Don’t They Kick When You Do That?

10 December 2021

Don’t They KICK When You Do That? Stories of a Prairie Veterinarian
by Dr. Gary Hoium
Published by DriverWorks Ink
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$19.95 ISBN 9-781927-570746

While conducting author visits in schools over the decades, I’d often ask students what they wanted to be when they grew up, and, invariably, veterinarian was a top response. I understand that. Who doesn’t love animals? Interestingly, Dr. Gary Hoium—veterinarian and author of Don’t They KICK When You Do That? Stories of a Prairie Veterinarian—never intended to become a vet. It was “never a goal or an ambition of mine while I was growing up in rural Saskatchewan,” he explains in his just-published collection of experiences as a mixed-animal veterinarian and clinic owner in Weyburn. Instead, Dr. Hoium had his hopes set on an NHL career, but when that and medical school admission attempts failed, he applied to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and was soon on his way to becoming a vet for the next 36 years.

His conversational stories about animal patients (and their humans) are shared over 41 short chapters, many of them humourous. The cover image of this conversationally-toned book shows a smiling Dr. Hoium at work: left hand holding up a cow’s tail while his right arm’s disappeared “up the south end” of the animal. This in-the-field photo—and that impish grin—set the book’s light tenor.

A few weeks after graduating from the WCVM, Dr. Hoium was already working for a Weyburn veterinary practice, and one of the first calls was to treat a sick snake: Dr. Houim’s not a fan of snakes. Another early call concerned the delivery of twin calves. An emergency C-section was performed, and Dr. Hoium and a fellow vet discovered that the calves were conjoined at their sternums. He writes: “ … it sure made for an unceremonious welcome to the real world for this neophyte veterinarian.”

The author’s often self-deprecating: he alludes to some of his miscues as well as his successes, like the time he thought he was spaying a cat and “spent the better part of two minutes fishing with [his] special surgical spay hook in the abdominal cavity” before he learned the cat was male.

This witty vet is highly entertaining, and I imagine he’s been sharing these tales with receptive audiences for years. The disparate anecdotes provide a close inspection of a rural veterinary practice and some smalltown characters, like nefarious Terry, the bouvier des Flandres’ dog-owner who had “sticky fingers,” was frequently drunk, and referred to Dr. Hoium as “bro”.

There are strange situations aplenty. A cat that’s gorged on grasshopper parts; a farmer who kept a calf whose feet had frozen and fell off (“because she seemed so healthy, we decided to keep her”); untangling a clump of tail-tied grey fox squirrels in a Weyburn parking lot; a $25,000 ostrich with a mangled leg; a cat with “a thistle in his pistol”; and the vet’s unforgettable electric fence jolts … and I’m not even going to get into the sheltie collie’s rectal issue.

But back to that cover image. Do they kick? Read the book, and you’ll find out.


No Comments

Comments are closed.