigrant who only spoke Yiddish when he arrived in New York City. Still, he thrived at learning English before going on to be an executive at a big button company.
“He would write letters that nobody would ever throw away,” Schechter said of his father. “My parents supported me. I found out at age 12 or 13 that I loved farming, I loved cows, and I lived in the suburbs of New York City. And my family supported me in doing that. High school supported me. I went to the University of Wisconsin because that’s where the cows were.”
Schechter’s life also led him all over the world, allowing him to experience life not only as a veterinarian but also as a Naval Officer, a professor at Cal Poly Ponoma, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Columbia, a husband to his wife Pat, and a father.
“I think it was time to tell the story of our experiences in Columbia. A good part of the book is about that. I went for one year because I didn’t make it through two years. It was so important to the rest of our life,” Schechter added.
My Small World also highlights all the coincidences in Schechter’s life over his 82 years on the planet. Including getting into the University of Illinois for Vet School when one of the people interviewing him ended up being a connection from his earlier college years at the University of Wisconsin.
“This town is just wonderful. I opened the veterinary hospital, and everybody knew me,” said Schechter of Atascadero. “I had four biological children, but I had five adopted children as well, and they all played sports, and I got to know everybody in town running from one [sports] game to the other.”
A few years after moving to Atascadero in 1987, Schechter bought then vet Dr. Vanderhoof’s practice near Agriwood (an old feed store and dairy barn). Then in the early 2000s, a heavy rain season washed out the bridge over the Salinas River, and with a move into town, the Atascadero Pet Hospital and Emergency Center (as we now know it) was born.
“So anyhow, I thought it was time to put it all down and let people here know me more, and also let people who want to become veterinarians gain a lot out of my experiences as a veterinarian.”
Schechter is still working at the Atascadero Pet Hospital and Emergency Center to this day. Alongside his son, Aaron, and eight other medical professionals.
“What was the most satisfying thing in my professional life? It wasn’t being a great veterinarian. That was okay. It wasn’t the medicine. It wasn’t caring for the animals. It was stimulating, encouraging, and helping people to develop self-esteem. Mentoring people. That was the best,” reminisced Schechter.
You can purchase My Small World from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.