Tell Me Where It Hurts

May 25th, 2010

We’re treated to a rare behind-the-scenes peek into the life of a veterinarian in “Tell Me Where It Hurts” as the author, Dr. Nick Trout, takes us with him on a busy day at the huge Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston.  Several years of cases and clients are packed into 24 hours to give us an idea of what an animal surgeon might run into on a daily basis.

The cases are varied and yet not too surprising, given most pets’ talent for getting into trouble.  From a cat swallowing shoelaces, to a dog overindulging in kibble and ending up with a life-threatening case of bloat, or another pooch suffering a fractured jaw from chasing (and catching) a moving vehicle, there’s never a dull moment.

If you’re considering becoming a vet or a vet tech, you’ll gain a deeper insight of the profession from this book.  Although Dr. Trout’s writing style is more detailed than most “animal stories” books, his warm sense of humor and genuine concern for his helpless patients will keep you reading to find out how each case turns out.  You can always skip the medical details and skim through for the stories surrounding the critters and their colorful human families.

Dr. Trout highlights the bonds between his animal patients and their “parents,” as circumstances sometimes require tough decisions on everyone’s part.  Even in the most skillful hands, every animal won’t make it, and I often found myself reading faster to see if a favorite patient pulled through.  Every member of this amazing medical staff performs his work to the very best of his ability, trying to help every animal that comes through their doors.

Woven into the storytelling fabric is a strong introspective, philosophical thread as Dr. Trout shares his concerns about such issues as euthanasia, pain, grief, fear, and the financial sacrifices his clients often make to help their beloved pets.

While modern diagnostic equipment and advanced surgical techniques are now available for animals, they come with a hefty price tag that not everyone can afford.  That’s a frustration for both the doctors and the families.

Even when expensive tests are run, it’s sometimes difficult to sort out the data and arrive at a conclusive diagnosis – not unlike with people.  And in this case, the animals can’t even tell you where it hurts.

Dr. Trout shares his doubts and failures with surprising honesty and humility.  We’d like to think our vets can fix anything, but that’s sadly not true.  They’re only human, and though they do their very best, sometimes it’s just not enough.  But we also get to share his joy when healed pets are restored to their grateful families.

Though I wouldn’t consider this “light reading,” it’s a masterfully written, insightful look into the life and work of a veterinary surgeon.  The cases will intrigue you and keep you reading to find out how they turn out.  Think of it as the animal version of “House M.D.” and be grateful there are such dedicated, caring people in your pet’s life.


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