Barefoot Vet - The Book

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Introduction


Some vets are known for their surgical prowess; others for their uncanny ability to diagnose unusual cases. Expertise in caring for exotic animals Ė in the heart of Southern California, no less Ė also gains one recognition. While I like to think I enjoy a good reputation for my surgical and diagnostic skills, and Iím quite confident of my reputation for treating a vast array of exotic breeds, it seems that my most memorable characteristic lies elsewhere Ö in my feet, to be precise. I have always worked barefoot.


I can list several practical reasons to not wear shoes but I recognize there are at least an equal number supporting the need for footwear. It really comes down to this: Iím most comfortable when Iím barefoot and Iím the boss, so I can get away with it. After over thirty years (or should that be ďalmost forty yearsĒ) of practice, working barefoot is as much a part of me as is my love for animals and my desire to provide them with the best care I possibly can.


I always enjoy the surprised, perplexed or sometimes dismayed look on a new clientís face when he or she notices my lack of shoes. I was recently reminded that many of my clients identify me by my bare feet when a long-time client accompanied his friend that was visiting my clinic for the first time. Just as I stepped into the exam room to greet them and their pet, the new client looked at his friend and exclaimed, ďYou were right! Sheís not wearing any shoes!Ē


I am not completely inflexible (although, please donít ask my staff to confirm this) as I have made exceptions and worn shoes when the situation warranted. These occasions include the brief times that I worked at other clinics and when Iíve done not-so-brief contract work for American Wilderness Zoo and Aquarium, Disneyland, Knottís Berry Farm, Orange County Zoo and Santa Ana Zoo, all of whom required that I wear shoes when I worked on their properties.


Thatís the story behind the title of this book, but the fact that I was usually shoeless was not the only unique part of my career. Much more interesting is that I got to treat a lot of animals some vets never even lay eyes on, let alone take care of. The zoos and parks provided me the opportunity to work on deer, turtles, tortoises (up to 400 pounds!), monkeys, and many species of bird. Not your typical small-animal practice, but still fairly mundane. I also regularly ministered to snakes, sloths, seals, bats, lemurs, rock hyraxes, dik-diks, and even mountain lions and dolphins. This is still just the beginning of the list of species that I treated, which also includes goats, sheep, pigs, llamas, wallabies, and ferrets that were kept as pets by my clients. Yes, Orange County, the grand suburb of Los Angeles it is thought to be, is still blessed with a surprising amount of open land, at least along its periphery, providing ample space for all these animals one would not normally associate with the city.


And we canít leave out my own personal menagerie, as I acquired, or had foisted upon me, many exotic animals as pets of my own. Now that I no longer live in my home of twenty-five years and am down to two dogs and one cat, I can safely admit - without fear of animal control sweeping in to arrest me - that the highest my personal pet count reached was seventy-eight, all on one and a quarter acres in the hills of Orange County.


This book is a collection of the memorable experiences this varied assortment of animals provided throughout my career. Although presented in roughly chronological order, each story can stand alone. While there are some recurring characters - mostly family members, pets and staff - you wonít be lost if you choose to hop around reading select stories. Not all the stories are about exotic animals, as I did treat many dogs and cats and they are actually the ďstarsĒ of some of the most unusual incidents in the book.


Out of respect for the privacy of my clients and patients, I have changed their names. I have also taken literary license to expand and enhance many of the stories, but the core experiences are all genuine. I expect, and hope, that some readers will recognize themselves, their pets or friends. I apologize if you are disappointed that your real name isnít in print or if you donít like the pseudonym I have given you. And, please, excuse any liberties Iíve taken with the facts. I have also kept references to the zoos and parks generic. While I donít consider any of the stories to be critical or even marginally incriminating, I also donít believe they in any way hinge on the identity of a specific location.


Some of the stories will make you smile, many will make you laugh, others will make you sad and a few may even make you cry. Hopefully, theyíll all make it clear what an extraordinarily rewarding and often entertaining career Iíve had caring for animals - and often their owners!


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