By Dr. Jeff Wells. St. Martin’s Press. $24.99.
After reading this warm and compassionate eclectic mix of stories, you’re left loving this rural Colorado veterinarian’s sense of humor, patience and earthiness.
Wells traverses the large- and small-animal landscape, treating everything from dogs and cats to llamas, alpacas and burros in some of the most challenging conditions from weather to incredibly demanding clients.
Here are a few examples:
• Toby, a 2-year-old unsocialized, unneutered and unvaccinated bloodhound-Weimaraner mix is scheduled to be treated for an ear infection. After biting his owner on the hand outside the clinic, he escapes, prompting a mini adventure through a nearby subdivision for Wells and a young animal-control officer wielding a new tranquilizer gun and with little propensity for accuracy. Coming up empty, Wells returns to the clinic, sets out three dishes of dog food mixed with several doggy downers in each, and doses off inside the clinic in late evening. A scratch on the front door jolts him out of his slumber a short time later, and guess who’s there in a sedated stupor.
• When a client’s small sheep herd is attacked by dogs, leaving four dead and several injured, including one that has lost both ears, Wells is challenged with treating several minor scrapes and cuts and salving the owners’ frustration and despair. After caring for Hilliary, with the severed ears and who lost one of her offspring in the attack, Wells spots a tiny lamb nearby, only a few days old, whose mother was killed by the dogs. Using several tricks of the trade, the crafty veterinarian manages to eventually coax Hillary into nursing the little guy and providing an upbeat ending to what had been hours earlier a scene of widespread bloodshed.
• An upset owner, an unneutered miniature burro with plenty of bravado, a mare who became the burro’s love interest and an intense New York fashion designer at a nearby guest ranch are key characters in a chapter entitled “Elvis.” Elvis targets the mare named Cadillac to pester constantly, upsetting the vacationing fashion designer whose chosen ride is Cadillac. By the time Wells fits Elvis’ surgery into his schedule, the designer has angrily left for home, resulting in the usually affable Melanie taking out all of her frustrations on Wells upon his arrival. After Elvis’ surgery, Melanie is forced to admit, “I really wanted to be mad, but as I told the story, I began to realize how funny it was. That lady was kind of a problem anyway. She didn’t like any of the food and was not a favorite among the other guests. You probably did us all a favor by not showing up sooner.”
Others involve a young alpaca female down in a field and appearing near death that inexplicitly jumps up and begins romping about; a mare with a challenging birthing problem that requires two quarreling young bystanders’ helping hands; a young chocolate lab with an intestinal blockage caused by a small rubber duck; a Christmas season party interrupted by client’s emergency call that his pet burro (the “second love of his life”) was in distress; a Texas couple whose lovable 12-year-old cat Fabio suddenly experiences a personality disorder Wells discovers is triggered by two ears packed with Texas-size ticks; and a know-it-all client who gets all her equine-care information off the internet, yet still needs Wells’ immediate response when she is convinced her horse Peanut is dying.
Each of the richly detailed vignettes is intense and engaging while accented with vivid characters and a tough realism, leaving you marveling at the author’s commitment and resilient, can-do spirit.