As Karen Fine was growing up, she cherished her annual visits with her paternal grandparents in South Africa. Her grandfather was a general practitioner with a family practice who often made house calls. On one of those visits with her grandfather, he brought her to a game reserve. There, she saw elephants, giraffes, baboons, and zebras and she knew that she wanted to become a veterinarian when she grew up. THE OTHER FAMILY DOCTOR is a memoir about Fine’s life as a veterinarian, the animals she cared for over the years, and her own animals. She is a leading expert in the emerging field of veterinary narrative medicine, and before joining Central Animal Hospital in Massachusetts, she owned and operated her own house call practice for twenty-five years.
Like her grandfather, she learned early on that some of her patients benefited from house calls … anxious cats and dogs, pets that needed to be euthanized, and the families who wished to be comfortably at home as they said their last goodbyes. The home setting allowed her to practice narrative medicine more successfully. She would have the owner sequester their pet in a safe spot while she met with them to discuss their pet’s health and history in their family. Oftentimes, in the veterinarian office, she was faced with a tight schedule of appointments back to back and didn’t have the time to devote to more casual conversations that often revealed greater keys to understanding and diagnosing her animal patients. What she initially considered a “fluff” class in veterinarian school, “The Human-Animal Bond” became her driving force as a practitioner. She took additional classes in holistic health care for animals and found that acupuncture was particularly helpful for some of her patients.
“The human-animal bond would guide every decision my clients made about my patients – and it could pierce my soul with its simplicity and strength.”
Fine shared her story about her beloved dog, Rana, who had cancer and had to be euthanized when the dog was only five years old. As the tumor in Rana’s mouth grew, she looked odd, but she still enjoyed eating and playing. When Rana’s quality of life declined, Fine and her husband made the difficult decision to euthanize her. What followed was a devastating period of grief. She found that writing an obituary for Rana helped her grieve. At the back of the book she shares rituals for grieving a lost pet, as well as resources for pet owners.
THE OTHER FAMILY DOCTOR grew out of a desire to help pet owners realize how common it is to experience a deep bond with their pet, and to explore how much we can learn from animals.
“ … we love creatures who will not outlive us. That’s why we put our hearts on the line for them, why we avoid travel to be with them, why we spend our savings to keep them healthy, why we deal with all the messes and all the hassle. Because doing so teaches us about being human. Loving animals teaches us about being alive.”
Brimful of touching, joyful, heartbreaking, and life affirming tales, THE OTHER FAMILY DOCTOR is a must-read for animal lovers and pet owners.
This is Lin Salisbury with Superior Reviews. Listen to my author interviews on the fourth Thursday of every month at 7:00 pm on WTIP Radio, 90.7 Grand Marais, MN.