cover image A COUNTRY PRACTICE: Scenes from the Veterinary Life

A COUNTRY PRACTICE: Scenes from the Veterinary Life

Douglas Whynott, . . North Point, $24 (289pp) ISBN 978-0-86547-647-9

In this frank, engaging look at life as a country vet, Whynott (Following the Bloom ) shows that it takes more than good training and a love of animals to make a mixed-animal practice successful. He shadows two seasoned associates in rural New Hampshire as they tend to the health of local dairy herds, treat skittish horses and minister to all manner of pet needs, from routine spayings to emergency amputations. Faced with an increasingly daunting workload, Chuck Shaw and Roger Osinchuck decide to hire Erika Bruner, who's fresh out of veterinary school. Though Whynott gives ample pages to each practitioner, Erika's experience in particular highlights how the profession is changing. "My friends in vet school have no idea why I like this," she says, referring to her hours spent ankle-deep in manure and "arm-deep in [cows]." "But there's something rugged about it that's appealing." But eventually she finds taking farm calls and clinic hours on her own too stressful and opts to join a more limited practice, where it's "more about the animals and less about herd health." Though one can easily sympathize, Roger's concern that bright but ambivalent students like Erika are taking vet school slots away from "some dumb farm boy [who] wanted to be a vet his whole life" raises provocative questions about the future of the rural mixed-animal practice. Agent, Ike Williams. (Nov.)