My thanks to ECW Press and NetGalley for a review copy of the book.
How to Examine a Wolverine is the memoirs/reminiscences of German-born, Canadian veterinary doctor, Dr Philipp Schott (this is his second book, the first being The Accidental Vet). In its various short chapters, Dr Schott relates different experiences from his over three-decade long practice and training. The book is divided into four sections—dogs, cats, vets, and other beasts. In these, Dr Schott covers a range of issues, from experiences with specific patients and illnesses to practical aspects such as feeding and care for our pets, some issues in veterinary care and services, his own experiences from the days of his training and early practice, and also some of the more unusual patients he has treated.
From a too-curious dog who was bitten by a beaver, to similarly inquisitive dogs who end up often with porcupine quills (which actually have antiseptic properties), impacts of feeding fads, the issues and temperament (very sweet) of flat-faced dogs or brachycephalics, cats’ hunting habits and cats as patients, false alarms and nail-cutting (or rather, claw-trimming) woes, to more heart rending instances of pets who are diagnosed with more serious conditions, or having to take that difficult last decision, Dr Schott talks about it all. Alongside, he also tells us of his experiences with some of the more uncommon patients he had treated including the wolverine of the title (scanned but not examined; though we are not cheated, and he does tell us how one would go about examining a wolverine, if one had to), and Albert the Burmese python, his largest patient (who needed four people to carry him in). We also learn of his experiences getting into and training in vet school, and also a prank he played on his staff involving his daughter’s real-looking toy cat and a not-so-innocuous placard they attached to its ‘cage’. And he also gives us a step-by-step guide to surgery for dummies (‘simple’ though it is, one does need a licence).
Written in a simple and enjoyable style, full of humour, each of the anecdotes he tells or issues he brings up are interesting and enjoyable to read. I especially loved that he covered such a range of subjects in his stories, not only introducing us to some interesting animals (his own pets among them), but also covering various more practical aspects from every-day pet care to more serious aspects (including the hardest of them all for all us pet parents—euthanasia). Another important aspect he touches upon is the corporatisation of veterinary care which while it has its benefits, also has its downsides which can be a cause for concern (something one is witnessing perhaps in more corporate involvement in human health care as well).
Among my favourite stories in the book was that of Major Harry Colebourn of the Royal Canadian Veterinary Corps who rescued a black bear cub in Ontario, whom he named Winnie. Winnie became their regimental mascot and later was sent to London Zoo where she became the inspiration for a very famous bear (I’m sure you know who)! I also loved meeting many of his more unusual patients (though I probably wouldn’t want to handle Albert the python myself). [On his observation of it being ‘right and proper’ for human health and life to be valued over animal life, I found myself disagreeing because I genuinely feel that because we are taught this, we treat other life with much less respect than it deserves—every life needs to be respected and valued—I know this isn’t such a simple or straightforward issue and there is much to be addressed but still …]
A lovely, quick and enjoyable read, perfect for any animal lover!