Listening to the Animals: Becoming the Supervet by Noel Fitzpatrick Trapeze October 18th 2018
Growing up on the family farm in Ballyfin, Ireland, Noel’s childhood was spent tending to the cattle and sheep, the hay and silage, the tractors and land, his beloved sheepdog Pirate providing solace from the bullies that plagued him at school. It was this bond with Pirate, and a fateful night spent desperately trying to save a newborn lamb, that inspired Noel to enter the world of veterinary science – and set him on the path to becoming The Supervet.
Now, in this long-awaited memoir, Noel recounts this often-surprising journey that sees him leaving behind a farm animal practice in rural Ireland to set up Fitzpatrick Referrals in Surrey, one of the most advanced small animal specialist centres in the world. We meet the animals that paved the way, from calving cows and corralling bullocks to talkative parrots and bionic cats and dogs.
Noel has listened to the many lessons that the animals in his care have taught him, and especially the times he has shared with his beloved Keira, the scruffy Border Terrier who has been by Noel’s side as he’s dealt with the unbelievable highs and crushing lows of his extraordinary career.
As heart-warming and life-affirming as the TV show with which he made his name, Listening to the Animals is a story of love, hope and compassion, and about rejoicing in the bond between humans and animals that makes us the very best we can be.
We have all seen Professor Noel Fitzpatrick grace our screen as the Supervet, enabling animals to regain use of their limbs or receive life saving treatment but who is, how did he get to where he is today?
Listening to the Animals was Fitzpatrick’s personal story and what a fascinating one it was.
I could not believe how lacking in self confidence he was or that much of his teenage years were spent as a recluse studying hard to pursue his dream of becoming a vet.
I loved his wonderfully vivid descriptions of the farmhouse in Ballyfin Ireland, where he grew up, but most of all I liked the admiration he had for his parents. They may not have been the most demonstrative, or affectionate but they clearly taught him the value of hardwork and resilience that saw him realise his dreams.
A lot of authors would have used such humble beginnings to ask for sympathy from their readers but that was where Fitzpatrick was different. He didn’t ask us to feel sorry for him, he clearly saw it as a huge positive, as just the way it was and I do not think he would have wished for anything different.
Much of the book was written in a similar vain, and one thing I did like a lot was the way in which some of the chapters almost felt like letters. These ‘letters’ took on many forms, in one an apology for putting his career first, in another his gratitude to the people who had inspired and pushed him further on his chosen path. I found this hugely endearing and the writing process must have been extremely cathartic for Fitzpatrick, a way of ridding himself of the guilt and angst but also to share his success with those he had encountered along the way.
What was utterly incredible about Fitzpatrick’s life was his sheer drive and determination to be a vet and to build his two animal referral centres. He struck me as being very intelligent but not academic, struggling with exams yet in practice a genius, a man who could think out of the box, with a unique perspective on the animal and indeed the human world of medicine.
It was in his latter chapters that Fitzpatrick introduced his vision of One Medicine whereby the animal and human medical world work together to improve the diagnosis, and treatment of both humans and animals. This was his time to get on his soapbox, to urge for greater co-operation and in some ways he did, but his views and opinions were both measured and balanced. He clearly stated his aims, and his reasoning in a way that made sense and wasn’t overly scientific or complicated, it clearly came from the heart and his passion shone from the pages.
If Fitzpatrick had a passion for One Medicine, his overriding passion was for that of the animals, those he treated and knew throughout his lifetime. These were, for me the hardest bits to read, as I had recently lost my beloved Border Collie Bob Dog, my constant companion for the last fifteen years.
I had a tear in my eye as he told of his best friend, farm dog Pirate and the love that he has for his present dog Keira. With his patients you could sense his desire to do what was best not only for the animal but also the owner, his honesty and openness, a breath of fresh air in a world where vets are now more commercially aware, more concerned with money than the animal.
His revolutionary techniques may be world renowned but it his compassion and dedication to the animal that is clearly prevalent and one that I admire and commend him for.
Listening to the Animals was a brutally honest insight into a man with vision, drive and determination, written from the heart it was both compelling and captivating and I could not put it down.
The book is now working its way through the list of people that have nagged me constantly to be able to read ever since it appeared on my doorstep. I am just hoping I get it back because I might just want to read it again!!
I would like to thank Trapeze for a copy of Listening To The Animals: How I became the Supervet to read and review and to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Professor Noel Fitzpatrick is a world-renowned neuro-orthopaedic veterinary surgeon, the founder of Fitzpatrick Referrals in Surrey, and the star of the hit Channel 4 television show The Supervet, now in its twelfth series. Globally recognised for his innovative surgical solutions for animals, Noel has developed dozens of new techniques, including several world-firsts, that have provided hope where none seemed possible to provide quality of life for his patients. Noel lives in Surrey with his Border Terrier Keira, and you can follow him at: