Austin Donnelly’s Whiskers, Feathers and Fur is a series of highly entertaining anecdotes about Donnelly’s career as a vet. Set mainly in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, the stories feature the various encounters – animal and human, and sometimes even the local vegetation – that Austin has on his travels, as he acts as a locum in a number of practices around the globe.
The warmth of the stories is what impresses most: Although many of the tales have a pastoral setting, animal lovers come from all walks of life. And it is just these people who often take in or look after wildlife that would otherwise fail to flourish – often with an idiosyncratic determination that almost defies logic. One such animal lover is the postman who keeps a nest of chicks in the glove compartment of his van.
Something that this reader hadn’t considered is the fact that vets are likely to encounter plenty of unusual people and interesting characters; if you think of the stereotypical Cat Lady, many animal lovers can be considered more eccentric than the average human. On the flip side, those with little respect for our cousins in the animal kingdom might be equally odd – and there is a character in this tome who matches this description too.
The stories also feature Austin’s early obsession with animal husbandry and his childhood interest in becoming a veterinarian. In essence, it is autobiography through the prism of a series of moments and periods of his life. It’s an exceptionally interesting, very funny and occasionally heart-breaking primer in the life of a travelling vet.
You can buy Whiskers, Feathers and Fur at Amazon and elsewhere.