By Terri Schlichenmeyer
“Pictures don’t lie – at least not the ones taken of you as a child.
As you look through old albums, you have so many memories. There you are in your crib with a kitten, both of you curled up asleep. There you are, a toddler on horseback, smiling wide as the saddle. There’s you with your first puppy, a neighbor’s gerbil, you at the zoo, each proving that animals have always had a place in your heart.
Author Nick Trout is a veterinarian these days, but he’s known several notable critters in his lifetime. In the new memoir “Ever By My Side,” he remembers pets, patients and his father, who loved animals, too.
But things didn’t start out well.
When he was very young, Nick Trout’s maternal grandmother had a dog that she doted upon. Marty loved Trout’s grandmother, but he nipped and snarled at children, Trout included.
There were other animals in the neighborhood, dogs and cats to play with and a patient Dalmatian in the family, but Trout’s mother refused to allow her family a dog. Despite begging and pleading (and not just from the children), her foot was firmly down and the answer was always “no.”
Enter Patch, an Alsatian with a fierce guarding instinct and a deep WOOF. Patch was procured, ostensibly because Trout’s father wanted to protect his family from crime. The real, underlying reason was that he wanted to have a dog. And eventually, when she thought nobody was watching, Trout’s mother became a dog lover.
But the elder Trout’s persistence didn’t end there. He tried nearly everything he could to get his son to want to become the next James Herriott. He even bought land in Herriott country.
But he didn’t have to work hard to spark Trout’s interest. Nick Trout was already firmly an animal lover and it shaped his future.
It shaped the way he cared for Patch in his elderly years, for Whiskey when he almost died, and for Reginald C. Cat when Trout joined the kitty’s family. It shaped the lessons learned from Buster, who loved his Doris no matter what; and from Gracie, who taught Trout that life is to be lived now; and it shaped the lessons Trout learned when his own daughter was seriously ill.
Part of the joy of sharing your life with an animal is sharing your stories with others. Dr. Nick Trout is masterful at that, but “Ever By My Side” is about so much more than animals.
In addition to the inevitable tales a veterinarian could tell, much of this book is about family – especially Trout’s father, who would do almost anything to see his son become an animal doctor. Patient and occasionally exasperated, Trout makes readers laugh at the well-meaning and not-so-subtle pressure he endured from Dad, making it easy to see where Trout’s devotion to animals came from.
For pet people and parents of kids two-legged and four, this book is a true delight. “Ever By My Side” is, indeed, picture-perfect.
Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with two dogs and more than 9,500 books.