Monday, June 20, 2011

Love is the Best Medicine: What Two Dogs Taught One Veterinarian About Hope, Humility, and Everyday Miracles, by Dr. Nick Trout--A Review

Love Is the Best Medicine: What Two Dogs Taught One Veterinarian about Hope, Humility, and Everyday Miracles Love is the Best Medicine, Broadway Books, ISBN 9780767931984, 2010

Dr. Nick Trout, a veterinary surgeon practicing at Boston's Angell Animal Medical Center, gives us the stories of two dogs and their loving owners, who had a profound impact on his life. The first is a pampered fourteen-month-old minpin named Cleo, who has just suffered the third leg fracture of her young life. The other is a rescued stray cocker spaniel, found by a kind-hearted couple in the parking lot of a restaurant in suburban Boston. At least ten years old, matted, filthy, and in dire need of dental work, Helen is despite her history is a sweet, loving dog eager to be a part of her new family. (She is also, unexpectedly, fat rather than emaciated, because she's a clever, sweet, charming little beggar well-known at that restaurant.)

Cleo belongs to Sandi, who has found in animals the emotional expression that both her mother and her daughter Sonja, for very different reasons, have never given her. For Sandi and Sonja, Cleo becomes a pathway for emotional communication. After Cleo has twice broken her leg while in doggy day care, Sonja and Sandi agree to have Cleo stay with Sonja, her husband, and their minpin Odin in Bermuda for the winter. While there, she breaks her leg again, at the site of the surgical repair of the last break. Sonja's vet in Bermuda recommends stabilizing Cleo and then taking her to Boston to be treated by Nick Trout at Angell.

Helen belongs to Eileen and Ben, who rescued her from that restaurant parking lot and decided to keep after failing to find an owner. Getting Helen healthy is a piecemeal process, starting with getting her clean, then parasite-free--and then they want to get her the dental care she so badly needs. But because she's an elderly cocker spaniel and has a relatively high risk of heart trouble, their veterinarian refers to them to a veterinary cardiologist first. As a result of that exam, a tumor is discovered at the base of her lungs. Helen, also, is referred to Nick Trout for surgery.

These two dogs, their personalities, life stories, and medical predicaments, affect not only Dr. Trout, but everyone who comes in contact with them. Their stories intertwine in unexpected ways, affecting each other's families as well as Nick Trout, other veterinarians at Angell, and other Angell patients through their effect on Trout. One dog survives, the other does not, but they both, in their different ways, open his mind and heart to a new understanding of the bond between pet and pet owner, and a new appreciation of the joy they bring to life even in the midst of loss.

He tells these dogs' stories in alternate chapters through the first half, and then intertwines the stories of other patients and clients as well. Some readers have found this distracting or confusing; I found that it added depth and perspective.

This is, ultimately, a feel-good story that will be appreciated and enjoyed by most who have shared their lives with a much-loved pet.

Highly recommended.

I bought this book in paperback at my local bookstore.

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