Catch Up With Author Bruce R. Coston, DVM

Hear more from the author and learn the inspiration behind his book "The Gift of Pets: Stories Only a Vet Could Tell."

By Tiffany Lin

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Bruce Coston, DVM
Author Bruce Coston, DVM. Photo by Bert Williams.
What was your inspiration behind the book?
Definitely Lisa — you will meet Lisa in this book; she is really the defining character in it. She was my very first veterinary technician. For Lisa, it was the Gift of pets that transformed her life. Her story demonstrates that the Gift is a powerful force in the human soul. It certainly was for Lisa. Her story is inspiring, even though it is also excruciating. Lisa's story needed to be told.

What is a favorite memory that you have of a patient or client?
When CAT FANCY interviewed me last year for their review of "Ask The Animals" I mentioned the fact that my patient, Quincy, had just that day gone into remission from his cancer after only one chemotherapy treatment. Sadly, Quincy has since passed away, though he did have about 15 months of great quality life after his cancer diagnosis, thanks to his chemotherapy regimen. Preserving the relationship between Quincy and his devoted owners for 15 months beyond when it should have been lost was an amazing victory. And every day was appreciated to the max by his owners, who were extremely grateful for our care. Even the process of losing Quincy was precious; the opportunity to witness the depth of commitment and shared devotion between a patient and his people is a rare privilege that only vets can experience. The bond is deep and broad and profound. And it makes those of us who are possessed by The Gift more fully human.

What was the most rewarding part about writing the book?
I think it was the process of recording simple stories that every vet experiences in his or her daily practice life that are so full of meaning and value. My task as a writer is to find a way to tell the story so that the reader experiences the full range of emotions to the same degree I did as I experienced the events. And loving animals encompasses every emotion — from the funny events and the sad to the touching and the inspiring. Every emotion is reached by our association with animals. It's rewarding to record some of the ways we animal lovers experience this reality.

What was the most difficult part about writing the book?
Reliving the depth of emotion around Lisa's story. And because of space constraints, there are a couple of stories from Lisa's life that were not included. But I won't say too much about this before you have the chance to read Lisa's story in the book.

In your book, you mention “the Gift” — a passion for animals. How did your own passion for animals begin?
In fits and starts actually. I grew up in a home where animals were not valued to any significant degree. My parents do not share with me a love for animals. They're wonderful people — just not animal lovers. My father was allergic to cats. We were financially constrained. So animals were an expense they did not think was warranted. I attribute my love for animals to my Aunt Jan, who was a horse person and a dog breeder. She conspired to provide me with Thumper, one of her sheltie misfits not suited to the show ring, and badgered my parents into letting me have him. Aside from Thumper, I was only permitted to have parakeets and hamsters. But I was a foster parent to a number of squirrels, blue jays and injured blue herons growing up in Florida. Horses were my first love, and I spent as much time as possible working with the horses at camp — nine summers as a camper and six summers as a camp wrangler. I also was employed by a veterinarian while in high school. You'll meet him in the book.

When we last interviewed you (click here for earlier Bruce Coston, DVM, interview), you mentioned that you had three indoor cats and a dog. How are they? Have you welcomed any new pets into your home?
Three of the four from the last interview are doing well: my dog, Starr; and kitties, Webster and Phelps. Sadly, Flinn passed away unexpectedly in December. He started to show symptoms of straining to defecate one day. I examined him and found a tumor in his colon. His only chance was an attempt at surgical removal. But as an older kitty with a heart condition, I knew surgery was risky. Preoperative X-rays also found bladder stones.

Though the risks were high, I felt we had no alternatives, so I took him to surgery and removed the bladder stones and the colonic tumor. He came through the surgery fine, but succumbed during the night. We miss him terribly. Following my own advice, though, we welcomed a new adoptee from the local shelter only a couple of weeks later. He is a brown tabby named Kimi, and he's a terror. He's now made himself at home, become fast friends with Phelps and wormed his way into our hearts.

What is one lesson you've learned from cats?
I have learned many things from my cats. When I grow up I want to be the kind of person that both Rush and Flinn were: kind, accepting, loving, never keeping score of wrongs, ready with a purr, always willing to take time to snuggle, never taking themselves too seriously, willing to look silly in play and never knowing a stranger. I can be kind of like some of those for a short time on a really good day. But if I could be that person all the time, I would be everyone's best friend.

If you could tell your readers one thing, what would it be?
If you have The Gift of loving animals, celebrate it! It is rich and powerful. It is generous and fulfilling. It will sometimes sting, but it will never leave you lonely. You will always be surrounded with friends who love you unconditionally!

If you were not a veterinarian, what profession would you be interested in pursuing?
Lots of things would be fun. At the top of my list though would be a wildlife photographer, though probably an impoverished one. I love to take pictures of nature and of animals in the wild and fancy myself to be pretty good at it. Or maybe a biology professor. Biology has always fascinated me, and I would love to study animals in the field. A marine biologist would be awesome, too. I love to scuba dive, and a job that would require it would be amazing. The one thing I never thought I'd do? Write books.

Are you planning on writing any more books?
Yeah, I've got several thumping around in my mind at the moment. Of course, more stories from practice keep occurring that need to be told. Every day is so filled with humor and pathos and interesting cases, people and animals that more books like Ask The Animals and The Gift of Pets practically write themselves. I'm also working on a two-plus year project about biblical animals that is completely different from the first two. And I'm still weaving an animal tale in my mind that is promising, but not yet complete. This is the one my literary agent keeps pushing me for. My mind is telling the story to me in different voices; and I have yet to ground the story line onto its scientific foundation, so I can't tell you the story until I've heard it to its conclusion. So stay tuned! You can get more details on my website.
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