“[A] beautifully written look at modern veterinary medicine…the bond between humans and animals—are explored in a series of chapters, each centering around a single case…Fincham-Gray, who also has an MFA in creative writing, has created a wonderfully introspective look at the role of the veterinarian.”
—Booklist, ★ STARRED REVIEW ★
“Affecting dispatches from the life of an animal doctor…Pet fanatics and animal lovers in general will savor these bittersweet stories exploring the enduring human-animal bond. A fervent, anecdotal memoir infused with heart, compassion, and a natural love for animals on every page.”
“The medical aspects of the narrative will likely draw future veterinarians to the book, but it’s the tales of Fincham-Gray’s patients that will keep general readers hooked.”
“Written with candor, humility, and humor, this memoir tells of the professional evolution of a veterinary medicine graduate to a more seasoned internal medicine practitioner. This compelling read is highly recommended for anyone interested in veterinary medicine or who has a love of animals.”
MY PATIENTS AND OTHER ANIMALS
A Veterinarian’s Stories of Love, Loss & Hope
A Spiegel & Grau Hardcover & eBook | On Sale April 10, 2018
A heartwarming literary debut, MY PATIENTS AND OTHER ANIMALS: A Veterinarian’s Stories of Love, Loss, and Hope (Spiegel & Grau; On Sale April 10) by Suzy Fincham-Gray, explores the relationships we share with the animals in our lives, and the decisions we must make when they become sick.
Since she was a young girl, Fincham-Gray knew she wanted to be a veterinarian. After graduating from school in London, she began a journey that would take her from her home along the English-Welsh border to an Emergency Room in inner-city Philadelphia, where she treated her first (but not last) dog rushed in with a gunshot wound, to eventually landing in San Diego, where she now works at a private practice. Throughout her career, she has collected thousands of stories that have shaped both her personal and professional life.
Each chapter of MY PATIENTS AND OTHER ANIMALS is centered around, and named after, an animal Fincham-Gray has treated, drawing readers into her consulting room and behind the scenes to understand the complex challenges veterinarians face. We meet, among others, Zeke, a 16lb silver-brown tabby who suddenly stops eating; Ned, a rescue dog from Mexico with an unexpected illness; and Sweetie, a young pit bull terrier, whose emotional story illustrates the lengths doctors and owners will go to save a pet. Each animal comes with an owner equally as memorable, who experience varying traumas of their own. Entwined with stories of her patients, Fincham-Gray shares intimate details about her own pets that found their way into her life when she least expected it, and when she needed them the most.
Throughout her life, Fincham-Gray has maintained a passion for writing and holds an MFA from the University of California, Riverside. As her veterinary career progressed, she discovered writing to be an outlet through which she could explore the intersection of art and science in veterinary medicine, and work through the ethical and moral dilemmas she faced at work.
Fincham-Gray says, “When I first considered writing a book I was determined not to write a memoir. However, as I explored the subjects that interested me, I returned again, and again, to the career I have pursued for almost thirty years. This journey has required that I take a deeper and clearer look at my role, whether as a veterinarian or as an owner, and I have come to understand more about human relationships through my patients. I am a different doctor now than when I started writing this book, and I continue to evolve, as I view the difficulties I face daily in a new way.”
Fincham-Gray offers a unique, insider perspective on caring for an animal, and writes with the same tenderness she brings to her patients. Rich in warmth and humor, MY PATIENTS AND OTHER ANIMALSis a memorable story about the compassion, healing, and joy that animals bring to our lives.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Suzy Fincham-Gray is a veterinary internal medicine specialist based in San Diego. She holds her Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine from The Royal Veterinary College, University of London, did her internship and residency at University of Pennsylvania, and holds an MFA from University of California, Riverside at Palm Desert. She lives in San Diego with her husband, daughter, three cats, and two dogs.
In an interview, Suzy Fincham-Gray can discuss:
The risks and rewards of international pet adoption: The transportation of homeless pets across the country and around the world has been on a significant rise over recent years. International rescue organizations, animal welfare groups, and concerned citizens have worked to bring animals in need to the U.S. for re-homing. As a result, thousands of animal lives have been saved, but there must be more awareness and education brought to the detection and spread of disease beyond natural geographic boundaries.
Why pure-bred dogs are causing a canine health crisis:While society encourages the search for the cutest, perfectly-sized, or most uniquely colored pure-breds, science tells a different story. Human-controlled canine breeding is leading to hundreds of serious, potentially fatal, diseases hidden in their genes, including debilitating orthopedic problems, difficulty breathing and premature death. Recent DNA testing has allowed more accurate warnings of such diseases, but with the fluctuation of canine trends such as, for example, the recent popularity of squashed-faced breeds like the French Bulldog, more knowledge must be had of potential consequences.
Understanding the financial burdens of healthcare, and knowing how much is too much to spend: In 2017, it was estimated that Americans spent over $69 billion on their pets with 23% going towards veterinary bills. Intensive medical care and high risk surgeries can run into thousands of dollars with the most advanced treatments costing significantly more. Insurance is currently not mandatory for anyone adopting a pet and there is no form of animal Medicaid to cover what owners cannot afford, leading euthanasia to be an all too common consequence of an owner’s financial limitations. Pet owners must monitor disease and set care goal boundaries to know when it’s ethically and financially time to end the life.
What are veterinary specialists, and why your pet might need one: In the United States, there are more than 11,000 veterinarians in 22 recognized specialties. Like humans, pets with more complicated diseases that require advanced diagnostics, such a laparoscopy or MRI scans, and treatments, including chemotherapy, blood transfusions, and neurosurgery, can be referred to a specialist. Increasingly, veterinary specialty hospitals are popping up in major metropolitan areas across the U.S., offering care previously only available in university veterinary hospitals.
The special needs of geriatric pets: Domestic animals are enjoying longer, healthier lives than ever before—the average canine life expectancy has doubled in the last four decades, and indoor cats are living twice as long, on average; But with extended longevity comes the responsibility of caring for older pets with specific health needs, knowing what signs to look for that may indicate disease, and understanding ways their lives need to be made more comfortable.
What pets can teach us about the euthanasia debate: Healthcare-by-proxy, where healthcare decision making is taken on by a patient’s loved ones, is increasingly relevant in today’s medical world. Humans are living longer than ever before with recent life-saving and life-extending measures pushing the boundaries of longevity, but where do we draw the line. Veterinarians, who must advocate for their patients while also considering the wishes of the pet’s family, have been faced with this dilemma for decades.
More Praise for MY PATIENTS AND OTHER ANIMALS
"Fincham-Gray writes beautifully and thoughtfully, giving readers rare insight to the making of a compassionate doctor. Her passion for both science and the animals she cares for, combined with her eloquence as a writer, made me want Suzy as both my dogs' veterinarian and my own friend. My Patients and Other Animals is a fascinating, heartwarming read."
—Teresa Rhyne, author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Dog Lived (and So Will I) and The Dogs Were Rescued (and So Was I)
“Suzy Fincham-Gray's My Patients and Other Animals isn't just about one woman's love and care for animals and the people who love them, or about this veterinarian's big heart and deep intelligence, it's also about the ethical complexity of caring for other living beings, and a clear-eyed look at what binds us to other creatures of the world and why it matters. It's also about what it takes to have a humane heart, and how this makes all of us, pet owners or animal lovers or not, more human. A beautiful, tender, and magnificent read.”
—Emily Rapp Black, New York Times Bestselling author of The Still Point of the Turning World and Poster Child: A Memoir
“[Suzy Fincham-Gray] writes extremely well, and her enthusiasm shines through on every page…I enjoyed reading this book, and while doing so I was made aware of the author’s absolute dedication to her work; like James Herriot she portrays her profession in a very good light.”
—Jim Wight, author of The Real James Herriot: A Memoir of My Father
“If you have ever heard a cat purr or felt a dog lick your hand, you will find this poignant—and often exhilarating—story of a young veterinarian’s journey into the science of caring for animals an irresistible read. My Patients and Other Animals will break your heart, give you hope, and send you running to the nearest shelter to adopt a pet.”
—Mark Haskell Smith, author of Naked at Lunch
“My Patients and Other Animals is a gem of a book. Dr. Suzy Fincham-Gray's nonstop life taking care of all sorts of nonhuman animals in need is a deeply inspirational and personal journey, a model for all, filled with joy, sorrow, tears, love, and loss. We are the lifeline for other animals—we try to keep them alive and thriving, and also have to make heart wrenching end-of-life decisions with their best interests in mind and in heart—and this beautifully written and moving diary of Fincham-Gray's selfless work clearly shows how the life of every single individual matters and that science can take us only so far. Love and heart are necessary when we work with others who are totally dependent on us. I can only hope that the nonhumans with whom I share my life and I will receive the care and love she brought to each and every animal who came her way. My Patients and Other Animals should be required reading for all students and practitioners of veterinary medicine.”
—Marc Bekoff, coauthor of The Animals' Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence In the Human Age and author of Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They Do
“This beautifully written book treads the narrow path between technical correctness and overly scientific terminology that endangers losing the reader. The passion that the author has for her patients and indeed for her vocation may be seen as a devotion bordering on an obsession. It is the story of a life of almost single minded love of the science of veterinary medicine and of care for the patients entrusted to her care. It should be read by all who care, whether for animals or humans, as it exemplifies how a life can be spent devoted to others, the pursuit of excellence, the moral and ethical dilemmas that scientific advances in treatments generate and above all the costs and benefits, mentally, physically and economically of the animal-human bond.”
—Peter Jinman, Emeritus President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and Emeritus President of the British Veterinary Association
“If only Suzy Fincham-Gray treated people, too. My Patients and Other Animals is a book of great heart and compassion that speaks for the ones we love who never get to speak—at least not in words.
Part history, part memoir, part journey into the complicated questions we all face about life
and death and who has the power to control both.”
—Tod Goldberg, New York Times bestselling author of Gangsterland
"A beautifully written collection of memories, capturing the relationship between disease, humans,
animals, and a veterinarian's love to heal all."
—Dr. Justine Lee, author of It’s a Cat’s World…You Just Live in It and It’s a Dog’s Life…but It’s Your Carpet