We are pleased to share this reaction to our May 2010 Veterinary Medicine and Literature conference from conference participant Dorris Heffron, author of City Wolves. More reports to follow...!
For more than a decade now, I've been researching and imagining the life of a fictional first female veterinarian who graduates from vet college in the 1890s. Meg Wilkinson I named her in my novel, City Wolves. She becomes the notorious 'dog doctor' of Halifax and eventually the lone vet in Dawson City during the Klondike gold rush. I haven't stopped seeing things from Meg's point of view. So, 'what astounding progress has been made', I kept thinking as I stood before the illustrious gathering of predominantly female veteran veterinarians at this year's OVC Symposium on Veterinary Medicine and Literature. The symposium itself led by the first female dean at OVC, Dean Elizabeth Stone and she partnering in this project with Hilde Weisert who is also a poet. Astounding!
As a writer of realistic fiction and one who doesn't like to mess with history, I was anxious in my presentation to assure this veteran pack that I was diligent in my research. The rest of the time I could relax and wolf down a two day feast of info on the topic.
I came away from the symposium with an unforgettable, strong and clear impression of how veterinarians are highly influenced by literature and are also talented producers of it. All that added to my own experience of how inspiring the lives and work of veterinarians are to writers.
I have since read presenter Dr. Sid Gustafson's novel Horses They Rode. A stunningly original stylist with a strong, vivid narrative, telling an important story of connected-ness in nature, animals and people through the lives of ranchers and indigenous people with horses, cattle and grizzly bears. Uniquely American, yet profoundly universal.
And I'm now part way through another presenter, Dr. Helen Douglas's memoir, William's Gift, having to exert great discipline to set it aside while I do my day's work. It is so engrossing! Another talented writer. It's exciting to read the first book of memoirs by a Canadian veterinarian who is a woman. And how refreshing to find that it is real and honest recording, therefore truly informative. There are a lot of 'memoirs' these days that are in fact creative writing, glorifying or re-writing lives to make them more entertaining or virtuous. Douglas tells the truth and is it ever interesting!