A Book Review?
I know, right. Book reviews aren’t what you guys signed up for. But stay with me, because this book is something pretty special and I really wanted to share it with you.
Dr Jessica Vogelsang, who some of you will no doubt be familiar with from the truly wonderful Pawcurious, is a hero of mine. She’s one of these rare people who can actually inspire others to be better without seeming to even try. I thank my lucky stars for the day, way back before Creature Clinic was even a teeny tiny baby blog, that I randomly decided to google something like ‘top veterinary blogs’ and landed on Dr V’s site.
A Little Bit About “All Dogs Go To Kevin”
A lot of people have compared All Dogs Go To Kevin with the James Herriot books, and there are certainly similarities. Yes, they are both veterinarians, but more than this, they are both incredible storytellers. All Dogs Go To Kevin is a memoir from Jessica’s childhood through to marriage, children, and her career as a veterinarian, all wrapped firmly around the stories of three deeply loved (but far from perfect!) dogs.
I don’t know about you, but I can definitely relate to not being one of the cool kids. The dedication at the start of the book speaks volumes, and perfectly sets the tone for what is to follow:
“To the misfits, the miscreants, the misunderstood, the freaks and geeks and socially inept, and the dogs who love them”
The Story (No Spoilers, I Promise!)
All Dogs Go To Kevin is separated into three sections, one for each of the special dogs that changed Jessica’s life.
Dog the 1st: Taffy
Taffy was “a bundle of teeth in a perpetually anxious, furry body” who Jessica related to as another “introvert in an extrovert’s world”. Taffy really came into her own when one day her grumpy demeanor helped to end young Jessica’s difficulties with a particularly unpleasant school bully.
While reading about Jessica’s experiences rotating through the university clinic I felt like I’d gone back in time to my own experiences in the University of Melbourne veterinary teaching hospital. A self-conscious student, thrown head first into the deep end of dealing with actual animals and their actual owners, and being utterly terrified of stuffing it up. After a humiliating experience with an awful woman Jessica comes to the realisation that “there’s something freeing in facing a fear and having it be every bit as awful as you imagined. After you survive the experience, there’s nothing more to be frightened of.”
Dog the 2nd: Emmett
Serenely oblivious to the fact that he’d just been saved from euthanasia, Emmett bounded into the Vogelsang family’s lives with the full force of a young, boisterous Golden Retriever. Like any new addition to the family, there was an inevitable adjustment period, but “a basic training course under our belt was all it took for Emmett and I to become fluent in Each Other, a singular language predicated on trust, affection, and little slivers of hot dog”.
Jessica’s account of the difficulties with her newborn baby and the sudden realisation, (with a little help from Emmett) that everything was not okay was written with heartbreaking honesty. “You can fool yourself, you can fool your friends and family, but you can’t fool a dog who knows only what he sees. And thank goodness for that.”
Dog the 3rd: Kekoa
In the car on the way home from adopting black labrador Kekoa, Jessica makes the worrying discovery of an ominous note from her previous family hidden amongst the paperwork. Kekoa had her problems, and they weren’t always easy to manage, but she had a heart of gold. “She paced from foot to foot as she stood near me, massive, looming, and then with the gentlest motion eased her tiny head into my hands and covered them with kisses.” And she was a wonderful companion to the kids: “Whenever the kids stretched out on the floor, Kekoa scurried over, thump-thump-thump, and hovered over them like the Blob. She melted onto them, all tongue and fur, dissolving into a puddle of their delighted giggles.”
I felt sorry for poor dejected Kekoa, whose ‘woe is me’ demeanor at one point had her mistaken for a black rubbish bin slumped in the corner, but she was happy as long as she was loving and being loved in return.
What I Loved Most About “All Dogs Go To Kevin”
The book is peppered with anecdotes that will make you laugh out loud, like the story of Taffy’s rainbow poop when Jessica was in 3rd grade, and the time Brian trips on one of Emmett’s toys and in annoyance tells Jessica “Enough toys. He has more toys than a dog could chew in a lifetime” which convinces her that it may not be the right time to let him know about the new candy corn-shaped squeaky toy in the trunk of the car. Then there is the time Kekoa expresses her distaste at being left home alone by pooping on a very prized possession, which is never the same again despite heroic cleaning attempts.
I won’t lie, there is also some sadness in this book. Not just sadness, but undiluted, raw grief. There were moments where my eyes leaked a little, and others where I completely lost it and sobbed out loud. So it may be advantageous to keep a box of tissues within reach. But I promise you it’s worth it.
All Dogs Go To Kevin was uplifting, beautiful, and struck a chord with me not only as a fellow veterinarian, but as someone who has loved dogs deeply. Despite being one of those people who never seem to have enough time in the day, I’ve read this book twice already.
Who Should Read “All Dogs Go To Kevin”?
Anyone who has ever loved a dog.
So get your hands on a copy of this funny, engrossing and totally endearing book about a girl and the dogs she has loved. You can pick it up from Amazon here.
Have you read it yet? What did you think?