Pets in a Pickle

Pets in a Pickle

by Malcolm D. Welshman

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Pets in a Pickle by Malcolm D. Welshman

Drawing on his own experiences of working as a vet, Malcolm Welshman brings to life a wealth of colourful characters -- including the formidable practice receptionist, Beryl, with her one steely eye -- and an ark's worth of marvellous animals. As enchanting as it is funny, this wonderful story will delight any animal fan. When Paul Mitchell arrives for his first day's work at Prospect House Veterinary Hospital, he never expects this...Oh his very first day, he is bitten by a feisty hamster...but this is a mere prelude to a cavalcade of hilarious -- and often painful -- encounters with fish, flesh and fowl. From stalking a feral cat to rescuing a cow stuck in a gravel pit, life is never short of animal adventures for the newly qualified vet. On top of treating all manner of creatures at the practice, Paul and his girlfriend Lucy, also nurse a host of waifs and strays back to health at their home. Besides six budgerigars, two love birds, a hoard of guinea pigs and three tabby cats, their menagerie includes Gertie the Goose, whose talent for house security saves her from the Christmas Day table, and Nelson, their lovable -- and stone deaf -- Jack Russell.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781843585947
Publisher: John Blake Publishing, Limited
Publication date: 06/08/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 405,440
File size: 751 KB

About the Author

Malcolm Welshman is a retired vet who has worked at London Zoo, in a small animal hospital and as a consultant dealing in exotics. He has written more than 200 features for magazines including Cat World and Parrot Magazine.

Read an Excerpt

Pets in a Pickle

By Malcolm D. Welshman

John Blake Publishing Ltd

Copyright © 2011 Malcolm D. Welshman
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84358-608-1


Vet in Prospect

I'd been whistling a tune from The Sound of Music when I left Prospect House the previous week: 'Odl lay ee ... Odl lay hee hee ...'

How foolish. How naïve of me. What a silly little goatherd.

Now here I was, the following Monday morning, with the waiting room (not the hills) alive with the sound of ... dogs snuffling and whining, cats miaowing and yowling and several budgerigars chirruping and screeching. Hardly Julie Andrews with her von Trapp family. But then I was hardly Julie Andrews, even though I had a gold stud in each ear lobe, hair – brown, not fair – down to my collar, and a voice which would rise an octave or two when provoked.

No – I was a vet, a new graduate. And this was my first day in practice. To think I was about to unleash myself on someone's unsuspecting pet. Quite sickening really – well, for the pet anyway. If he wasn't already ill he soon would be if he knew this novice vet was about to prod and poke him. 'Now, my lad, get a grip,' I said to myself. 'You've spent five years getting qualified for this moment. Now go for it. Show them what you're made of.'

So I got a grip. Only the door knob in my hand at that precise moment failed to turn as my palm was too sweaty. I gripped harder, turned it and pushed at the waiting room door; it gave way and I tumbled into the room like a startled stoat. There was an immediate hush.

An aged spaniel gave me a rheumy-eyed stare. A chihuahua disgorged a lump of yellow froth on to its owner's shoe. Two cats bared their teeth in silent hisses. Then the chihuahua, his throat unblocked, broke the silence with a barrage of staccato yaps. Taking this as his cue to join in, the elderly spaniel lifted his head and started howling at the fluorescent light above him; he was accompanied by a chorus of cats whose plaintive wails rolled round the room like a Mexican wave.

My feeble 'Mr Kingston?' was drowned on its first syllable.

I tried again, louder, flapping my hand as if trying to summon a taxi, not someone's pet. 'Mr Kingston?'

The spaniel stopped in mid howl, wagged his tail and pulled eagerly forward on his lead. His owner yanked him back. 'Not you, stupid,' he said.

A diminutive lady cowered in her chair, engulfed by a large wicker basket that wobbled on her knees. 'Don't worry,' she crooned through the bars. 'It's not us. We're going to see that nice lady vet, Dr Sharpe.'

A woman in the far corner poked the youth sitting next to her. 'Hey, Darren, it's us 'e wants.'

The youth continued to sit there, eyes closed, head swaying rhythmically from side to side, plugged in to an iPod clipped to the belt of his jeans. The woman pulled the plug out of one of his ears and smiled across at me. 'Coming,' she shouted.

The spaniel cocked his head and, with a grizzle of expectation, lunged towards her. The owner pulled him back with another 'Not you, stupid'.

The woman kicked the youth's shin and he shuffled to his feet with a scowl. Between them, they manoeuvred a large metal cage past the opaque-eyed spaniel who scrabbled forward again with an eager 'woof', only to be yanked back. Once in the consulting room, they heaved the cage on to the table. The youth quickly plugged himself in again and stood there sashaying from one foot to the other as rap music hissed faintly from his iPod.

'Tell 'im, Darren,' said the woman giving him another prod in his ribs. The teenager continued to nod his head and jiggle his hips.

I felt myself beginning to sway and nod in unison with him while at the same time giving him an encouraging smile. Maybe he thought I was taking the mickey because he suddenly stopped jiggling and spoke. 'It's Fred. He can't eat proper.'

I pulled myself together. 'Right. Let's take a look at Fred then. See what the problem is.' Whatever Fred was, he was going to be small fry. No big fish for me. But then perhaps I was expecting too much on my first day. Rather like last week.

My expectations when I'd turned up for the interview at Prospect House had been high. I'd felt in fine fettle. Full of the spirit of youth. Well, at least as much as any 25-year-old veterinary graduate of that year, 2004, could hold, with a large overdraft burning a hole in my pocket – reflecting the knee-holed jeans I normally wore – remnants of my cool image. Much better dressed that day, of course – open-necked white shirt, linen jacket, cream Chinos. I felt a bit Noël Cowardish. A mad dog? No. An Englishman? Yes. And certainly one out in the midday sun.

It was a glorious June afternoon and the weather certainly benefitted my first glimpse of Westcott-on-Sea. From what I'd gleaned from the internet, the town, with its pebble beach and Victorian pier, was a retirement hotspot with the third largest population of over 65s along the south coast. It had the usual mix of municipal gardens, an aqua centre and 70-style shopping precinct and a high street pedestrianised with concrete. The proximity of the South Downs to the north with its sprinkling of Sussex villages and their mix of picture -postcard stone and thatched cottages, bowers of roses over the doors, ensured plenty of half-day coach tours out from Westcott during the tourist season. Now, everywhere, those roses were in full bloom, though the bushes in the front garden of Prospect House looked rather tired. Distressed even. Straggly stems, leaves pitted with black spot, a pink scattering of isolated blooms, but nothing a good dose of manure couldn't put right.

The taxi driver from Westcott-on-Sea's station knew Prospect House well. 'Ah, yes, the veterinary hospital,' he declared. 'Had my Billy Boy's bits removed there. They provided a good service. Something he can no longer do.' There was a great bellow of laughter as he slapped the steering wheel. When he dropped me off at the gates of the hospital, he leaned out of the window. 'Good luck. But watch your step,' he warned. 'That Dr Sharpe in there, she's a formidable lady by all accounts. Wouldn't want to needle her. Get it? Needle her! Sharp, eh?' With another loud guffaw, he tooted his horn and sped off.

His warning about Dr Sharpe blunted my spirits somewhat. As I climbed the short flight of stone steps to the front door, the austere portico cast a deep shadow over me, depressing me even further. Ever the one with a highly developed imagination, I felt as if I were about to enter some Doric temple and be sacrificed at the feet of the omnipotent Dr Crystal Sharpe. A gambolling tryst of nymphs and satyrs on the frieze would have restored my lighter mood. But no, not a bit of it. The Victorian Worthy who had built this house had decreed the lintel be carved with a plain inscription: 'Prospect House'. I wondered just what my prospects were likely to be as I took a deep breath and stepped inside only to collide with the stooping figure of a girl wiping the floor with a mop.

'Whoops. Sorry,' I spluttered, recovering my balance to edge round her.

She looked up with a shy smile on her freckled face, her hazel eyes full of apology. She was about to speak when a voice cut in from the reception desk.

'Can I help?' The tone was brisk and demanding.

I tiptoed gingerly across the wet vinyl. 'I've come for an interview.'

The woman behind the computer screen twisted her head to one side and fixed me with a beady eye. She had bottle-black hair which was so stiffly permed and lacquered it gleamed like a polished nugget of coal. A loosely cut black jacket over a roll-neck black sweater hung round her shoulders.

'I see,' said the woman, pecking at her lapels with long, claw-like nails. 'Well, I'm afraid Dr Sharpe has had to dash out on an emergency visit. But Mr Sharpe is around somewhere.'

'Eric's in the second consulting room,' volunteered the girl who'd been mopping down the floor. 'Shall I go and get him?' She stood up and pushed back a wisp of blonde hair.

'OK, Lucy. Tell him Mr ...'

'Mitchell ... Paul Mitchell.'

'Tell Eric Mr Mitchell's here about the job.' The receptionist waved a vermilion painted nail at Lucy who then hurried off down the corridor. 'We're all called by our Christian names here,' she said on the assumption I required an explanation. 'Makes for a more friendly atmosphere. I'm Beryl. Beryl Wagstaff.' Again, she fixed me with her right eye while the left one seemed to be focused on a spot above my head. Friendly? There was nothing friendly in the eye staring at me. Cold ... glassy ... very unnerving.

Seconds later, a short, rotund figure bounced into reception, white coat open, flapping round his ankles, both arms flexing and extending in front of him as if juggling imaginary balls. The 'Pleased to meet you' faded rapidly from his lips as he skidded on the wet vinyl and careered into the desk.

"Struth, Beryl, this floor's lethal!' he exclaimed.

'Blame it on that last client of yours, Eric,' she replied. 'The poodle cocked his leg while Mrs Pettigrew paid her bill.'

'Typical, eh?' grinned Eric Sharpe turning to me. 'And to think she was complaining the dog hadn't peed for two days.' He extended a hand and warmly shook mine. 'You've come about the job.'

I nodded.

'Good ... good. Let's go down to the consulting room and have a chat.'

I followed the bobbing figure down the corridor into a room equipped with a gleaming, stainless steel trolley, glass-fronted wall cabinet and spotless, white-topped consulting table.

'Now then,' Eric said, drawing a stool from under the table and perching himself on it, his legs swinging freely beneath him. 'Are you any good with the knife?'

I hesitated. What could I say? I'd very little opportunity to do much surgery during my training.

But he didn't wait for a reply. 'Plenty to get stuck into here. Like a good hack myself. But it's just finding the time.'

I was puzzled. Stuck into? Hack? Hardly scientific jargon.

Eric flashed me another smile. 'Before I forget, must apologise about the wife.'

Ah yes. Here we go ... the indomitable Dr Sharpe.

'Had to go out on an emergency call to the Richardsons. Very fussy clients. Won't have anyone except Crystal. Typical horsey types. Keep a couple of ponies. Very handy, though, if you do take the job as there'll be bucketfuls of manure to be had.'

What planet was this man on? Had he been at the ether? Eric must have seen the bewilderment etched on my face.

'Muck's good for roses,' he said as if this explained all. It didn't.

Eric charged on. 'Well, no doubt you saw those roses out in the front of Prospect House.'

I nodded weakly.

'Not much to write home about, are they?'

I shook my head in despair. He took that as my acknowledgement of the fact.

'Once you get a few shovel-loads round those, there'll be no stopping them.' He flashed another smile, bouncing energetically up and down on the stool.

I intervened. 'Er, I'm sorry, Mr Sharpe. But I'm here about the assistant vet's post.'

Eric jumped off the stool, his face turning crimson. 'Oh, I do apologise. I thought you'd come about the gardening job. Crystal's trying to persuade me to take someone on to help in the grounds. Bit of a passion of mine, gardening. But can't always find the time.' He ran a hand across his balding head. 'You must think me a complete idiot blathering on like that about the roses.'

'No ... no ... not at all.' Indeed, I felt sorry for the poor man. He did seem the friendly sort and was trying to put me at my ease.

Eric took a deep breath. 'OK, Paul, let's start again. Time's a bit short as I've got more appointments coming up soon. So how about you fire questions at me as I show you round?' With that, he shot out of the door.

As I chased after him, I learned that Prospect House had been converted into a hospital by his wife some 26 or so years ago. Very front-line, state-of-the-art stuff, he told me. But then that had always been Crystal's style – dynamic, keeping abreast of the latest developments. And she always expected the best of her staff ... wouldn't stand for any nonsense. And that included the vets.

Eric curled an eyebrow at me. 'But then I expect you know that anyway.' He shrugged. 'I'm well aware people know of Crystal's reputation for being a stickler. After all, the veterinary profession's a small world. But don't let that put you off,' he added in a reassuring tone.

I suddenly found my teeth were gnawing at my lower lip. Ouch.

I learned that Eric was one of the early assistants who'd been subjected to her exacting standards. 'Must have done something right,' he said with a chuckle. 'We've been married now these past 22 years and we still get on like the proverbial house on fire. Though we do have the occasional flaming row.' He gave another grin. 'You know how it is.'

I didn't. But had a sneaking feeling I'd find out soon enough if I took the post on.

As a demonstration, a small conflagration occurred when Eric confronted Beryl in reception over the mix-up around the interviews. It seems the gardener was due to be seen tomorrow and not today as Eric thought. Beryl's feathers were clearly ruffled at the suggestion it may have been her fault; but I could see Eric was a master at calming the old bird down and soon had her eating out of his hand again when he turned and said to me, 'We couldn't do without Beryl, you know.'

A crimson glow spread up her scrawny neck to lose itself in a heavy pan of make-up. 'Well, I do my best,' she croaked.

'Of course you do, Beryl. You're indispensable. The place couldn't run without you.' He gave her another reassuring smile. 'Now tell me, what's tomorrow looking like?'

Beryl tapped a few buttons on the keyboard, her nails clicking across them. 'The computer says ...' I waited, unaware that this phrase, and the inevitable 'no', would eventually trip off millions of tongues thanks to Little Britain. Her good eye looked at the screen while the other stared blankly at me. '... Crystal's booked solid. As usual.' The good eye wandered back up to me. 'But that's no surprise. She's so ... so popular with the clients.'

Eric cleared his throat quietly. 'And my list? What's that like?'

'Oh, you've got stacks left.'

'And ops? Any booked for me?'

There was a sharp intake of breath. 'Not tomorrow, Eric. It's Tuesday, remember? Crystal's orthopaedic morning. She's got two pinnings, a cruciate and a patella luxation to deal with. Mandy's already got the theatre set up.'

'Yes, of course. Good of you to remind me.'

Did I detect a note of sarcasm there? A bit of irony?

Whatever, Eric turned to me, his baby-faced features still wreathed in smiles, his eyes twinkling. 'The wife's a dab hand with the scalpel. Cutting-edge surgery and all that.' I quickly found myself being shunted into the operating theatre. 'It's not really my forte,' he went on, 'so I'm happy to leave all the complicated stuff to her. But I don't mind doing the odd spay or castration. Just to keep my hand in.'

We were now standing in front of a very complicated-looking anaesthetic machine. As if reading my thoughts, Eric said, 'Looks a bit of a monster, doesn't it?'

I nodded and fiddled absentmindedly with one of the knobs. There was a sharp 'pfss' and the needle on the nitrous oxide cylinder gauge shot up.

Eric appeared not to notice. 'But don't worry. Mandy, our senior nurse, is in control of all the anaesthetics. Knows what's she's doing. Got high standards. But then, of course, she was trained by Crystal. So it's what you'd expect.'

The needle on the nitrous oxide gauge continued to register an escape of gas despite my furtive efforts to turn it off. I began to feel light-headed. Funny. Very funny. What a laugh this all was.

The theatre door suddenly swung open and a head popped round. 'Everything all right?'

'Ah, Mandy,' exclaimed Eric. 'Let me introduce you to ...'

'M-M-Mitchell,' I interrupted, my voice high and squeaky as I tried to fight back an attack of giggles. No use. 'P-P-P-Paul Mitchell?' I squealed, feeling my lips crease back in an idiotic grin. 'Pleased to meet you ... hee ... hee ... hee ...'

There was the sharp click of heels across the polished floor as Mandy marched over to the anaesthetic machine and snapped off the valve I had been playing with. A plump, round-faced girl, she looked a picture of prim efficiency in her starched green uniform and bob of neat, auburn hair. She arranged her generous lips into a thin smile before turning to rearrange the endotracheal tubes with which Eric had started to nervously play, placing them back into their neat rows, graded in size.


Excerpted from Pets in a Pickle by Malcolm D. Welshman. Copyright © 2011 Malcolm D. Welshman. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Foreword by Jim Wight,
1 Vet in Prospect,
2 A Wing and a Prayer,
3 Fortune Favours the Brave,
4 Heavyweight Knock-Out,
5 A Turn for the Better,
6 Creature Comforts,
7 Today's Specials: Hot Dog and Fillet of Fish,
8 Cyril Takes the Biscuit,
9 And This Little Piggy Had None,
10 There's Nothing Like a Dame,
11 A Fête Worse than Death,
12 Lucy Proves a Point,
13 Ruffled Feathers,
14 Exotic Chancer,
15 Bible Basher,
16 The Wild Side of Westcott,
17 The Land That Time Forgot,
18 A Cracker of a Christmas,

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Pets in a Pickle 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 519 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Truly captivating. From camels to spiders to pigs, and everything in between, this is a wonderful book. I was left chuckling at the cast of characters, both human and animals; not to mention all of the tngue-in-cheek puns slipped in. 237 pages, appropriate for older children and everyone else.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's great to see a kids book for free friday! I have 3 tweens that use my nook everyday. They are excited to see this book and looking forward to reading it. These books are FREE! Quit complaining about it. If you don't like it, delete it. It's not like you paid for the book, it was FREE!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've only read three pages so far, but from the vocabulary alone I know that this is not a children's book. I'd say it would be a challenging read for most middle schoolers. This book is written for adults and think it's going to be delightful!
NJRH More than 1 year ago
This sounds like so much fun - something completely different than what i normally read, and a new author introduced to me also. Thank you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It not a kiddie book and its not YA either its for around 7-10 ish year olds. I got it, read it and decoided to read it to a group of kids I read to at our local library. As I am13 and it is young literature for me. I am going to read it to them tommorow, its a group of 6,7,8 and 9 year olds and I think they will love it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thank you Barnes and Noble enlighting us weekly with a free book that we may never have the opportunity to read. I have read many of these free books from authors that are far better than best named authors that we continue to buy just for their namesake. Keep introducing us to these reads.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are expecting another James Herriot experience, full of endearing characters, heartwarming stories, gentle humor and lovely prose, this is not the book for you. If, however, you want to read mildly amusing tales told in a flippant, jaded manner, give this a go. The protagonist does seem to like animals, but barely tolerates their owners. He sleeps with his co-worker while secretly having the hots for his married boss who, as we are told over and over ad nauseum, looks like Julie Andrews. I finished this book only out of curiosity to see how many more bad puns the writer could come up with. Apparently he has an unlimited supply.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was excited to read this book, but i soon grew weary of the puns and cliches. I was also disappointed to see how the author descibed his clients in a demeaning way. I guess there will never be another James Herriot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ok for a Free Friday book. Light reading and mildly entertaining. Glad I didn't spend money for it and wouldn't read a sequel. Humor was cute at the beginning but repetitious references were tiring by midbook and tedious by the end.
writersdd More than 1 year ago
My first reaction when I finished this book was, honestly, 'meh'. Then I was glad it had been a Free Friday book. If you're looking for the new James Herriot, keep looking. Malcolm D. Welshman's book is diverting, but that's about all. The puns are too numerous - they even stopped registering as puns because there are so many. The love for place and animals and people that one finds in Herriot's books aren't quite there in this one. The storyline starts off about like <i>All Creatures Great and Small</i>, with a young vet starting work in a country practice, but that's about where the comparisons end. The love that exudes from every word of Herriot's books is mostly absent. The humorous touch that Herriot had with all the crazy situations he found himself in is slightly there, but only slightly. The stories of the exotic animals like the python and the parrots are good, because of their exotic touch, but there's no Mrs. Pumphrey and Tricky-Woo to be found. The characters just aren't as fully-drawn as they could be. If you're on the hunt for an escapist read involving animals and a vet out of his element, you might enjoy it, but if you're looking for the heir to James Herriot, this isn't it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a pleasant read, not something I couldn't put down, but not too heavy when you're wanting something light.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a veterinarian reading this book, I thought it was very interesting that he left out two of the biggest issues: euthanasia and money. This book may have been more easily consumable for the average reader, but I didn't like it. I don't know about the timeline for this, but I would have been interested in how insurance, which pets don't have in the US, influenced treatment. Could have been a great outreach book instead of a collection of stories. Also, this doctor seems very flippant and risky with some of his medicine.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author is not a natural story-teller. Lacking warmth.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book shows promise with good character development and a strong vocabulary that would be good for a more advanced youth reader. I have not read far enough to determine the entire appropriteness of the content, but from what I have read i woukd say the reader should be a more mature reader to understand the puns and other comments in the dialog.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm an avid reader and this isn't a book I would have chosen for myself. Though I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. Definitely a good poolside read.
gdelbooks More than 1 year ago
A 70's version of All things Great and Small. This is a fictional account,not a memoir. Misadventures of a small town first year vet. A pleasant and fun read, not great literature, but a fun departure from the murder and mayhem I usually read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was surprised by the adult content in this childrens book For that reason I stopped reading it to my young son The main character repeatedly comments on his bosses attractiveness and moves in with a woman he just met after pointing out that his female landlord was making moves on him I hope this is not representative of the new wave of childrens books
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
However this book was just ok. There were some very cute animal stories and I loved all the animals he would bring home. He was a little to descriptive of fellow co-workers "flaws" that I personally did not care for. Probably would not recommend and will not read it again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is definitely not another James Harriot. He tries way too hard to be cute and the book was not enjoyable at all. Good thing it was free.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was a very good read. I loved it every time he got a new pet by chance. This book was very funny and cute. No harsh language or any sex. I love books like this one!
sjop38 More than 1 year ago
This is full of great tales, similar, but not equal to the James Herriot stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fun read lite reading great rainy day book enjoy
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an amusing book but poorly written or maybe edited. It had little or no connection between the stories and was nowhere near as well-written or connected as the James Herriot books (of which I believe it to be a copy). The stories were interesting and laughable but kind of isolated - interspersed with a little romance.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very disappointing. Certainly no Herriot. I'm appauled his son gave a generous review. Every character was exploited as to their character in a terribly put down manner. One can' t be ridiculed for having a glass eye. The author was lecherous about the women. His continual attempt at humor was old and trite. It felt too made up.
NJ-Nina More than 1 year ago
When I read a book about pets I expect fun lighthearted reading. I want to enjoy the animals, their owners and the vets taking care of them. This book has none of that. This is so far from James Harriot that it should be avoided at all cost if you are a Harriot fan! I strongly recommend that you not waste your time or money on this book.