Today we're talking with Nick Trout, author of Ever By My Side: A Memoir in Eight [Acts] Pets
FQ: In your book, you talk about your grandmother's nasty little toy poodle, Marty. Your grandmother obviously adored that dog while he tended to show you another side of his personality. Did your parents ever catch him being mean to you?
My parents were wary of Marty from the get go, warning me to keep my distance, to look but don't touch. Marty instilled fear in all children with his shrill bark and throaty grumble if you went near him. Consequently I tried not to get too close and there was nothing for my parents to catch. I did learn a useful lesson - what's the point of having a pet you cannot pet?
FQ: Any idea why your mother was so against having a dog in the house? Was it something from her childhood or did she just not want the mess that goes along with having a dog?
Her first reason was the cost and responsibility of keeping a dog - my parents were broke, she worried they couldn't afford another mouth to feed. Then there was the fact that her husband conspired with her mother-in-law to get a dog without her consent. My mother needed to save face, to maintain a façade of disapproval, and all the while she was falling for our first dog, a wonderful German Shepherd named Patch.
FQ: I was touched by how your mother slowly came around to the dogs and in the end, I think, secretly love them. Did she ever admit her affection to you or your dad?
I have caught my mother being proud of her dogs, concerned about their health and physically affectionate to them but to this day, she still says "no more dogs, Duncan!" Four dogs later I don't know why she bothers!
FQ: You include some very touching/sad events in your book, such as dealing with Patch's slow decline and death. Was it hard reliving these episodes as you wrote the book?
Yes, it was sad writing about the last year of Patch's life, but for me it provides an important lesson I try to pass on to so many pet owners who face similar end of life decisions with their animals. My father and I (I was still a teenager) conspired to keep this dog alive, when he was in decline and losing his dignity. Sometimes it is not the things you do but the things you don't do that leave a lasting impression. I remember too much of the last year of Patch's life and not enough of the first twelve. Patch stays with me as a constant reminder that after all our pets do for us, sometimes we have to accept some pain so that they no longer have to.
FQ: You also include some personal family trials such as your daughter's illness. Was it a difficult decision to include such personal struggles?
No, it wasn't. My daughter has cystic fibrosis, an incurable, genetic disease. For any family it is a life changing diagnosis. It has also changed my perspective on so much of what I do for a living (hopefully for the better), so it had to be included. Besides, it was a big part in why we got a crazy yellow Labrador named Meg.
FQ: We learn in the book that you had the honor of meeting the real Dr. Herriot. Would you tell our readers a little about that experience?
I met Alf Wight at his practice in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, while I was waiting to hear whether or not I was going to be accepted to veterinary school. I was one of several fans hoping for a brief chat and a signature. What amazed me was the way he seemed to be astounded, almost embarrassed by all the attention. This common touch, this ability to be so ordinary, only made him seem even more extraordinary to me.
FQ: Are you working on another book now and/or concentrating on your veterinarian practice?
Ever By My Side is my third book and now I find it hard to stop writing. I still work full time as a surgical specialist at Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston, but I am working on a new project involving a fictional veterinarian.
To learn more about Ever By My Side: A Memoir in Eight [Acts] Pets please visit our website and read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.