Like most veterinarians of my generation and older, I was heavily influenced by James Herriot. He wrote about being a veterinarian in the 1930s and 1940s in England. For people younger than 40 the books seem to be pretty much unknown now but they were canonical texts for people my age and older.

There are still some people writing about being a veterinarian but I don’t read their books. If they are writing nonfiction about what has happened in the course of their job, then it is just like being at work for me. I don’t want to read about that. But what about veterinarians in fiction? What’s the problem with them?

We can’t advance the plot

In order to advance the plot of a story you need to have some free time. I don’t have time to be solving complex puzzles to find a treasure or figure out some deep psychological issue in between my 40 appointments today. My contribution to the story is going to have to wait for my day off.

I’ve noticed that veterinarians in fiction never seem to go to work. I remember in the TV show Grimm, the main character’s girlfriend was a vet. In the first season, she actually went to work. I loved that. Then the writers quickly figured out that having an actual job completely sidelined her so after that she mysteriously never needed to work a day in her life again.

No one knows what we do

I know everyone who has ever read a poorly researched version of their job knows how it grates on you as you read it. I recently read a book where the daughter of the main character was a vet. At one point she said that she was late to meet her mom because she was at a calving but another vet had come to take over for her. Nope. I maintain that never in the history of time has that happened. Here’s how calvings go:

  1. Farmers are way more experienced than vets with calving so if they give up and call you, it is going to be bad.
  2. You are on your own unless it is absolutely horrifically bad and you have another vet in your practice who you can call for more muscle and possibly emotional support.
  3. You aren’t just wandering off when backup arrives. You are now both there until the bitter end. There is no “end of shift so I get to leave.”
  4. When it is over, you aren’t strolling off to lunch. You are covered in all kinds of body fluids. You are taking multiple showers before being fit for human company.

In 3 by Hannah Moskowitz, which is a book I actually like, one of the characters wants to be a veterinarian. The description of how she is going about this is so entirely inaccurate. She is trying to go to vet school directly from high school. (You need to go to college first.) It just hurt my brain every time she discussed it.

Sadly, we aren’t hot

I hate book descriptions where the characters are described as hot. For some reason it really bothers me when the blurb talks about “hot” or “sexy” veterinarians. I mean, I’ve met us. We’re grown up nerds. I’m sure there are some super social media friendly outliers but we are decidedly average en masse.

There is some good news though

I’m much more forgiving when vets write fiction though. James Rollins is a thriller writer who was a practicing veterinarian through the beginning part of his writing career. He didn’t write about veterinarians but there were generally animals in his books. The best part about that was that you knew that the animals were always going to be safe. The people were probably going to die but the animals were going to be fine.

Can you read about your job in fiction books or am I just way too picky? Do you think super spies and billionaire playboys have the same complaints about lack of understanding of their lives?