How to Wrangle an Angry Ostrich: Creatures of the Rock Explores the Challenges and Memories of a Newfoundland Veterinarian
by Kerri Cull
My cat broke a canine tooth last week. I’m not sure how. When I was picking at her little face one evening I looked inside her mouth and saw it. Clean break. So we had to bring her to the vet. Turns out her teeth are fine, and she’s just aging and getting a little gnarly around the edges – like us all. The doctor worked for her money with that appointment. It was a blurry kitty war made up of hissing, howling, claws, protective mitts and towels.
During that appointment I was thinking about a recent book I read – Creatures of the Rock: A Veterinarian’s Adventures in Newfoundland by Andrew Peacock (How excellent is it that his name is Dr. Peacock?). Peacock’s book is made up of anecdotes and memories from vet life in outport Newfoundland such as doing a Caesarean section on a cow in a blizzard, freeing a humpback whale from a trap, and castrating a boar.
Peacock moved to Newfoundland from Guelph when he got out of veterinary school and he practiced here for over thirty years. With that big, bold move came many challenges. “The most difficult part was moving in to a one person practice,” Peacock says. “Almost all of my classmates in vet school started work with a mentor. Being on call 24/7 was also a challenge.” Like many CFAs, understanding some of his clients from small towns also proved difficult at times, and of course, the weather took some getting used to.
“The difficult thing about the weather was how fast conditions could change. Driving near the ocean, the roads would be clear and a few miles inland everything could be covered in ice.”
If Peacock had practiced on the mainland, he would have had a different experience. “I would never have had the opportunity to work with wildlife and marine mammals. As well I wouldn’t have had the fabulous people to work with that I had. There certainly wouldn’t have been as many interesting stories for a book.”
He relays one particular story that didn’t make the book, and gives this piece of valuable advice. “Treating ostriches was an interesting adventure. These nine foot birds can be deadly when they slash out with their taloned feet from as much as six feet away, but can be rendered completely docile if someone is brave enough to pull a sock over their head.”
While his hands-on work involved animals, he said the ability to connect to people was just as pertinent to his success. “Perhaps the biggest surprise
for any vet starting into work is how much the job is about people. Veterinarians must know a lot about animals but if they can’t relate to the animals’ owners they will never be successful.”
Peacock turned out to be a successful vet. He practiced for decades, found his home, raised a family and pets of his own, and made many connections. Creatures of the Rock is a perfect read for any animal lover. It’s funny, warm, educational, and honest. He’s currently working on his second book.
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