Inspiring love for all creatures - great and small
I've always loved animals - especially dogs. When James Herriot (pen name for James Alfred (Alf) Wight) published his book "All Creatures Great and Small" in 1972, I instantly fell in love again - with this small-town veterinarian, his veterinary practice partners, his small Yorkshire town, and all of the marvelous, quirky characters (and their animals) that inhabit the book and the area.
"All Creatures" is a memoir of Herriot's life, starting with his hiring as an assistant to the large- and small-animal veterinary practice in a Yorkshire, England town just prior to World War II. His book is a charming, warm glimpse into another era - when veterinarians didn't have much in the way of gadgetry - just the knowledge they acquired in school, common sense, creativity, and experience.
All Creatures is the first of Herriot's books. Subsequent volumes take the names of the other lines in the Cecil Alexander verse:
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
Herriot's deep affection and warmth for the people and their animals is apparent. Despite the many quirks and eccentricities he encounters, his writing is gentle and loving. Even the most difficult clients are remembered with a smile in his words. Even his own foibles, initial inexperience, and clumsiness are fondly remembered - Herriot's humor is gentle, even when, on occasion, he is the butt of the joke - especially when the newly-minted veterinarian arrives on the scene.
As you read you become entwined in the lives of the characters - Siegfried (the senior partner in the practice), Tristan (his brother, junior partner and a bit of a trouble-maker), the local farmers who rely on their animals for their living, and the townspeople whose pets are just as important to them.
A couple of my favorite stories, still remembered all these years after reading the books: A flatulent boxer causing great embarrassment to his high-society owners, and the creative solution to the problem and a Pekingese whose aristocratic owner delicately refers to the dog's issue as "flop-bott!"
Once you've enjoyed the first book - you'd better have these on hands to continue the tale! Each is fine alone, but you won't be able to resist following the life and times of the inhabitants of Skeldale House as the decades pass.
It's rare that a television series is as good as the book it was based on - but this one is! Produced by the BBC, the series ran from 1978 to 1990, starring Christopher Timothy as James Herriot, Robert Hardy as Siegfried Farnon, and Peter Davison (later to become one of the incarnations of Doctor Who) as Tristan Farnon.
"If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans." - James Herriot
Last updated on August 14, 2014
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