Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What Do You Do With an Anorexic Eel and Other Quandaries: The Rhino with Glue-On Shoes

The Rhino with Glue-On Shoes: And Other Surprising Stories of Zoo Vets and Their Patients, edited by Lucy H. Spelman, DVM and Ted Y. Mashima, DVM

If you ever dreamed of being a veterinarian when you were little, chances are pretty good that you didn't think about restraining fractious tabbies or using a rectal thermometer on a gerbil or palpating an arthritic cocker spaniel. No, you probably imagined yourself living with the gorillas or swimming with the dolphins or shooting an anesthetic dart into the lion with the thorn in its paw.

One summer scooping kennel poop in a clinic is usually enough to steer all but the very hardcore away from the job. And even for those that decide to go through with it, the relative stability of a small animal clinic usually looks more appealing than the prospect of moving to Botswana, or of working insane hours with dangerous creatures in a zoo. But still, there are some who opt for these careers and the lifestyle that comes with it. And those are the vets writing about their experiences in The Rhino with Glue-On Shoes.

There's the vet who climbs into a habitat with a wide awake, unrestrained 17-foot crocodile for the express purpose of scraping off a few diseased scales. And there's the one who transports two full-grown whale sharks to Georgia from Taiwan, and another who tracks the nearly extinct Bactrian camel in the Gobi Desert.

Of course, not all of the stories are about exotic and rare animals. Many of the vets write about trying to do things that stretch the limits of medicine, as well as the imagination. Like, say, the difficulties associated with giving an octopus an MRI, or anesthetizing a poison dart frog.

I will warn you, a lot of the essays are pretty badly written, but I hesitate to fault the authors too much. After all, with most of their writing experience coming in report or academic journal form, it's unlikely that many have been asked to engage in much formal storytelling. However, the stories themselves are so fascinating that it's not that difficult to overlook the clumsy passages.

The Rhino with Glue-On Shoes is one of those potato chip books that you can dip into, and pick at to your heart's content. I found it to be excellent subway reading, and was happy to recommend it to my friend who's currently in vet school. She was quite excited about it, but then again, she spent last summer castrating bulls in Zimbabwe, and can probably relate.


Julie said...

OMG, my mom would LOVE this! Thanks!

Gwen said...

Some of my experiences with dog rescue come to mind here.