If you’re in the market to learn about breech-birthing a calf, this memoir by Michigan-based vet Pol is just the thing.
There’s an awful lot of the bovine reproductive tract in these pages and a number of startlingly yucky passages and sometimes the intersection of the two categories: “Her insides were torn apart, her intestines were lying on the ground, and her uterus was split. There was no way of stitching up that cow.” Born in the Netherlands, Pol writes that he learned early on that he wanted to be a veterinarian, and he did so with a vengeance; as he notes at the outset, he estimates that he’s treated half a million patients. The memoir, following the National Geographic Wild reality show The Incredible Dr. Pol, brings readers some of the more memorable of them, punctuated here and there by unsettling asides: For instance, a stillborn calf has to be cut apart while still in the womb to avoid killing the dame, a task accomplished by the use of the “Utrecht fetotome, which is basically two handles held together by a piece of thin wire.” The book has it charms, to be sure—e.g., the counterintuitive observation that despite their odor, skunks make good pets. Still, there are only so many variations on how a cow’s innards feel or on the best way to remove a massive tumor from an unfortunate Lab. Ultimately, this is a book best read not by civilian animal lovers, but by aspiring veterinarians looking for some hard truths about the attending challenges.
Heartfelt and authentic, if rather wooden in execution—no competition for James Herriot, Gerald Durrell and other animal-focused literary masters.