Dr Vint Varga knows animals. He has practiced veterinary medicine for decades, first as an emergency room vet, then a specialist in veterinary behavior medicine.
Early on in his career, he realized that a strong connection could be made between humans and animals, enough to cause healing on both sides. The Soul of All Living Creatures is a quick read filled with real stories and real patients Dr Varga has seen during his career. Each chapter is titled with the name of a human emotional trait, and he goes on to explain how animals embody these traits as well. If we can learn to understand our pets better, we will learn something about ourselves in the process.
The introduction to the book has tear-jerking potential. Varga tells us about a dog that is hit by a car, and how the dog failed to thrive despite his excellent medical care. I’m not giving anything away here…but you will nod your head when you how things turned out.
Bloodhounds, mice , clouded leopards….all non human creatures are the same to the good doctor, as he illustrates the chapter’s subject (sensitivity, integrity, forgiveness, etc) with short tales about patients that he has seen and tried to fix/cure, with thorough analysis of the animal’s behavior and listening to those who know the creatures best.
Varga believes that “in the presence of animals, we find true acceptance” and so we can be ourselves in front of our dog or cat. He says that he remembers each case not only for what illness the patient had, but recalls the bond that was shared between the pet and the owner.
Interspersed throughout the book are short fables and folk tales that also illustrate Varga’s point, as well as little snippets of his own wisdom, such as “When one behavior is not expressed, another behavior will take its place” and “When we limit our experience to what we perceive, we let our senses define our existence”. Despite all this home grown sentiment, the book is not overly touchy-feely. What is obvious is Varga’s love and compassion for those who cannot tell their own story, and how he does his best to help every one he can, even to the point of rescuing a tiny field mouse that was helpless on a busy road during a torrential rainstorm.
My only complaint with the book was that we never got to hear how most of the patients did after the treatment. It was as if they dropped off the face of the earth with no follow up. I was really curious to see if his instinct and healing methods worked. That being said, this book would make a great addition to an animal lover’s library.
Interested in what the New York Times said about this book? Click here.
Thanks to the publisher, Broadway Books for providing me with this review copy. I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this honest review.