It’s one of the books I ordered from The Book People before the coronavirus madness started for real. They took their time fulfilling my order, so long that my company decided we should work from home before the books arrived. The bulk of my order was the discounted Man Booker Shortlist 2019, but I added some other books for fun. Sadly it looks like The Book People are out of business due to the virus, as when I write this post (mid-Apr) they are no longer taking orders and they’ve just concluded a closing down sale.
I read it right after Inspector Montalbano got me back on track with reading during the lockdown. I decided that reading about animals and their, hopefully, happy path to recovery may keep the momentum going. Whatever it takes to keep my attention span extending, and keep me away from the crazy news cycle.
Pete Wedderburn is a vet with long experience, in addition to that for the last ten years, he has been writing for The Telegraph. He is based in Dublin and typically takes care of pets and smaller animals, not the bi farm ones. In this book, he shares with us stories of some of his more memorable patients. he tells how veterinary diagnostics differs from the human one and how in many aspects it is similar. Only your patient will not tell you where and how much exactly it hurts.
He follows a consistent pattern of describing a case and then sharing some of the related questions and cases he answered in The Telegraph or over email. It is helpful for animal owners because it can tell you what things to watch out for. For example, I’ve never been monitoring how much my dogs drink, why would I? And yet it may be a clue especially if an animal starts drinking more than it usually did. So if you have to refill that bowl more often, it may be worth mentioning to your vet next time you visit them.
Incidentally a few weeks before I read this book I’ve finished rewatching House MD. And while Wedderburn is an infinitely nicer person it was interesting to see how the diagnostic process of elimination is similar. Maybe also made more similar by House’s inherent dislike of speaking to patients (which effectively brings them to animal level). The order of diagnostic procedures and tests was very similar in people and animals.
Theo only major difference is whether some of them are worth the cost for an animal. And I know it sounds very harsh. But really there is a reason why animal transplants are pretty much non-existent. Also apart from the cost the other factor to consider is the tradeoff between distress caused by the procedure and the resulting improvement of the quality of life.
Wedderburn is very compassionate about his patients. You can feel from every word he loves his job and finds it deeply satisfying. One thing he is not brilliant at is spinning the tale. He is good enough, but that only gets you this far. At some point, the stories and the structure feels repetitive. He lacks the irony and lightness of anecdotes that can bring you one step further and make this a riveting read.
As it stands it was a nice enough book about animals. One that reminds you why you love them and why they need our care. How by taking a pet we actually have a duty of care over them. So nothing special, but also a decent read for a difficult time.