My Thanks to Herriot

James Herriot (image credit http://www.jamesherriot.org)

When I was a child I loved to read. Apparently, you were more likely to find me in a dark corner with a book than you were to find me outside playing. My grandfather fed this hobby with delight, handing me anything he could find that fit my current interests. Every holiday I would (and still sometimes do) receive a book from him as a gift. Not a new one, but one with character showing in its torn cover, bent pages, and old smell. I loved them and treated them like the most precious treasures on earth.

One birthday, my seventh I believe, he handed me three brand new hardcovers. I was surprised, as this was the first time anyone had given me a hardcover, and the first time Pips had ever given me a new book. I slid my hands over the smooth curve of the spine, peeking underneath the protective cover to examine the fabric that followed. I remember the smell distinctly as I flipped the pages and held the books to my face. New paper, ink, plastic, and a bit of Pips’ pipe smoke. We were outside by the cellar when he gave them to me, and I was so scared that I was going to drop them on the ground.

These books are precisely what started my complete and utter devotion to animals. They were by James Herriot, a vet who lived and worked in Yorkshire in the 1940s and on. I have since read them all at least a dozen times, added to the collection, and moved them around the country and province a number of times. They are books about a man who loves animals and who does what he can to heal their pains. He was a man with a good sense of humor and a talent with words that just isn’t seen much anymore.

My Pips and I still exchange stories from the books, and some of the characters have become a part of our everyday conversations. When I read them while laying on the couch with a couple of dogs and a cat stretched out over my body, nearly squashing the life out of me, tears may or may not appear at the thought of how lucky I am to know that every second with a pet should be held dear.

I owe that, and much more to my Pips, and to Herriot. If you have never read any of his books, do give them a try. There are books devoted to dog stories, cat stories, Yorkshire landscapes, general vet happenings, all mixed in with a bit of himself.

Of all the books that I have read (I have got to be somewhere in the thousands now), these are part of the small collection that I keep close at all times. They are still my treasures, and when I read them I feel like I am seven all over again. Thank you kindly and dearly to Mr. Herriot, and my Pips, for teaching me what it is to have a pet and to treat it well.

Have any of you out there read Herriot? Do you have a different favorite pet author? Do you have suggestions as to what I should put on my reading list?

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36 thoughts on “My Thanks to Herriot

  1. They are simply wonderful and so full of humour! The television series made of them was terribly good too. If you wer still a 7-year old child, we’d suggest the Thelwell horse cartoons but hey, you’ve moved on since there!

    • Oh, I loved the show too! I may have to find it again though, since I haven’t seen it in years. And I will check those out for sure, I may not look like a 7 year old anymore, but sometimes I act like one! 🙂

  2. Really liked your description of the smell and feel of hardcover paper books. There is nothing like it. And wonderful memeories of what turns a boy into a man that loves animals.

  3. I discovered James Herriot’s books in my early 20s and loved every one of them. I also fell in love with Yorkshire and its wonderful people through his books – it’s now one of the top 3 places I want to visit. What a wonderful life he led! Like you, I’ve kept his books and I’ll reread one or sections of one when I feel like a warm cozy read, or even in times of stress – they’re like a balm for my soul. It may sound crazy, but that’s the effect they have on me. Good to meet another fan!

    • Ah, so glad to hear that! I had the fortune of growing up in NS on and around a number of farms so the books remind me of home in the best way. When I open them on a rainy day, I still smell my Pips’ pipe smoke and feel the sun blazing on my neck like it did the day I got them. Herriot was a great man, who had a wonderful way with words and animals.

  4. Forgive me for looking past the obvious wonderful accomplishments of Dr.Herriot. You were blessed with a loving and guiding grandfather. He left you with the appreciation of reading which opened the door to your passion for animals. Thank you for the magnificent post.

  5. They are wonderful books for all ages. One of my favourite stories was how he had tried to return a cat that had been spayed to a “poor widow woman”, and the cat escaped the box in his car. That can still make me laugh.

  6. I have never heard of these books but now that you have given this wonderful review of them I will see if I can’t get hold of them. They sound like very interesting and fun reads. Hugs

  7. I adored the Herriot books and had completely forgotten the show until I read about it below! I watched it on PBS growing up. Thanks for touching off some wonderful memories. 🙂

    • You are very welcome. I think I will have to watch the show again as I had forgotten just how much I loved it. The antics of Siegfried and Tristan are even more entertaining on screen.

  8. Thank you so much for the recommendation! I will definitely put James Herriot on my reading list! And what a great tribute to your Pips, as well! It’s so interesting how much our grandpas can impact our lives, even if we only see them on occasion. 🙂

  9. Read all of them as a kid, just started reading All Creatures Great and Small again. Definetly great reading for all ages.

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