Veterinarian, mother, author, and self-professed "big-time dog person" Dr. Jessica Vogelsang (a.k.a. "Dr. V") has practiced general and emergency veterinary medicine for over a decade. She founded the award-winning website Pawcurious.com in 2009 and is an in-demand animal care expert for various media outlets. Dr. V is a regular contributor for Good Dog Magazine, pet360, and Petfinder, and has been featured in the Ladies Home Journal,USA Today, and CNN.
In her newly-released memoir, All Dogs Go To Kevin (released in July 2015) Dr. V poignantly recollects experiences, both joyous and bittersweet, from her personal and professional life, and paints vivid portraits of the very special canines who've shaped who she is today. A review by Publishers Weekly states: "In a manner reminiscent of author/veterinarian James Herriot, Vogelsang shares stories of her canine patients and their human families with kindness and compassion...Vogelsang's experiences as a veterinarian, dog owner, mother, wife, and friend will resonate with readers, encouraging them to join her on a journey caring for others' pets—and to appreciate the unconditional love dogs shower on their human companions."
Cuteness recently had the pleasure of asking Dr. V a few questions about how she discovered her professional calling, the rewards of a life lived with animals, as well as the joys and struggles of writing her acclaimed memoir.
Do you recall the moment you knew, beyond doubt, that you were going to dedicate a large part of your life to the care of animals?
I remember it very distinctly! I was a pre-med student having a moment of crisis during a summer biomedical engineering internship, when I realized I really had no clue what I wanted to do. I was watching a group of veterinary students assist on a medical procedure on a pig, and something inside me just clicked: that is what I want to do. I never looked back!
It appears, from your site Pawcurious, that both educating and providing emotional support to other pet owners is also a great passion of yours. Can you tell us a bit about how Pawcurious came to be?
I've been writing almost my whole life, so it seemed inevitable that I would one day start a blog. The kick in my pants actually came from my friend Kevin (yes, the same one in the book). He was always a few years ahead of the game. I don't think I even mentioned this in the book, but here's an interesting fact: he's also the one who came up with the name pawcurious. I thought it was a terrible name for a website. I'm glad I listened to him!
What's the question you get asked most frequently by dog owners?
It's a tossup: What should I feed my dog? What do you think this lump is?
Tell us a little about each of the three dogs you write about in your book.
Taffy is my first dog, a grouchy little Lhasa Apso we got when I was eight years old. She was my companion when we moved cross country and I had to deal with being the awkward nerdy kid with a Boston accent dropped into Southern California. We were both scared of the world, but at least we had each other.
Emmett is the Golden Retriever I adopted shortly after starting my career. He was a very gregarious Tramp-like kind of dog, and he wound up being a bit of a personal therapist to everyone he met. It was Emmett who helped me when I had my first child and was dealing with post-partum depression.
Kekoa is the senior labrador I adopted out of pity, but ended up absolutely adoring. She was goofy, she was neurotic, and she was an absolute love. She's the one who helped me let go of the need to keep trying for perfection.
When writing All Dogs Go to Kevin, did you find it difficult to reflect upon some of the more emotionally challenging moments in your past?
Absolutely. There were some tears shed. When I was writing, I was really reliving some of the moments trying to reach for those same thoughts and feelings I had at the time. It was draining, but I'm proud of how authentic those moments are.
What was the most personally rewarding aspect of writing the book?
The most rewarding part is hearing from people who could empathize with the situations in the book and have a sense of camaraderie in this shared bond. It makes all the work worth it!
What do you hope for people to gain when they read it?
I hope people are able to reflect upon their own relationships with their pets and recognize that each pet truly has a purpose, even though it may not be apparent at the time. Some are grand, some are small, but all of them make us better people. They truly are a gift.
Can you imagine the person you'd be if animals had never been a part of your life?
Gosh, I really can't. I would be pretty sad, I think. I'd find a way to sneak some in. I can't help it.
Finally, if you had the ability to communicate just one message to every single dog owner in the world, what would it be?
From the moment they arrive to the moment they leave this Earth, dogs have something to teach us about living and dying gracefully. Never stop learning from them; each pet has something new to share.
By Maya M.