Sunday, May 09, 2010

All My Patients Have Tales by Jeff Wells, D.V.M.

Child of a farming family, Jeff Wells loved animals and knew what he wanted to be when he got older. A Veterinarian. And being the child of a farm family, he knew that he was better suited to the life of a vet than someone who'd never had to geld cattle, or seen them give birth.

And while it makes him proud that kids want to be vets when they grow up, he also knows it involves a great deal of hard work- work at three in the morning, when you are tired, cold and wishing you were anywhere but up to your elbow in a cow, something that kids have no conception of at the age when they typically want to be a vet.

Wells shares some background on his life growing up and going through college, and then when he first became a practicing vet in South Dakota, under a woman named Ann. But he spent much more time with Jenny, his technician. After a month of on the job training under Dr. Ann, he had his first day on the job, a punishing experience that included a horse who he couldn't tell if it was pregnant or not, a dog spay operation that required a transfusion from the Office dog after the original patient started bleeding catastrophically, and an aborted birth from a cow that required a Ceasarian after hours of trying to get the calf out by pulling it.

After that point, his days involved Puppies with either Diarrhea or constipation, including one young Puppy named Sam who ate too many grasshoppers and who became utterly blocked by their indigestible legs, a horse with an abcess in its frog, and the most vicious animals he'd ever encountered- not a dog or a wildcat, but some domestic Turkeys who not only pecked him and drew blood, but also attacked the daughter of the farmer who owned them- which quickly got them turned into Turkey dinners!

As soon as his year apprenticeship was over, he left South Dakota for Colorado, and yet another practice. This one was less farm animals and more pets, but it was here that he met the woman who eventually became his wife- someone whose family he would never, in a million years dream of meeting or hanging out with. But when he went to meet them, he discovered that his knowledge of pets and their ailments allowed him to meet them on their level, and which made her family view him in a new light.

But even after he was married, he continued to be called out to late-night emergencies and other calls, like three terriers who had to be brought in three times by their owner with their snouts and faces full of porcupine quills. You'd think that the first brush with the porcupine would have taught them better, but no...and being that they were terriers, they strutted around quite proudly, showing off their "Battle scars".

I loved this book, which is full of stories about animals both wild, domestic and domesticated, from a potbelly pig that was the scourge of the neighborhood, to Beastie Cat, a rescued stray who managed to put a bunch of rambunctious kids in their place at the Veterinary office, and a tiny, tiny pony who hated nothing more than having to see the Vet, and would do anything to escape.

Through all the stories, you come to feel how deeply Dr. Wells cares, both for his patients and their owners. Though some of both may try his patience, in the end, they teach him quite a bit when it comes to animals, and himself. Some of the stories are flat-out hilarious, such as a Vietnam Vet who was a medic who passed out when it was his beloved dog getting stitches to the Dude at the Dude Ranch who kept making passes at his technician when she had just broken up with her boyfriend and hated all men.

The thirty-six stories in this book run the gamut of tales, and explains why a mixed Vet practice is something almost unheard of today. Specialization is now the norm, and having a mixed practice is something of a lost art. If you're looking for a collection of tales mostly funny and sometimes sad, but always heartwarming, this is the book you want to read. Highly recommended.

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