Friday, June 27, 2014

Book review - Lucky Dog

As you may have noticed, it's been kinda slow here lately, so let's try something new. We were recently contacted by the PR people for a new book called Lucky Dog, by Dr. Sarah Boston. The nice lady who contacted us asked if we might consider reading and reviewing this book, and sent along a PDF copy for review. I agreed to read and review it, and I am so, so, so glad that I did (not that there was ever any question. I am kind of a book slut, apparently).

This book has got it going on, as the kids say. Or maybe used to say. I’m a little bit behind with respect to pop culture, I’m told. Anyway. WOW! Dr. Boston’s book resonates with me on so many levels, I cannot count them. I have always enjoyed reading stories about animals, especially stories about veterinary medicine. I would venture to say that the James Herriot novels are my favorite books of all time. This book is definitely up on the top ten list.

So, what makes this book so great? Well - Dr. Boston talks about being a veterinarian, and shares stories about her patients, in classic James Herriot style. These dogs come to life, and I feel for them and their owners on a personal and professional level. Carney with osteosarcoma, North and his nose problem, Kelly's ironic fate. Their stories ring very true, but what really stands out is the strong relationship between Dr. Boston and these dogs and their owners. I hope I am able to build such strong relationships in my own practice.

But - it's not all cancer patient stories! There's plenty of non-cancer material here. I am sure there is no companion animal veterinarian out there anywhere who won’t be able to relate to her FAQ “taken from [her] real life,” on p. 69, in particular -
“can you trim his nails and express his anal sacs while he is here?”
“Yes, as a board-certified veterinary surgeon with fellowship training in surgical oncology, I would be more than happy to perform the same duties as your dog groomer. Expressing anal sacs is a particularly enjoyable task, and I would love to do it at no extra charge.” 

See? Don’t you love this woman already?

I was also charmed by her discussion of people who overshare with their veterinarians. As she explains, when a veterinarian has succeeded in building a strong relationship with a client, this sometimes leads to a level of intimacy that can be a tiny bit uncomfortable. Apparently a classmate of hers had a client tell her “that she wouldn’t neuter her dog because she liked to play with his testicles when they sat on the couch and watched TV together.” You may not believe this but I HAD A CLIENT TELL ME ALMOST THE EXACT SAME THING! Crazy, right? But it just proves that this book is full of win - this book is like a reality show, but written down (and with better production value, and a more sophisticated tone).

She draws parallels between her own health care and the care she provides to her patients, and the compassionate efficiency of her practice’s care serves as a sharp contrast to the sluggish and apparently unfeeling Canadian system which is providing her own care. I love her descriptions of the caregivers she meets, and how they treat her. Some of them are wonderful, and some of them need a swift kick in the rear. Note also that she is not ungrateful for the care she receives in the Canadian system - her critique is very well thought out, I think.  In the end, she also experiences the American system, and I enjoyed reading her perspective on that. She shares a lot of insight into the differences and similarities between veterinary and human cancer care, not least that dogs and cats do not suffer from anticipatory worry or fear of death like people do, which is something that I always tell my own clients. Of course she spares no detail in describing her own anticipatory anxiety - the severity of which led her to take matters into her own hands, which I can also relate to. Veterinarian readers who have turned the ultrasound probe on themselves, raise your hands…. yeah, I thought so. Of course, then there’s the matter of what you do once you’ve self-diagnosed but you have to convince the doctor or doctors that you are correct… Dr. Boston has the whole story covered.

Overall, Dr. Boston’s tone is witty and her material is relevant for animal lovers, cancer patients and those who love them, people interested in comparative medicine, or anyone who has a good sense of humor. I highly highly recommend this book. Read it now!

You can buy it on Amazon, of course.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Here, Pussy Pussy Pussy!

One of our esteemed colleagues shared a story with us that simply could not go unblogged.

I had an elderly client in today for a euthanasia......after the cat had passed away she said "he's in pussy heaven! A place with other cats, and lots of birds to chase. Dr Joe, what is your idea of pussy heaven?"
Her daughter looked at me as I stood there like a deer in the headlights and said "Mom, maybe you shouldn't ask Dr. Joe what he thinks pussy heaven is like. I mean, I know he's a vet, but he was a male first!"
So many levels of awesome right there....I love how it sounds like she's saying being a vet and being male are mutually exclusive, for one thing. For another thing - PUSSY HEAVEN! It's like Dog Heaven, but with more - oh, nevermind.

In the same discussion, another colleague mentioned his clients who used to come in with their elderly cat for frequent check-ups. While he examined their cat, the clients would chant "Dr. Jones LOVES Good Pussy, Dr. Jones LOVES Good Pussy." By the way, let this be a warning - most veterinarians have a very good poker face! We kind of have to.

And one for the VBB Gift Guide:

Sorry but I couldn't help myself. Meow!