Paul Harvey Had the Rest of the Ricky the Cat Story
Paul Harvey was unquestionably one of the greatest and most influential broadcasters in the history of radio. Harvey’s syndicated broadcasts reached the heartland of America, as Jessica Trichel of Live Oak Bank recalled during her keynote at the North American Veterinary Conference LIVE in Portland, Oregon this week.
Harvey pioneered the use of the pregnant pause. For several years, I was on the air on WGN Radio Sunday afternoons when Harvey’s “Other Side of the Story” aired. I would be down the hall from the studios in an office and would hear Harvey, who was recorded and therefore on tape, pause. The pause was so long, I thought the station was off the air, and I would race down the hall to the studio. Good thing I had a good heart, though I am sure my blood pressure soared. Despite how often he did this, he fooled me each time.
Harvey featured me in broadcasts twice. Both times, we talked about my cat, Ricky. I had written about Ricky in national newspapers, and Harvey saw the stories. To this day, I have no idea how or why he chose to talk about my cat, but I’m glad he did.
Ricky was kind of famous and appeared on TV frequently. Well before the YouTube era, the idea of a cat going out into the world and playing the piano was novel. When Ricky died suddenly of a common heart disease in cats, I took advantage of that fame, creating the special Ricky Fund with the nonprofit Winn Feline Foundation to raise money to better understand heart disease in cats. That fund still exists and has made a difference. For example, gene defects that cause hypertrophic cardiomyopathy have been identified in the Ragdoll and Maine Coon breeds as a result of the money raised. Now, a simple and inexpensive cheek swab can determine if individuals in those breeds are carrying the defects. This test is important for breeders, of course. And, more research will be done, as it can be funded.