Monday, March 24, 2014

Cage Liners by Bob Hart

Bob Hart’s new book Cage Liners (Create Space, March 16, 2014) a 2012 RPLA second place winner for autobiography/memoir, tells lighthearted stories based on his personal experience during fifty years as a veterinarian. Most focus on the relationships and behavior of pet owners, pets, receptionists, veterinary nurses and veterinarians, when they meet, and sometimes clash, over clinical cases. 

Veterinarians often line their hospital pet-cages with newspaper, or place newspaper under a blanket, because it is easily discarded when soiled. This suggested an eco-title for these stories which, if necessary, can be recycled in pet cages after reading. 

In the early chapters, as a city-boy student dealing with farm animals, he was humiliated on his first farm visit, perplexed by his feelings during farm surgery, embarrassed trying to shear a ewe, astonished by his mentor when testing a bull, and scared out of his boots by a charging pig. So, he expected small animal practice to be a breeze—duh—he learned rapidly that although veterinarians treat patients, they must deal with owners and staff.

The highlights of his internship included helping a prostitute by curing her dog’s skin problem and her offer to barter services; having a client strip in the office (before fainting); puzzling over the logic of ‘wanting a dog spayed if she’s pregnant, but not to spay her otherwise as the owner wants her to have puppies,’ adopting an injured pug who bonded with his fiancé (after a rocky start), and being humbled by his own pride of knowledge. 

He learned that the success of treatment is often because the client trusts his veterinarian, in the words of Houdini, ‘It’s not the trick. It’s the magician.’ 

You will meet Aunt Josephine, his help-mate in telling some stories—a conscience figure who haunted his years of practice. Always ready to dispense wisdom at a moment’s notice, she needs no excuse to dispense caustic advice. An author’s ploy, she is a composite of several people compressed into one character for dramatic effect (and to save space). As the stories illustrate, to be in the presence of someone unashamedly self-righteous shows how remarkably open minded we are. It is much like hiring the incompetent to make oneself appear brilliant, or looking for pictures of ugly people to make oneself feel fabulous! 

Delight in the company of the Reverend Irish gentleman whose dog is “drinking the plurality of gallons, so she is,” who later adopted an abandoned case and helped the author counsel a young man whose dog ate his stash of pot. Meet the problematic Mrs. Ziglepush, the author’s pug, Dammit, Mipsy the shish-kebabed Spaniel, and Samson, the beagle who lost his voice. And there are tragedies that reinforce humility. 

A week from “Manic Monday” to “Frantic Friday” illustrates a variety of situations. As Thomas Magnum, P.I. once said—“Sometimes it helps to look for the obvious. Every case, no matter how simple, can lead you down a blind alley or two.”

Finally, most animal names may have been changed to protect them from embarrassment.

About the Author
Robert Hart, a graduate of London University’s Royal Veterinary College, has half a century of experience in academia and veterinary practice in the United Kingdom and United States. Born in London, he was raised in Tanzania and Malawi, schooled in Tanzania and Swaziland, and attended college in Dublin, Ireland and London. He and his wife, fellow writer, Veronica Helen Hart, live in Ormond Beach, Florida.

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