A personal reflection on a great book of stories

I was recently given the chance to read a wonderful book that I had not read for many years.  After reading Dog Stories by James Herriot, one of our clients passed it along to the clinic because of our mutual love of dogs. Many animal lovers will be familiar with James Herriot and his stories documenting years of experience as a veterinarian in Yorkshire, England. Reading his stories has prompted reflection on how our modern veterinary practice is not really all that different from his mixed animal practice in England in the 1930s and 1940s.

Small animal veterinarians in cities are rarely called out of the office to call upon a family farm, however, a significant amount of our time is spent with our clients learning about their lives and how their dogs and cats fit into their family. In the crazy world of cell phones and chaotic schedules, our veterinarians still have a chance to create unique relationships with our clients, their pets and their families.

Veterinary medicine has obviously changed a huge amount in the decades since Herriot practiced. We now have magical antibiotics and pain medications, X-ray machines in every practice, a range of veterinary specialist clinics and access to ICUs, MRIs and CTs for pets. However, our job as veterinarians always comes down to the basic elements of good medicine; our most valuable tools are a thorough medical history, a complete hands-on examination, our problem solving skills and ongoing education.  It was amazing to read about some basic veterinary techniques that were new in Herriot’s day and still commonplace today.

One of the things that delighted Herriot was the variety of animals and problems that he saw on a daily basis. Although we are confined to the care of dogs and cats at Eglinton Vet, our days are much the same as his as you never know exactly what may present to the clinic on any given day.  We are used to managing patients of all shapes and sizes, from tiny kittens to dogs over 180 pounds in weight.  A review of last week’s appointment book showed things such as:

  • ·         Emergency presentations of wounds, heart failure, eye concerns and dogs with vomiting and diarrhea
  • ·         Surgeries including mass removals, orthopedic joint repairs and dental extractions
  • ·         Pets coming in for the diagnosis and management of medical issues such as diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, kidney disease or cancer
  • ·         Appointments made by two clients with new cats, returning to us after putting their elderly cats to sleep a few months ago—one a young woman in her 30s, the second an octogenarian living with the cat in a seniors residence
  • ·         Meeting new puppies or kittens with their new families, with my favourite of the week being a boy of about 14-years old cradling his new puppy in his arms

The list could go on and on.  As veterinarians, our weeks are full of ups and downs, our job is challenging and often filled with noise, smelly things and sadness. However, it is the 'ups' that keep us going, and we are proud to be able to work with our clients and their pets.  Something as simple as an old book full of lovely old stories reminded me of why we love to be part of all of this.