Set in the no longer too far future (just this side of 1984, the inevitable comparison), the animal doctor is veterinarian Evy Beck, a good-humored, well-meaning woman of 52 who is funded by another organization to work at the Alfred Nobel Medical-Surgical Institutes. Even after weeks of orientation she finds that her job hasn't ""any head or tail to it"" and that the NMSI is one of those acronyms of (dis)organized science whose members as well as animals live in shuttered isolation--a vast bureaucratic confusion of funded idleness and inutility. At home Evy doesn't have much to look forward to: a casual son, and a very old father shackled to an artifical liver even though he seems to have a natural supply of bile. Weeks pass and then the gerbils die of a rare virus; serendipitously Evy identifies it as Marburg Disease and earns a brief moment of recognition. But in time she protests against the cruelty to the animals at the Institute--""such long liquidation procedures""--until finally she's given a course of ethico-therapy which will eliminate such short-lived heresies.... Jersild is a practicing physician and writer (this is his first book to appear over here)--it's a teasing, pleasing send-up of life in an ivory cage.