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Doctor of Sorts: Reflections on a Life in Veterinary Practice

Doctor of Sorts: Reflections on a Life in Veterinary Practice

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Doctor of Sorts: Reflections on a Life in Veterinary Practice

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154 página
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Lançado em:
Dec 3, 2014


Have you ever wondered what shapes the life and career of a suburban pet vet?
What they secretly think of you, your pet and TV vets?
What their clients think of them?
Follow Dr Ed Layt as he reminisces about growing up in Brisbane, Australia, surviving veterinary school and his multitude of tales from 35 years in veterinary practice.
Lançado em:
Dec 3, 2014

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Doctor of Sorts - Dr Ed Layt BVSc

When any veterinarian writes a book about their life in practice (and there have been more than a few), inevitably they find their stories compared to those of James Herriot—the pseudonym of Yorkshire-based vet and author, Alf Wight—whose charming, evocative recollections have been published and read worldwide.

Undoubtedly, many veterinary books have been inspired by his work since the early 1970s, and most vets of my vintage give credit to these books for starting an ever increasing interest in our profession and the day-to-day work that we do. This influence has now culminated in a multitude of television programs, documentaries, magazines, films, and internet sites dedicated to meeting the needs and interests of an increasingly well-informed, pet-owning public.

I would be repetitive and presumptuous to write a book in the same ‘classic story’ style as Herriot’s, given that my intentions for the purpose of writing anything resembling a memoir have fluctuated from a list of personal stories, to a genealogical account of my early life in Brisbane as a keepsake for my children, to helping vet students come to terms with the passion and pitfalls of their future work.

So why did I write this book? Well, first and foremost, this is not a novel. True, some of my friends think that it actually is quite novel that I have finally written what I’ve been promising to write for over 15 years, but sadly, no novel-writing lectures existed to help me when I attended veterinary school, many moons ago. Indeed, it would have been a low priority subject even if it was an elective, when compared with the big guns of Medicine, Surgery, and Pharmacology.

Everyone has a fascinating story to tell, and the everyday experiences of a suburban vet have entertained many a friend or colleague at functions and events, so I decided to find a way to convey those to a wider audience, and now, finally, to you, dear reader. Through listening to legendary authors such as Grisham and Courtenay speak on the topic of writing, I gleaned some morsels of wisdom on the matter of putting ideas into print: write conversationally, and from personal experience, and more people than not will probably want to spend a moment or two hearing your story, whether you’re penning fiction, or capturing some of the truths that seem stranger than fiction that fill the pages of the book you’re holding.

I should also mention that I particularly like this latter approach because it completely removes the need for plot and character development; ideal time-saving for a busy vet bustling about daily in a busy practice.

Some folks I know—who I should mention could possibly now be counted as ex-friends—have remarked that writing a book detailing some choice career experiences and life memories may come across as a bit self-indulgent. In fact, their exact words, as I recall were: Doesn’t this make you look like you’re a bit up yourself?

My reply, as I recall, was an ‘Aussie salute’. But if I’d thought of it at the time, I’d have explained to them that a book seemed a brilliant way to collate all the anecdotes, experiences, and odd observations—often more to do with the human half of an owner-animal pair—that I’ve collected over the years. I also tell myself that if this labour of love doesn’t hit the best-seller lists, at least my great-grandchildren will have a good starting point for genealogy research after I’m long gone.

As you will learn in a later chapter, I am a great believer in making lists; not only because my friends and family honestly believe me to be obsessive-compulsive, and regularly threaten to have me assessed, but also because with lists you don’t have to be pedantic about grammar or descriptive phrases. So here is a list of other reasons I decided to write this book:

•It was either this or my other idea about writing a romantic novel. However, I couldn’t get past writing, slowly their lips locked in a passionate embrace, without feeling a little weird.

•I recently read that anyone planning to retire around 2020 will need over 1.6 trillion dollars in savings just to survive, and this book will surely see me achieve this and hopefully allow me to become an internationally renowned author… but then again, I also hope for world peace, zero cruelty to animals, and that children won’t fight in the car on the way to school, so I am probably being optimistic. Still, no harm in trying.

•Clients, students, friends, and parents often ask me what it’s like to be a vet and what veterinary science is all about. I hope that this book goes some way to offering these interested parties an insight into both what makes their ‘pet doctor’ tick, and what goes on behind the scenes.

I consider myself to be a ‘typical’ vet in the sense that, like many of my colleagues, I work as a general practitioner in suburbia, in what is most people’s impression of what vets do. I don’t anaesthetise giraffes, perform laser eye surgery, or plan national animal health policies like some of my specialist friends do, although I do have an interest in bird cases and avian health.

I have devoted some space later to discuss the important work done by those branches of the profession not always evident in the media. I have tried to avoid making these pages just informative, just humorous, or just reflective and historical. I hope you will see plenty of each.

In 1985 I published a pet care book made up of many client information sheets I had written, which to my surprise sold 5000 copies via sale in vet clinics. A pet care CD-ROM followed 10 years later, but was sadly killed off by that beast called the internet, where advice is free and sometimes dangerous (Dr Google is an informative servant but a sometimes erroneous or vague master).

The book you now hold has been on my must-do list ever since, with inspiration for topics usually coming to mind while driving, arguing with my children, or singing in the shower. Haphazard or half-formed ideas were subsequently scrawled on pieces of scrap paper, catalogues, and junk mail as ideas hit me and were collected into an ever-enlarging file. I therefore consider this book to also be a tribute to my old school motto: Persevere and Succeed.

Essentially, though, this book started when a schoolboy, fascinated by living things and biology, was encouraged by his family to follow those early curiosities, and to shape them into a wonderful career. I am forever grateful to them for that.

My love and thanks go to my parents, Bruce and Gwen, for fanning those fires of enthusiasm I had as a teenager and at all times since. I cannot thank them enough for making it possible for me to have a career that I enjoy so much. Dad was a roof tiler all his working life, and taught me the value of hard work and time management; invaluable traits that I implement in our business to this day. Working with him on top of partly constructed houses during Brisbane summer holidays also helped to convince me to get a job that involved air conditioning.

Mum was a homemaker who was always there for me as a source of security and love; if only every child could say that. Mum and Dad always encouraged my sisters and me to have pets, and I have ensured that my children have also almost always had pets in their lives. Pets are so valuable in teaching children responsibility and compassion, and enriching our lives with their antics, love, companionship, and therapy, and it is a shame that all children don’t have the chance to experience this.

Since we married in 1980, my wife Eileen has put up with the life of a vet’s spouse, along with all the late dinners and missed social occasions that were an integral part of establishing a career. I would not be where I am today without her love and friendship, and this book is a tribute to all the times she has been there for me when it mattered. She worked with me in our Wishart Road practice as reception manager from 1995 to 2011, somehow managing to juggle that busy working role with after-school pickups, playing taxi to swimming training and music lessons, cooking dinners, baking birthday cakes, and packing lunches, and everything else that goes with raising four children and an often-delayed husband. Now that I am still working and the kids have all left school and have successful careers in their own right, it is her time to enjoy the many activities, hobbies, and indulgences long put on hold for me. In a few years, she may even be able to translate this book into Italian!

And finally, I would be remiss without paying tribute to the man who I hardly got to know, and who unwittingly gave rise to this book’s name. The title has been a family in-joke since before I was married; it ranged from the initial draft, So you want to be a vet! to Vet from the Suburbs, and for a very short time, the pun-tastic, Dogmatic Confessions (sigh), but the final title just about chose itself. I was introduced to Eileen’s grandfather when we announced our engagement, shortly before he passed away. She had told him that I had recently graduated as a veterinarian, and he asked me about what type of work I did. After I tried to sum it up in a brief, awkward, and stilted, description, he saved me the trouble when he held up a wavering hand, and said, So what you are telling me is that you are basically a doctor of sorts?

I agreed.

My first ever childhood memory

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  • (5/5)
    Humorous... Wish it is longer.
    Readers for pets lover n vets