REVIEW: The Other Family Doctor: A Veterinarian Explores What Animals Can Teach Us About Love, Life, and Mortality by Karen Fine
A tribute to our furry, feathery, scaley, and wet family members, All Creatures Great and Small meets Being Mortal in this compelling memoir of one woman’s dream to become a veterinarian.
Karen Fine always knew that she wanted to be a vet and wasn’t going to let anything stop her: not her allergy to cats, and not the fact that in the ’80s veterinary medicine was still a mostly male profession. Inspired by her grandfather, a compassionate doctor who paid house calls to all his (human) patients, Dr. Fine persevered, and brought her Oupa’s principles into her own practice, which emphasizes the need to understand her patients’ stories to provide the best possible care.
And in The Other Family Doctor, Dr. Fine shares all these touching, joyful, heartbreaking, and life-affirming tales that make up her career as a vet. There’s:
• The feral cat who becomes a creature out of a fable when he puts his trust in a young vet to heal his injured paw
• The pot-bellied pig who grows too big to fit in the car but remains a cherished part of her family
• The surprising colony of perfectly behaved ferrets
• The beloved aging pet who gives her people the gift of accompanying them on one final family vacation
• The dog who saves his owner’s life in a most unexpected way
Woven into Dr. Fine’s story are, of course, also the stories of her own pets: the birds, cats, and dogs who have taught her the most valuable lessons—how caring for the animals in our lives can teach us to better care for ourselves, especially when life seems precarious.
Dear Dr. Fine,
I am among those who might tell you that at one point, they thought about veterinarian medicine as a career. I’d try not to monopolize your time at a party in discussions of my pets. But I might ask more about holistic medicine or acupuncture as you have a great deal of experience treating pets with both of those methods. I expected the “How I became a veterinarian” section and the amusing anecdotes but once I discovered these other things were there, I was more interested in the alternative medical treatments and your thoughts on the importance of pets in our lives.
Lots of triggering things here.
As tough as all these were to read about, I was happy to read about how you studied on your own time to be able to practice acupuncture and how this helped you link seemingly disparate symptoms in some of your patients, the importance of Chinese herbal medicine in your dog’s care, and was thrilled with the list of resources at the end of the book to help with treatments, grief and mourning, counseling and mental health.
My pets have helped me through a lot. I take care of them and they take care of me. For most of the time I was reading this book, I had one of my cats sleeping on top of me, adding his dozing purrs to the experience. Thank you for this view into your professional and personal life. B
“Animals have an amazing ability to be who they are, in all their otherness, and at the same time to offer companionship and love to humans, adjusting to our lives in their own unique ways. They don’t care whether they are called ‘fur baby’ or not. Our pets don’t just give us unconditional love, they accept our love unconditionally, in whichever way we choose to give it.”