At long last I am posting reviews of my controversial book, Pet Hates – The Shocking Truth about Pets and Vets, written under the pen name Josh Artmeier.
“A quite wicked little book of veterinarian cynicism… a blackly
humorous account of life as an animal doctor.”
“It was a dreich night at a greyhound stadium…”
“He even calls in to question the whole basis of the profession itself…”
“Sneaky wee messages … very, very amusing! Wherever you’re coming from, this one is for you.”
Read it and re-examine
the rationality of keeping animals as pets
Readers of a certain vintage will remember fondly James Herriot, the Scots vet who made his fortune writing affectionate tales of country practice. Well, here’s an antidote to Herriot – a quite wicked little book of veterinarian cynicism called Pet Hates (Argyll Publishing £7.99). ]osh Artmeier (and no, it’s not his real name, and if you read the book you’ll understand why) gives a blackly humorous account of life as an animal doctor.
Horse owners (“obnoxious. Notoriously snobbish, conceited and full of themselves”), cat owners (“lonely, unstable people”), dogs (“size is inversely related to the owner’s intelligence”), drugs (“when things get really bad, there is always something interesting to inject or swallow”), evacuating anal glands (see drugs), ethics (“you will inevitably be an accomplice in animal cruelty”). Read it and re-examine the rationality of keeping animals as pets under any circumstances.
Vets have all gone to the dogs
In his candid exposé, Josh Artmeier reveals how today’s veterinary surgeons are hounded by neurotic pets and their ghastly owners.
Josh Artmeier remembers the exact moment he realised he was trapped in the wrong profession. It was a dreich night at a greyhound stadium where, as duty vet, he was required to dope-test a suspiciously fast dog.
“I still have recurring dreams about following this dehydrated mutt for hours with a sample jar,” recalls Scotland’s self-proclaimed antidote to James Herriot. “It seemed to epitomise my future: walking around in the rain waiting for a dog to urinate before I could go home.”
To be fair, the rose-tinted spectacles had been forcibly removed a few weeks earlier as he took up his first permanent posting, replacing a colleague who had been driven to drug-addiction. “The practice flat was strewn with used needles when I moved in, which wasn’t the most promising sign,” says the Edinburgh-born practitioner, who has since worked all over the UK. “I soon realised I was entering an extraordinarily troubled profession — and that there was a crying need for someone to write an honest account of it.”
Nearly two decades later, he has finally found a publisher brave enough to inflict Pet Hates on an animal—loving public. Subtitled The Shocking Truth About Pets and Vets, the book is a darkly humorous A-Z of a world scarcely hinted at on Super Vets or Animal Hospital, from things you’d rather not know about anal glands to the logistics of getting a great dane corpse into a freezer.
Owners emerge as misguided at best, criminal at worst: well-meaning labrador owners overfeeding them to barrage-balloon proportions, cat lovers (“lonely, unstable people”) transferring their neuroses to Tiddles, and “obnoxious, notoriously snobbish” equestrians threatening malpractice suits.
Cute and fluffy it is not, and pet lovers are already beginning to bite back.
Unsurprisingly, Artmeier is meeting me on strict condition of anonymity. A dapper, well-spoken fortysomething of impeccable scientific pedigree — his parents met at Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies — he goes only by his pen name: a cheeky anagram of his nemesis.
“James Herriot has a lot to answer for,” he says, glancing nervously around the crowded cafe at the National Museum of Scotland, as if expecting to be ambushed at any moment. “What most people don’t realise is that he suffered from depression, to some extent due to his job. Yet he still produced them rose-tinted stories that have shaped people’s idea of what being a vet is like.”
Whether it’s the genial country practitioner delivering newborn foals on his way home to a hearty lunch; or modern reality-TV heroes saving doe-eyed pets with the help of high-tech gadgetry, Artmeier believes romanticised portrayals are responsible for thousands of ill-prepared graduates entering a profession so endemically stressful that it might just be the death of them.
If that sounds like the overblown claim of a veterinary Victor Meldrew, the view is disturbingly bolstered by an industry report. Published last year in the journal of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), the study found the suicide rate among vets to be a staggering four times the national average – and double that of doctors and dentists. The most common method of death was by injecting or swallowing poisonous chemicals intended for animal euthanasia. Long hours, emotional isolation and a lack of coping and communication skills have been seen as contributing factors.
BOOK CLAIMS TO EXPOSE TRUTH ABOUT PROFESSION
A NEW book claiming to dispel myths and expose truths about the veterinary profession has hit bookshops across the country.
The book, Pet Hates — The Shocking Truth about Pets and Vets, which has been written by a practising vet, claims to offer a uniquely honest, sometimes funny, sometimes sad and disturbing picture of the life of a vet in the 21st century The author, who wrote the book under the pseudonym Josh Artmeier, to protect his identity, deems it an antidote to the plethora of books and reality television programmes about the veterinary profession.
He believes the media’s portrayal of the profession has a lot to answer for, and makes no apologies for “shattering the illusions” of those who idealise it. In his introduction, he writes: “I have seen too much suffering to feel guilty about this.”
Before publication of the book the author wrote in his internet blog: “The book will be out any day now, I have to admit to some nervousness — I’m not sure how people will react to what is an outspoken and forthright book. I hope they will realise that Josh Artmeier’s voice is that of a vet suffering from intense stress.”
One of Mr Artmeier’s many “pet hates” is the way he sees the profession being portrayed to would-be vets.
He writes: “Being a modern veterinary practitioner generally bears little similarity to the delightful, bucolic image the profession seems to have.”
Emma Goodman-Milne, one of the vets followed during the BBC’s Vets in Practice show, admits on her homepage: “Being a vet can be a very dull job. Most days are filled with routine vaccinations, constantly talking about fleas and emptying anal glands. It is not as glamorous as the TV makes it out to be.”
Despite this, she adds: “Every now and then you get a cracker which tells you, without a doubt, that you have absolutely made a difference to an animal’s or an owner’s life.” She describes this as the best rush in the world.
Responding to the author’s remarks about how TV shows portray the profession, a spokesman from the RVC — which is involved in BBC1’s Supervets, said: “The programme, which is filmed at the RVC and mainly shows the work of RVC vets, aims to represent the work carried out by the Queen Mother Small Animal Hospital, the large animal practice, the equine practice and wild animal vets. In turn, it illustrates the tasks carried out by those who work at the referral hospitals.”
“It does not set out to show the roles of those who work in mainstream veterinary practices. But, if programmes claim to do so, then they should,” the spokesman added.
The show, said the RVC, gives viewers a realistic, honest, insight into the work carried out at the university and the roles of students and staff members.
The college said it was vital to note that all students applying to become vets. or pet owners who approach the RVC, were given in-depth. relevant, and factual information regarding their query. He concluded: “People are not expected to rely on a TV programme in order to find out more about joining the veterinary profession or accessing treatment for their pet.”
In the book, Mr Artmeier attempts to expose the truth about life as a vet, and, in doing so, he questions the selection process involved in becoming a vet. He said: “There’s little point selecting people on academic ability when the job seldom requires this, but does demand tremendous people skills and patience.”
He even calls in to question the whole basis of the profession itself, writing: “Let’s assume that one’s driving force is to reduce the sum of animal suffering in this world. ln that case, one would discourage people from keeping carnivores or at the very least, encourage those who keep carnivores to feed them only flesh from animals that had been humanely reared and slaughtered. lf one takes this argument to its logical extreme, then one would discourage the keeping of any pets — the more animals in existence the more potential suffering.”
Although penned 10 years ago, publishers only picked up on the book when, last year the suicide rate among vets in the UK hit the national headlines. The rate is four times that of the population average, and twice that of doctors and nurses.
Mr Artmeier urges would-be vets to be aware of the reality of life as a practising vet. This, he writes, would result in fewer people required to staff the helplines for stressed/alcoholic/druggie vets”.
The book is available in shops across the country, including national chain Waterstones.
It’s tongue-in-cheek, and it’s full of the sort of things that shouldn’t happen to… a dog!
Now, if you’re not a dog lover, then you might just appreciate Josh Artmeier’s Pet Hates: The Shocking Truth about Pets and Vets. It’s done for fun, of course. It’s tongue-in-cheek, and it’s full of the sort of things that shouldn’t happen to… a dog! Animal welfare has never been higher up the UK political or social agenda. The Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act of 2006… yes, that came into force… let me think, now… early on in October.
Now, this book, which is published by Argyll, is written by a very experienced veterinary surgeon and it reveals the sorry truth about the state of the health and welfare of those in the front line of protecting animals — that’s right: the vets themselves.
Pet Hates is the shocking truth about pets and vets. Pet Hates not only details the foibles of pet owners and their animals but also the malpractice, the bullying and the stressful side of what many folk — many members of the public — see as a wonderful and rewarding profession.
Artmeier doesn’t shrink from giving us a kind of “bite-by-bite” (his phrase) view of life at the sharp end and offers a very entertaining but complete… a thorough explanation, let’s say, of the profession’s notoriously high rates of depression, suicide, alcoholism and drug addiction. Who would have thought that moggies would have done that to those folk who spend longer in training than, well, doctors. [Not strictly true, a veterinary degree takes five or six years in the UK —JA].
Pet Hates will, I think, be of interest to anybody who likes a good smile, whose face cracks open in a big smile… as well as pet owners, as well as vets, as well as veterinary nurse, as well as folk of all kinds who work in the profession. It ought to be compulsory reading for anybody who’e even considering taking up this way of life, and the section which is titled “Pet Owners’ Guide to Veterinary Surgeons” is copper-bottom guaranteed to put the — what’s the phrase? — the metaphorical cat among the pigeons.
Now, can I just say, it’s also got some common-sense advice. After all, the main provision of the act, the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act of 2006, replaces a number of existing laws… provisions. For example, it makes it an offence to cause an animal unnecessary suffering. Well, let’s face it, nobody would want to do that deliberately, except some kind of weirdo, I mean cause unnecessary suffering… It prohibits the giving of animals as prizes. (Mind you, I look very fondly backwards at my glass bowl of goldfish… Not any more, of course!) It raises the age at which young people can be sold animals and it allows an inspector or a policeman top take possession of an animal which is suffering or likely to suffer. In short, it’s a book that has got — dare I say this? please don’t be cross with me! — it’s got a sneaky wee series of messages but it’s also written in a manner that you will find very, very amusing.
Whether you’ve got an animal, or you’re thinking of buying one — any kind of animal — or whether you, let’s just say, agree that nobody should be allowed to keep pets in towns and cities… Wherever you’re coming from, this one is for you. It’s called Pet Hates, it’s by Josh Artmeier, it’s published by Argyll, and it’s a book where, as Artmeier says, “If you’re faint-hearted, stick with James Herriot!” It’s for folk who like animals and for folk who don’t. It’s a goodie!