Feb 6, 2010

Animal ER

Extraordinary Stories of Hope and Healing from One of the World's Leading Veterinary Hospitals
by Vicki Croke

I seem to be on a kick of reading books about veterinarians lately. After finishing Tell Me Where it Hurts and The Cat Who Couldn't See in the Dark, I naturally dug through my TBR shelves to see if I had any more. Found this one, a slim book called Animal ER, written by a journalist who was allowed to shadow doctors and residents around the intensive care unit of the animal hospital at the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine.

This is not a very long book, but it still took me some time to get through it, probably because somehow it didn't have a deep emotional pull. The writing is rather dry, and the stories, while very intense, are pretty brief, some no longer than a few sentences. (In that way it reminded me a lot of Intern). Each chapter of Animal ER has a kind of focus, the first being an introduction to the hospital itself, and the particular "culture" of the ICU staff- dress, code of conduct, lingo, etc. Following that, the subjects include dogs with GDV or "bloat", car crash victims, animals that have gone into septic shock, dogs that swallow foreign objects, and a variety of serious illnesses. One chapter covers a number of cases where doctors and owners had to agonize over animals that seemed beyond help, and whether they should try further or put them to sleep. Another two chapters cover what goes on in the wildlife section of the hospital. There's even a discussion about bringing back to life animals that have actually died on the table (issues and morals abound), about the difficulties of trying to treat aggressive animals that don't want to be handled, and the many cases where an owner saw the symptoms early on but didn't realize the severity of a condition, bringing an animal in almost too late, or conversely (and with more chance of happy outcomes!) cases that looked horrendous, causing owners to panic- but turned out to be mild problems after all. The actual background stories are few and brief, lacking a depth I usually appreciate- but at the same time I got an overwhelming sense of how busy a veterinarian ICU must be, and of how compassionate the people are who work there are. It also amazed me to see all the things medical technology is now capable of doing for pets (yet at such a staggering cost). Some of the stories in this book are nothing less than miraculous, though others are sure to make you cry. Warning: if you don't like to read about animals suffering, this book is definitely not for you. There are just as many unhappy endings as ones where the pet gets to go home again.

One name that kept jumping out at me with familiarity while I read was Nicholas Dodman. I finally had to go look in my own index to find the name- of course! He wrote The Cat Who Cried for Help, about felines seen at the university's animal behavioral clinic.

I got this book free, from The Book Thing.

Rating 3/5 ........ 194 pages, 1999


  1. It is too bad they didn't do more with the premise, because it is a topic that is ripe with potential. I can't really say for sure how I would react to these stories. I've lost two animals inside a vet's office and every time I go there I have bad memories. My bigger issue is reading about animals that die after you've become attached to them througout the story. This may be surfacey enough that it wouldn't get to me. Interesting read!

  2. We've had to take our dog to the ER a couple of times and I could hardly stand to see the other animals there, so I don't think this would be for me.

  3. Hi, DogEar! I'm a dog lover myself so this book would be perfect for me. My two dachshunds keep running into all sorts of trouble! I keep wondering whether they take their clumsiness from me. Hehehe.


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