'The Other Family Doctor' reveals closeness between pets, owners

‘The Other Family Doctor’ reveals the companionship between pets, owners

“The Other Family Doctor” by Karen Fine

Though Karen Fine grew up in Massachusetts and her paternal grandfather lived in South Africa, the two developed a special relationship over the years.

Visiting her some summers, he said he was a general practitioner, a physician who treated the whole family – children and adults. House calls made up half of his practice.

Fine writes in a new memoir “The Other Family Doctor” that when she was 11, she visited her oupa, or grandfather in the Afrikaans language. Their time together included an outing to Kruger National Park, a large game reserve. She saw zebras, elephants, giraffes, wildebeests, kudus, hippos and baboons.

Fine had always loved animals, but viewing wildlife close up made her feel connected to them more deeply. And learning more about her oupa’s in-home care of humans inspired her to become a veterinarian.

Not simply a veterinarian. But a veterinarian who makes house calls. A rare breed.

Karen Fine

For 25 years, Fine made house calls full-time to pets – mostly dogs and cats, an occasional ferret – diagnosing and treating their ills as well as thinking about larger issues.

The book’s vignettes (some sad, some happy, all heartwarming) is a delight for past, present and prospective pet owners. And for everyone else.

She invites readers to be a fly on the wall with her in-home visits that reveal companionship between pets and their owners.

Fine’s experiences are summed up in the book’s subtitle – “A Veterinarian Explores What Animals Can Teach Us About Love, Life, and Mortality.”

Fine looks at Snowball, a snow-white kitty on the Navajo Reservation facing amputation of a badly fractured leg. Fine wonders if Snowball had “prepared mentally” for the procedure; she concludes she probably did.

But it triggered in the author thoughts about the mind-body connection in terms of healing. (Fine worked at clinics at Window Rock, Arizona, and in Shiprock in her fourth year of veterinary schooling.)

She recounts chats with mentors and colleagues for advice for more informed care.

Fine explains that the familiarity in treating a pet at home affords a doctor a fuller understanding of a pet than in an office environment. At-home visits fit with Fine’s application of the concept of “narrative medicine.” It involves listening to the stories of pet owners to better learn about patients and their caregivers, thus offering more individualized treatments. (Fine authored a textbook on narrative medicine in veterinary practice.)

Her memoir also opens a window into her own life as an owner of dogs and cats. Perhaps her most endearing pet relationship is with the energetic Rana, a dog she adopted as a puppy. Rana lived only to age 5. Rana became ill with cancer at about the time Fine’s cat Daiquiri died after a long, healthy life.

Rana’s death raised the issue of love between species and how humans deal with pet grief. So does the vignette about Ed and his German shepherd Duke, whom Fine examined.

Ed really wanted to tell Fine about his previous dog, a German shepherd named Rex. Ed showed her a wallet-size photo of Rex. Fine concludes: “For many of us, for every pet that we love, there is another who lives on in our heart, who we can reach only through memories.”

Earlier in the book, Fine refers to a class she took at vet school called “The Human-Animal Bond.”

“As a practicing veterinarian,” she writes, “the little ‘fluff’ class was becoming far more relevant than I could have imagined. The … bond would guide every decision my clients made about my patients – and it could pierce my soul with its simplicity and strength.”

Fine also touches on other subjects – pet euthanasia, the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment and Chinese herbs (she studied traditional Chinese veterinary medicine), dog agility training, puppy mills and the One Health Initiative movement.

At the back of the book are suggestions for rituals on grieving the loss of a pet, on how to write a pet obituary, and further readings and information on finding a new pet, pet adoption, finding a good breeder, care for pets and support books, and websites and hotlines on pet loss.

Fine is currently on staff at Central Animal Hospital and Riverlin Animal Hospital, both in Massachusetts. Her website is karenfinedvm.com. She said the website has two recent Zoom interviews with her, one on writing the memoir and the other on pet loss.

“The Other Family Doctor” will be available for purchase on March 14.


Home » Entertainment » Arts » ‘The Other Family Doctor’ reveals the companionship between pets, owners

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
The France-based Jupiter Ensemble will bring the best of ...
The New Mexico Philharmonic will present ... The New Mexico Philharmonic will present a "Havana Nights Gala" at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25, at the Albuquerque Garden Center.
'Deaf Row' a raw, wintry crime novel
ABQnews Seeker
Ron Franscell will discuss and sign ... Ron Franscell will discuss and sign copies of "Deaf Row: A Mystery" on Friday, March 24, at the International District Library.
'Indigenous Art, Culture, and Community' showcases the work of ...
ABQnews Seeker
The lineup includes such familiar names ... The lineup includes such familiar names as Jamie Okuma, Sandra Okuma, Helen Hardin, Lonnie Vigil, Ben Harjo, Teri Greeves and Marcus Amerman.
'Sanditon' delivers Regency era drama in third, final season
ABQnews Seeker
The Masterpiece series begins its third ... The Masterpiece series begins its third and final season at 8 p.m. Sunday, March 19, on New Mexico PBS, channel 5.1. It will air ...
Diligence key in the fight with snails
ABQnews Seeker
Diatomaceous earth, spread liberally throughout your ... Diatomaceous earth, spread liberally throughout your garden bed, is superb for hunting snails and slugs.
Student and professional musicians to showcase talents at Robb ...
ABQnews Seeker
The 51st annual John Donald Robb ... The 51st annual John Donald Robb Composers' Symposium to take place at UNM's Keller Hall.
'Transformations in Tradition' looks at the works of the ...
ABQnews Seeker
Santa Fe's Wheelwright Museum of the ... Santa Fe's Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian is showcasing her work in "The Mary Morez Style: Transformations in Tradition" through April 15.
New Mexico Art League's 'Black and White' exhibit returns ...
ABQnews Seeker
The New Mexico Art League's in-gallery ... The New Mexico Art League's in-gallery and online exhibition "Black and White" revels in a calm sense of detail, sometimes haunting, other times spiritual. ...
Greg Trimble moves to the beat of his own ...
A Word
Artist was drawn to crafting traditional ... Artist was drawn to crafting traditional African musical instruments after journeying to the Congo.