Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tell Me Where It Hurts by Dr. Nick Trout

Veterinarian Dr. Nick Trout leads us through a typical day at his surgical veterinarian practice, diagnosing cases, doing surgical operations on pets, and generally living with the chaos and uncertainty that goes on in any doctor's day.

Along the way, he tells us about his life, how he got into being a veterinarian and why he stays, as well as the unexpected costs of being a veterinarian and of owning pets. He shows us people who are forced to pay huge costs for veterinary surgery, and sometimes cannot afford it, and others who view pets as just another accessory on the road of life... if it gets broken or lost, just throw it away and replace it. But he also shows us the human faces of owners who treat their pets like family, and who sacrifice to keep their pets alive in the face of overwhelming sickness or injury.

And he also shows us the pets themselves, and how hard it is to be a vet compared to a doctor who operates on humans. Like the title implies, pets cannot tell us where it hurts or how, and lack the voice to tell us how much they are hurting. So, the doctor becomes the voice of the pet as well as a healer, letting owners know where and how they are hurt.

Central to this book are the stories of individual pets and their owners, from the older man whose dog was a last gift from his dying wife, and the daughter who wants him to cut his losses and have the dog put to sleep, to the otherwise healthy-seeming dog with cancer, who has three masses in his chest whose removal will only give him months of healthy living.

Dr. Trout also shows us some of the strange conceits of Dog owners, such as Neuticals, a company that makes replacement testicles for male dogs who have undergone neutering. Whether or not the dog feels that they need them, it is more likely the owner who buys them who needs to feel secure in his masculinity, not wanting a "girly-dog".

Whether or not you agree with Dr. Trout, you will probably find the stories amusing as well as heart-breaking. As a memoir of a day in the life of a Veterinary Surgeon, this is an amusing but deep book that will make you laugh, worry, cry, and then laugh again. A treasure.

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