My two kids grew up in a house filled with small pets, most adopted due to the pleading of said children. We’ve had cats, rats, gerbils, fish and a hedgehog, and loved them all, even during the times when it felt like we were making a second home at the veterinary clinic. In honor of National Love Your Pet Day on the 20th of this month, here’s a list of books by or about veterinarians.
“A Handful of Happiness” is a sweet little memoir written by Italian large animal vet Massimo Vacchetta, with Antonella Tomaselli, and translated by Jamie Richards. Vacchetta felt unfulfilled in a job dealing almost exclusively with livestock. Then someone brought him an orphaned baby hedgehog, a creature that quickly took over his life and heart. Pretty soon, he’d rescued a second hedgehog, and a third. Finding a new purpose, he set about establishing a rescue center for the rehabilitation of injured and ill hedgehogs, releasing them back to the wild when possible.
For years, Philipp Schott maintained a blog providing an inside look at his veterinary practice in Manitoba. It became so popular, he turned it into a book. “The Accidental Veterinarian” contains plenty of chuckles and tender moments, but also addresses serious topics such as the stresses of the profession and what to consider when a pet receives a distressing diagnosis. Along the way, Schott speaks to questions frequently asked by clients, breaking the news that most dogs and cats hate holidays because their routines get disrupted.
“My Patients and Other Animals” is broader in scope than the other two memoirs I’ve mentioned. Suzanne Fincham-Gray’s single-minded pursuit of a career in veterinary medicine led her from her home in Herefordshire, England to various locations in the United States, beginning at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where she was shocked when one of her first cases was a dog with a gunshot wound. A mix of stories about intriguing medical mysteries, musings on the connections between animals and people, and reflections on the author’s own personal growth make for a compelling narrative.
Of course, not all issues presented by our furred, scaled or feathered household members require clinic visits. In “National Geographic Complete Guide to Pet Health, Behavior and Happiness: The Veterinarian’s Approach to At-Home Animal Care,” Gary Weitzman provides advice for just about any situation a pet owner might encounter, from choosing the right animal on through to end-of-life care. Colorful photos, charts and bulleted lists keep this thick volume from overwhelming a reader who might be looking for a quick answer to a single question.
Veterinarians appear quite a bit in fiction, too. Who doesn’t love a good animal story? Nick Trout’s novel, “The Wonder of Lost Causes,” is an unabashedly feel-good read about the magic of true love, in this case between a boy and a dog. Kate Blunt is barely managing the demands on her time and energy as the veterinarian in charge of a Cape Cod animal shelter and the single mother of an 11-year-old with cystic fibrosis. That’s why she’s always said no to bringing a dog into her own household. But when a stray mutt shows up that seems to have an almost psychic connection to her son, Jasper, her perspective begins to change.
A few years back, Neil Abramson penned a story that seems eerily relatable today. “Just Life” centers on the race to understand and contain a deadly virus, one that is infecting both humans and dogs. Dr. Samantha Lewis, who runs a no-kill shelter for abandoned dogs, assembles an unlikely team of allies — including her estranged father — in her quest to save lives.
“Penned” is the fourth book in Eileen Brady’s mystery series featuring Kate Turner, DVM. It’s set in the fictional town of Oak Falls, New York, a place full of quirky characters. After an elderly local woman, Gloria LaGuardia, is murdered, Kate recalls a conversation she had with Gloria at a town festival and realizes she might have the clues to track down the killer.