This debut memoir skips from subject to subject, as Idaho resident Stephens (affectionately called “Dr. Jack”) shares information and opinions about animals, health care and the relationship between the two. Along the way, he’s assertive and self-deprecating by turns and often vastly entertaining. After he underwent throat-cancer surgery, he was forced to communicate primarily by writing things down, so here, in chatty, fact-filled prose, he draws upon his personal experience, informed by medical expertise, to share a wealth of anecdotes and advice. Early in his career, he realized that some clients couldn’t afford to treat their pets’ illnesses, and so, in 1980, he became involved in establishing pet insurance as a viable option. He includes a useful checklist for evaluating insurance coverage, as well as a list of recommended websites and readings. He also tells of his involvement with other animal-saving projects, including NASCAR tie-ins to benefit pet adoption and Pups on Parole, a Nevada program that pairs shelter dogs with women prisoners. In another section, he weighs in on hunting: He’s in favor of it, when it’s regulated, and explains the practical advantages of hunting for controlling wild animal populations. Despite having a household full of pets, he confesses his surprise at forming special bonds with small dogs he once scorned as “coyote bait…those yippy, yappy lapdogs.” He also details his difficult choices regarding his stage 4 cancer diagnosis, an experience that he says proved the healing power of his miniature pinscher, Spanky; afterward, he writes, “Prescribe Pets, Not Pills” became his motto, and he describes how companion animals can evoke psychological and biochemical transformations. “Take it from this former macho guy—indulge and bond with your pet,” he writes.
A cogent, engaging celebration of the human/animal connection that may persuade readers to rush out and adopt a pet.