Monday, 28 February 2011

Book review: Vet on Call

What happens when you need to do an emergency x-ray but you can’t fit your patient on your x-ray table? Can cats lay eggs? Why did the Golden Retriever rattle? All these questions and more are answered in Vet on Call, a candid account of Marc Abraham’s first year as an out-of-hours vet

You may know Marc from ITV’s This Morning and the BBC’s Breakfast programmes. Or like me, you may know him from Twitter, where he keeps his followers entertained with games like ‘#GuessTheBreed’, and with news about the work he does to campaign on animal welfare issues like puppy farming.

Vet on Call is full of stories about the emergencies Marc’s had to deal with in the 12 months after he set up Brighton’s first out-of-hours veterinary service – from performing a caesarean section on a gerbil to tearing through the streets of Brighton with a sick Irish Wolfhound on a shopping trolley. These stories run the full gamut of adrenalin-fuelled emotions that are part and parcel of life for a vet who deals with emergency cases. But more than this, Vet on Call lets its readers into the mysterious world of the vet – a world that affects many of us profoundly, but which we probably only ever see now and again, from the clients’ side of the counter.

Having once worked as a veterinary receptionist and also (in a completely different job) worked nightshifts, I’ve always gazed in wonder at anyone who could pull themselves together in the middle of the night, to deal with emotional pet owners and perform life-saving surgery on animals ranging from small rodents to giant dogs. In Vet on Call, Marc communicates the other-worldliness of out-of-hours vet work – the adrenalin-fuelled emergencies, the quiet times when boredom and tiredness take over, the challenge of trying to have a life outside work, and everything in between. He pays attention to the mundane details as well as the entertaining stories – the horror of running out of milk for those crucial coffees; the MTV-fuelled soundtrack to those long nights at the surgery; his own inability to sit still for five minutes – and in doing so, he connects with his readers in a way that makes that nether-world concrete.

Like millions of other people, I wanted to be a vet when I was a child. It was an ambition that was laid to rest as I got older and seriously considered the type of work involved and my own ability to cope with it. Veterinary work takes a special kind of person with a special kind of commitment and drive, and Vet on Call illustrates that people like Marc and his trusty nurse Ruth have those qualities in abundance. They are energetic and committed, with a sense of adventure and – perhaps most importantly, a sense of humour. They seem to like people as much as they like animals – crucial for both client relationships and for telling an engaging story.

Vet on Call is an easy read that doesn’t bamboozle its readers with technical terms. But this is more than a collection of entertaining stories – I recommend it if you’ve ever had to visit a vet, or if you’ve ever thought about becoming one.

1 comment:

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