Monday, April 29, 2019


A version of this review previously appeared in Shelf Awareness and is republished here with permission.

Like most children, Canadian Philipp Schott was fascinated with animals. Other than "Bobo the Christmas Gerbil," however, he didn't grow up with pets. He had never even set foot in a clinic when electing studies at University of Saskatchewan. Yet proceeding through the catalogue, he eliminated courses until left with the last on the alphabetical list, Veterinary Medicine.

Two decades into his "chosen" vocation, Schott has a second somewhat accidental career as a writer. The Accidental Veterinarian shares Schott's stories of getting past his self-consciousness dealing with people to create a thriving practice of his own (clearly and empathetically communicating with owners being an axiomatic prerequisite--sometimes frustrating, often hilarious--to a vet helping the creatures they love).

Originally writing about travel and whiskey as an outlet from work, Schott found veterinary medicine "a story machine" and eventually began a blog in which many of these pieces originally appeared. Separated into four parts (the making of a vet, the art of veterinary medicine, its science and "peculiar tales"), Schott covers a vast range of practical, funny, difficult and gross elements of practice and pet ownership.

Schott's writing is engagingly conversational and showcases his colorful sense of humor ("chocolate vomit holds a special place near the apex of the devil's perfumery"). Importantly, he does not gloss over the vast emotional costs, delving into "black coat" (euthanasia) days and high suicide rates. Educational, entertaining and compassionate, this confluence of happy accidents is a must-read for anyone who is, loves or works with a veterinarian.

STREET SENSE: This set of short anecdotes is warm, funny, poignant and educational. Any animal lover will be pleased.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE:  A routine part of small animal practice is recommending dental work and then having the pet owner react as if you have just recommended Spanish guitar lessons for their dog or a set of encyclopedias for their cat. Some people view veterinary dentistry as evidence that we've gone too far in treating pets like people. These people (thankfully increasingly a minority, but a very annoying one) put it in the same category as pink leather jackets for chihuahuas and spa days for cats.

(See? Funny and informative. Preventive dentistry is important, yo!)

COVER NERD SAYS: A cover after mine own heart. stark, clean, orderly (all antithesis to veterinary practice, interestingly), pretty palette and adorable puppy. This cover perfectly captures the fact that this book is serious yet impish. Perfection.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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