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A Country Practice

After I moved to New Hampshire and lived next to a multi-generational dairy farm, I met a veterinarian who saw his role as making life better for the cows. 


Chuck Shaw is a vanishing breed--an old-style veterinarian with a quarter of a century of experience who runs a "mixed practice" in rural New Hampshire, treating everything from house cats to milk cows. Week after demanding week, he and his associate, horse expert Roger Osinchuk, make house calls and farm calls, and spend sleepless nights on call, to see to the well-being of patients whose only common denominator is an inability to speak. But the practice is booming, and Chuck decides to take on a third associate, Erika Bruner, fresh out of veterinary school.

Whynott follows these three practitioners into the world of contemporary veterinary medicine, as a witness to memorable encounters and daily dilemmas. He watches as they play gynecologist to cows and horses, obstetrician to calves and colts, podiatrist to creatures whose feet are life and death to them. He captures the struggle to learn a difficult craft on the job, describes the confluence of skill and intuition that is the essence of diagnosis, and depicts the ongoing effort to balance the needs and desires of animals and owners without compromising his creed. A Country Practice is a vivid portrait of the rapidly changing face of an ancient profession.

"Whynott's book becomes not only a chronicle of an 0ld-fashioned country practice but an account of Dr. Erika Bruner's first year on the job straight out of veterinary school. . .Readers interested in animals and their care will find it fascinating to follow Shaw, the bovine specialist; Osinchuk, the equine specialist; and Bruner, the everything's new to me specialist, through their separate and shared duties. Since Shaw has a no-healthy-animal-will-be-euthanized policy, the facility is often overrun with strays looking for homes. One such cantankerous troublemaker is Hobbs, an overweight cat who bites. Clearly times have changed since James Herriott made veterinary work into best-selling books, but the vets in Whynott's delightful account are from the same dedicated, skilled profession."
--The Seattle Times

"Obliquely affecting, nuts and bolts portrait of a country veterinarian and his evolving practice. . .For all the changes affecting rural veterinary practice, so sharply drawn here by Whynott, these people still make house calls and deign to answer the phone late at night. Lucky New Hampshire animal owners. Should prompt warm appreciation for the dedicated practitioners of a job that ruins any social life and generates levels of stress that are not highlighted in veterinary school catalogues."
--Kirkus Reviews

"In an interesting change from first person accounts of the life of a veterinarian, Whynott instead writes of following the daily routine in a mixed-practice veterinary clinic. The author charts a year in the life of Chuck Shaw, a veterinarian with 25 years of experience treating everything from house pets to farm animals, and his associates. . .The practice was so successful that the workload had become too much for two people, and an engrossing thread that runs through the narrative is the breaking in of a new, green associate. The third-person point of view allows for a broader perspective, as the author's time with each of the veterinarians allows each to tell his and her own stories, while the author's commentary ties the narrative together. An excellent introduction with a conversational writing style. Probably the best introduction to veterinary life since James Herriott."