As a practicing veterinarian having been in clinical experience since 1999, James Herriot’s name has always been synonymous with my chosen career. James Herriot is the pen name for James Alfred Wright, an England-based veterinarian and author world famous for his many literary works with the most-acclaimed being the semi-autobiographical All Creatures Great and Small, which became a British television series and spawned many sequels.
In All Creatures Great and Small, Herriot shares his tales of working as a mixed-animal veterinarian practicing in the idyllic Yorkshire countryside and the interesting humans and multi-legged creatures with whom he interacts. During my many days spent on Field Service rotations while a student at the The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine I felt like I was experiencing my own version of his practice.
After graduating and practicing general and emergency veterinary medicine in many in-facility environments, I’ve always sensed there was a more-suitable option for me that granted the opportunity to work with my clients on a personal level outside of the confines of an animal hospital. For many of my early years of practice, seeing patients on a house-call basis seemed unattainable. Yet, the drive to potentially do so always remained.
Upon moving to Los Angeles in 2006 my perspective on what I could offer as a veterinary practice started to change. While driving around the Hollywood Hills to take my dog Cardiff to dog parks, I observed what seemed to be an endless supply of mobile groomers and was inspired to undertake the James Herriot approach. In 2008, California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness (CPAW), Inc. was born and has evolved into a concierge-style, holistic, house-call practice serving canine and feline patients in greater Los Angeles.
My patient load isn’t quite as diverse as that depicted in Herriot’s books, but similarities exist in our methods of helping animals and the humans that care for and love them. I get to experience life outside of the hospital setting while driving to and through some very visually pleasing neighborhoods. Doing so makes me feel more engaged in my city than being sequestered within the walls of a fixed-location veterinary practice.
Just like Herriot, I see the intimate, human-animal bond owners have with their pets in the comfortable setting of clients’ homes. My clients and I experience the joys and frustrations of the puppy and kitten years, the commonly stable normalcy of adulthood, and the emotional challenges of helping geriatric and sick pets cross the rainbow bridge.
Monday October 3rd, 2016 marks the centenary of James Herriot’s birth. Since work has played such an influence in the lives of innumerable animal-care providers I am honoring him with this post.
As part of the commemoration, Macmillan books has provided the following free access to Herriot’s stories on SoundCloud, including (click the link to access each):
Only One Woof
The Market Square Dog
Oscar the Socialite Cat
Blossom Comes Home
and, of course, All Creatures Great and Small
Has James Herriot inspired your professional or personal life in some way? Feel free to share your perspective in the comments section.
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Dr. Patrick Mahaney
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Copyright of this article (2016) is owned by Dr Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.