In her new book—"Unlikely Companions: The Adventures of an Exotic Animal Doctor (Or, What Friends, Feathered, Furred, and Scaled Have Taught Me About Life and Love"—Laurie Hess, DVM, gives readers an unprecendented look into the life of a veterinarian who deals with some out-of-the-ordinary pets.
From her unqiue challenges at work (including solving mysterious cases involving the tragic deaths of sugar gliders in her area) to balancing her home life, Hess's memoir (which she co-wrote with Samantha Rose) provides insights into all kinds of animals and the people who love them.
Hess chatted with petMD about her book and it's five-year journey to print. "We went through different versions and different feels," she tells us, adding, that ultimately, "It’s very much the way we wanted it to come out."
Hess—who treats everything from lizards to birds to rabbits—explains, "I always try to write about, and talk about, standing up for the notion that exotic pets need preventative medical care."
While Hess is a dog and cat parent herself, she wants pet owners to understand that all animals deserve the same special attention and love. Hess urges that if you own an exotic pet, "You should bring them to the vet, they should have check-ups, they should have the same opportunities that dogs and cats do."
Hess also wants exotic pet owners to feel less alone in a market that's saturated with love for more "mainstream" animals.
"There are books like 'Marley & Me' for dog owners or 'The Library Cat' for cat owners, but there haven’t been that many exotic animal stories that people with all sorts of pets could relate to," she says. "I wanted to write them a book they could identify with and go, ‘Hey, that’s exactly what I went through’ or ‘That’s how I feel about my iguana.'"
It's that sentiment and respect for exotic animal parents that comes through on the pages of Unlikely Companions. The book not only shows the wild nature of her career, but it's a love letter to those who adore their pets—no matter what. It's the people and the pets that make Hess' job so fulfilling.
"I get to see someone whose first pet is a hamster to the serious snake breeder to bird owners who have had [their pets for] 40 or 50 years," she says. "You form very close relationships with these people. These people become like my family, it’s a nice dynamic."
Unlikely Companions is available on November 1.
Image via Jamie Kilgore