Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Rhino and the Rat: Further Memoirs of a Vet #reviews

Title: The Rhino and the Rat: Further Memoirs of a Vet
Author: Mike Hardwich
Publisher: Tracey McDonald Publishers, 2013

Those of you who grew up reading the semi-autobiographical exploits of James Herriot, a British veterinary surgeon who featured in a series of books, will be on familiar turf. South African vet Mike Hardwich shares his own experiences with the people he met and the animals he treated, in this, his second book which follows on from The Lion and the Lamb.

Hardwich practised chiefly in KwaZulu-Natal and the Isle of Man, and he treated many different critters, great and small, from ailing rats to retired circus elephants. All through his career, it is evident that not only does he love his patients, but he has a great appreciation for the owners too, and an understanding of the bond that forms between man and beast. Over the years he has collected many stories – all fascinating, with some humorous and quite a few that left me feeling teary eyed.

What becomes immediately apparent is that veterinary work is not for the faint of heart, because not only did Hardwich have to contend with some large animals, such as horses, cows and even a giraffe, but he often had to work in less than ideal situations to get his patients out of life-threatening predicaments. One of the challenges of being a vet, he writes, is that the patients are not able to tell what’s wrong with them.

While reading, I gained the impression that Hardwich never lost his passion for his work, even when it required him to make difficult decisions, such as having to put animals to sleep.

Hardwich’s writing is accessible, entertaining and informative, and should appeal to a broad range of readers, especially those who have an interest in animals. He combines facts with anecdotes, and this is not so much a story about being a vet, as also offering a snapshot of the different times and places where the stories took place.

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