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Love Is the Best Medicine: What Two Dogs Taught One Veterinarian about Hope, Humility, and Everyday Miracles

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A book guaranteed to touch anyone who has ever had a beloved pet… 
   From instant New York Times bestseller, Dr. Nick Trout comes another touching and heartfelt story from the front lines of veterinary medicine—the story of two dogs who forever changed the way he thought about life, death, fate and love.

   Helen is an older cocker spaniel found neglected and abandoned in a restaurant parking lot one rainy night.  Despite her mangy condition and terrible smell, Ben and Eileen fall in love with the pitiful creature and decide to take her in.  But just as Helen is rescued from a sad life on the streets and enveloped in a loving home with all the creature comforts an old dog could ask for, a tumor is discovered and she's given a devastating prognosis.  All Ben and Eileen want is for Helen to beat the odds and survive for one more summer so that she can have one chance to swim in the ocean on the family's annual trip to Prince Edward Island.  In short, they want a miracle.

   Meanwhile, fourteen-month-old miniature pinscher Cleo keeps breaking one leg after another which devastates her poor owner, Sandi.  While Cleo is visiting Sandi's daughter, Sonja, in Bermuda, she succumbs to yet another fracture.  Distraught that the injury happened on her watch, Sonja makes a plan to fly Cleo to Boston to get the specialist care she needs before Sandi even finds out.  Enter Dr. Trout who presides over what should be a fairly routine surgery.   What happens next forever links two families, their dogs and a beloved veterinarian and teaches them all a lesson about grace that resonates to this day. 

   Love is the Best Medicine
immerses you in the true life drama of beloved pets whose lives hang in the balance.  Every page underscores the profound bond we have with the animals in our lives and the incredible responsibility Nick carries as their healer.  Certainly Dr. Trout has an impressive array of fancy equipment, training and skills at his disposable, but his most important tool (as he persuasively illustrates here) is a fundamental belief in the power of hope, humility, and grace.  

   Wry, charming, and intensely affecting, Love is the Best Medicine is a one of a kind story only the winsome Dr. Trout could deliver and is destined to become a favorite for animal lovers.

252 pages, Hardcover

First published March 2, 2010

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About the author

Nick Trout

7 books400 followers
I’m from England and I’m a veterinary surgeon working at the Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston, one of the biggest animal hospitals in the world. If I had to sum up the best part of my career in one word it would be ‘unpredictable’ because what’s great about coming to work everyday is the certainty of surprise. It might be a Chihuahua or a Great Dane, a Maine Coon Cat or an iguana. It might be the heartache of saying goodbye to a best friend; it might be the elation of a surgical cure and a relationship to a true companion restored. It is all of this and more. What’s not to love! In my first book, Tell Me Where It Hurts I tried to capture the rush and the passion of modern veterinary medicine. In Love is the Best Medicine, I have focused more on the pets and their owners, trying to expose the more vulnerable, more emotional aspects of what it means to heal sick animals. In my latest book, Ever By My Side, I turn the lens inward and consider the animals I think of as my own pets, taking an opportunity to relive some of the defining moments of my life in which an animal took their cue, stepped up and gave me a chance to appreciate a different perspective. This is my attempt to show them off and share their subtle, startling, and inspirational lessons, which have played a small but vital part in helping to shape the person you see with the stethascope around his neck.

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5 stars
540 (41%)
4 stars
404 (31%)
3 stars
263 (20%)
2 stars
69 (5%)
1 star
21 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 165 reviews
Profile Image for Tara Chevrestt.
Author 26 books293 followers
April 21, 2010
The first half of this book is superb. I had two really good laughs to the point that people around me wanted to know what was so funny and I really liked the way it was written, more like a novel rather than non fiction. It introduces the two main canine characters, Cleo and Helen, and their human parents and the lead up to their unfortunate medical problems. In between getting to know the two families there are funny stories about what is going on in Dr. Trout's medical facility. This is where my laugh out loud moments came in. Loved the man claiming his dog was possessed by the devil and rabid, the cat getting the "sex change" operation, and later in the book, the Vicoria's Secret breast firming cream having some negative effects on a frog... Great touch!

The last half of the book started losing me. Upon the death of a dog, the author seems to think that dog is somehow affecting his other surgical performances and just goes on and on about the dead dog. He also gets into his daughter being some sort of "sixth sense messenger" and all this other stuff and perhaps I'm just not spiritual or supersticious enough, but I failed to see any connection at all between Cleo and Helen. For me, this stuff grew tiresome. I understand he felt guilty about the death of the dog, but I don't get how it could have affected the other animals that came after.

Another thing that had my eyebrow hitting my hairline in disbelief: Everyone is just "too good to be true." I found myself wondering if everyone actually behaved so saintly and said all these wonderful, unselfish things when these events actually occured. Seriously, if I went to pick up my dog after a routine fracture repair surgery and discovered my dog died in the first 15 mintues, well... I wouldn't be spouting words of kindness and mumbo jumbo about how I hope my dog's spirit or whatever helps dogs in the future.. More likely, someone would walk out of that consulting room with a black eye and sore gonads.

Not a bad book, just didn't blow me away. I won this on firstreads I'm pleased to say.
Profile Image for Reese.
163 reviews63 followers
March 17, 2011
Starting LOVE IS THE BEST MEDICINE, I had, if not "great expectations," at least high hopes. Nick Trout's TELL ME WHERE IT HURTS told me that his second book would be worth reading -- despite its pardon-me-while-I-yoan (yawn that sounds like a groan) title. If the author were not a veterinarian, I wouldn't be reviewing this book because I would never have touched a book entitled LOVE IS THE BEST MEDICINE written by anyone other than a vet.

The first half (or more) of Trout's second book made me ask myself one question -- again and again: Do I want to finish this? Trout fails pretty miserably in his attempt to use biographical fiction as part of the foundation of a memoir. And the presentation of the autobiographical material doesn't come close to making the content interesting. But the last chapters of the book contain the stuff that makes stars. So some 1.5-star pages became, for me, a 3.5-star work.
Profile Image for Carrie Daws.
Author 29 books138 followers
October 1, 2019
I'm not one to cry easily, but this book had me in tears multiple times. More than that, Dr. Trout's reflections got me thinking about my life with my own pets as well as life with my friends and family. Some readers have criticized the second half of the book its introspective dive, but I found it appropriate and healthy considering the author's journey with a min pin named Cleo.

Nick Trout writes with all the skill of a fiction author, taking the reader along on a story that I struggled to put aside so that I could be responsible in other areas of my life. His emotional journey with various four-legged creatures tugged at my heart and his openness about his thoughts and doubts, the way past perceived failures colored his present decisions all weave together to make him real, relatable, and human. I confess, I easily put my veterinarian on a pedestal, never considering what emergency she's dealt with that week before she walks into the exam room where I sit with my dog. Now, as I reflect upon the residual echoes after reading this book, I realize that Nick, Cleo, and Helen have changed me. Encouraged empathy, concern for others, and a willingness to just live and offer what love I can in the moment I presently walk in.
Profile Image for John Winkelman.
248 reviews
February 21, 2020
A terrific story by a veterinarian who has to rationalize the relationship of his scientific training and the power of love and healing in the animal spirit. I had it as n audio book but would still describe it as a great read.
11 reviews
January 19, 2020
As a veterinarian, I was touched by this book more deeply than I might expect of the average, pet-loving reader. That said, this story illustrates the bonds we share with our pets in such a beautiful way. I laughed, and cried, and hugged my dogs tight when I was done.
Profile Image for Rachel.
352 reviews11 followers
January 4, 2013
Nick Trout is a veterinary surgeon in Boston and here he tells the story of Cleo, a miniature pinscher with a broken leg, Helen, an elderly cocker spaniel who after a life scavenging on the streets gets taken home by a couple who shortly thereafter discover that Helen has lung cancer, and how the lives of these two dogs became connected.

I don't want to be too hard on this book because I think Dr. Trout is well-intentioned (and also because: doggies!), but late in the book when he says that he knows the reader is thinking that he's really stretching to find some kind of transcendent connection and lesson in Cleo's and Helen's lives, he's correct because that's exactly what I was thinking. Clearly, there was something meaningful to him about having these two dogs as patients at around the same time, but he's not very successful in communicating what that meaning is. Mostly what I was thinking was that while a good writer can make fiction seem like real life, Dr. Trout was taking real life and making it sound like bad fiction.
Profile Image for Stephen Wallace.
474 reviews66 followers
September 17, 2022
The first half of this book was a little hard for me to enjoy. I loved the previous book of his I had read, but at one point in this one I wondered if I would give it only 4 stars or less. Vet stories can be painful at times. Suffering of our beloved pets and the thought of expensive medical bills can be unpleasant to think of. The second half of the book however more than made up for the first half and I have decided to put it in my short list of favorite dog books of the 300+ so far I have read so far.

I know there are a lot of people who don't want to read a book if the dog dies. I like to use a phrase I learned from a Goodreads friend Deborah D., 'Kleenex necessary at the end of the book.' Kleenex is needed in this book, but it is the lows that make the high points more lofty. Dr. Nick Trout comes up with these amazing insights that he writes so well. It is for these that I put his books in my 'dogs-favorite-books' shelf. Here is some examples:

"Tragedy can demolish like an explosion – swift and indiscriminate and crushing and painful. But sometimes, for some people, what remains after the rubble of confusion has had a chance to settle is an amazing clarity. Suddenly, all the obstructions and debris and pointless minutia of our life are wiped away, and for those who can open their minds, there are new, important vistas to take in, and a different way to look at the world."

"Having come this far, exposed and candid, perhaps I can find sanctuary behind one incontestable truth pervading operating rooms across the country – the reality of everyday miracles. From time to time the inexplicable and the impossible happen. Behind a paper mask and under artificial lights I get to perform surgery on an unconscious body, the physical part of what we think of as a pet. Essentially I’m working construction. I’m the guy splicing wires, welding pipes, shoring up support beams, and generally renovating the house. All the other stuff, the important stuff, I cannot influence. These are the intangibles, the memories, the history, the bonds, the things that make a difference between a house and a home, the things that make the difference between a body covered in scales or feathers or fur and our pet. It is this everything else that eludes me. This everything else is the spirit of the animal. Under anesthesia, it might move out for a while, but when the surgery is done and the gas turned off, it comes back. In our worst-case scenario, regardless of whether it returns or not, it doesn’t cease to exist. Anesthesia is just a training run for the soul."

It is the drama and the unpredictability that makes vet stories that make them exciting.
"Most likely my thoughts were overshadowed by a hankering for a smaller hand size or a larger breed of patient. This was going to be tight – one-handed bomb disposal down a rabbit hole. This close to a beating heart, cutting the wrong connection or failing to cut it clean could be fatal."

And I like Dr. Trout's pondering on the pet/human connection:
I am often intrigued by the coupling between pet and human. What was it about this particular cat? Why a mouse and not a gerbil? What did this puppy do that stopped you in your tracks and made you say, “Come home with me”? Unlike choosing a human partner, pet owners aren’t usually set up by well-meaning friends. They haven’t filled out a detailed online survey that ascertains compatibility. Rather they rely on instant attraction and trust a gut feeling, an intangible instinct that more often then not ends up being exactly right.

For those reasons, I put this book in my list of favorites. Maybe some will think they have to love all of a book to be in there similar category. I also don't look for typos, but my computer says in one of those quotes above that starting a sentence with 'Essentially' needed a comma after it. (I didn't add it above as a comma was not in the book.) As mentioned some don't like a book when Kleenex is needed, but everyone can make their own list of favorites. Hopefully from my details you can ascertain it is a book worthy of putting near the top of your to be read list. Would love to hear comments of what you think.
Profile Image for Renata.
Author 1 book10 followers
June 26, 2021
Veterinary surgeon Dr. Nick Trout follows up on his previous book, Tell Me Where It Hurts, with another heartwarming, animal-filled narrative on his life and work with animals. While his earlier book included all kinds of animals, Love is the Best Medicine focuses specifically on two dogs that made an impact on their vet - an old, neglected Cocker Spaniel called Helen (named after her rescuer's grandmother), and a Miniature Pinscher pup named Cleo (after Cleopatra). The older dog has faced a lifetime of abuse and a devastating cancer diagnosis, while the young dog is prone to repeated fractures.

Dr. Trout draws on his interactions with both sets of humans, and experiences with the canines themselves, to create an immersive, life-altering rendition of the lessons his patients taught him. As a vet, his simultaneous detachment and affection for the animals, and the balance he strives to create between scientific training and the power of the animal spirit, is what makes this book a charming reading experience for all - whether one has lived with a pet or not. Written in the form of a novel, it's a beautiful story about the human-animal bond.

The reduced rating is for the tone of the book - nothing against the subject matter. Trout's attempt at literary fiction drags the storyline with sentences that are too wordy and paragraphs that don't seem to contribute much. The warmth and spontaneity of his previous book are missing here.
Profile Image for Karen.
328 reviews9 followers
August 8, 2021
PopSugar 2021: A book where the main character works at your current or dream job

Veterinary Medicine can sometimes be a very hard job. People are not always nice, and there are times when their animals are very sick and they are angry, and take it out on the veterinarians and veterinary technicians who are trying to help. I liked this book. There were parts that I didn't agree with (none of the doctors I have ever worked with go and get the clients and put them in rooms - the vet techs and vet assistants do that in every place I have worked), and there were points that I thought maybe hadn't been edited appropriately (Dr Trout heads into the OR with his hands still wet - I don't think that happened, because he seems like a very good surgeon, and I'm pretty sure he was gowned up).

I read another review that complained about the fact that he kept bringing up Cleo after she passed away - while I understand their complaints, Dr Trout is a human being and makes mistakes, and even though her death was not his fault, he still feels that it is in some ways. There have been times when I have lost patients and we wonder what we could have done differently, how could we fix this, why did this happen to me? If it happens more than once, it makes it hard to stop second guessing yourself.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Lucinda Vinoski.
370 reviews2 followers
May 27, 2021
Although Dr. Trout writes well, I could not finish this book and neither could my husband. We had taken in an older dog years ago and she spent five years with us before dying of cancer. We miss her terribly. She was a wonderful pet and always seemed appreciative of our rescuing her. She was a poodle terrier mix, very intelligent. We were fortunate enough to find a puppy of the same breed who looked very much like Buffy. He looked and acted so much like her that it seemed that he was one of her puppies. We enjoyed and loved Ziggy for twelve years and then he died of cancer also.

This book brought back too many memories and too much heartache, we could not read it.
That special bond with our pets will live with us forever. We are too old to care for a pet now but enjoy visiting with relatives who have pets.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Me.
462 reviews15 followers
June 27, 2017
Dr. Nick Trout analyzes how his dog patients and families have influenced his life. Two dogs in particular played a crucial role in how he perceives life, love, life expectancy, etc. Interspersed between the two stories that ultimately connect, the reader is presented with several accounts of technical descriptions of operations, other animal patients, and a delve into his personal life as he reveals his daughter's cystic fibrosis. This is a must read for pet owners! I will especially remember his advice to view cancer remission in dog years vs. human years. Hence, one year's time in remission doesn't seem to be much when viewed from the perspective of a human. However, from a dog's point of view, it equals 7 years of chasing squirrels, getting petted, sleeping next to its owner, etc.
Profile Image for Rachel.
349 reviews4 followers
September 18, 2018
“Cancer is not the same as death”

“But how could a dog with terminal cancer be so lucky”

“And when she finally gets her first opportunity to live a decent life, a real dogs life, this goddamn awful disease comes along, determined to sweep it out from under our feet”

Helen is a spaniel rescued from the streets to a good home. Abused and not taken care of this couple take her in, only to find out their new family member has terminal lung cancer. Reading how a women determined to keep her alive for a summer to give her a proper doggy vacation was so sweet. The dog lived for 20 months after surgery. She got her little true dogs life.

Then there is Cleo and oh my that broke my heart. How she kept breaking until she broke on the operating table. How the wonders respected and didn’t blame the vet but were happy they got to know her and be a part of her life. This story was so sweet.

The author wrote about these two stories connecting and how Cleo would chose happiness and optimism to give others great lives! How Cleo would of been Helen’s friend.

Profile Image for David Szatkowski.
866 reviews
January 20, 2019
This is the second book by Dr. Trout that I've read. I have enjoyed them both. They are wonderfully written, and give insight into the joy that animals bring into our lives. If you enjoyed the "All Creatures Great and Small"series (either books or TV), then I would recommend this. I listened to this as an audio book, which was a good choice for this book.
Profile Image for Theresa Marie.
24 reviews2 followers
June 14, 2020
As a current Veterinary student this book reminds me of the many reasons the human-animal bond is so cherished. Great afternoon porch reading (meaning that I finished this book in one long sitting with several cups of tea) ❤🐾
Profile Image for Linda.
3 reviews
December 4, 2020
I cannot get enough of Dr. Trout’s books! I don’t know if I identify because I work in a veterinary surgical practice, or because I have my own pets, but his ability to convey what it is like to be a veterinary professional is amazing. If I ever move back to the cold of the northeast, I want to work with Dr. Trout!
Profile Image for Patricia.
1,284 reviews
January 18, 2021
This was a fabulous book. There are times I feel a book becomes available on my list and I happen to read it just at the right time. I have been coping with the illness of my beloved dog, Rudy and this book put so much into perspective. I so much appreciate it. Nick Trout is a veterinarian and he tells the story not only of the animals but their owners.
Profile Image for Dianne.
76 reviews
June 18, 2021
Thank you for this extraordinary read. Sentient and spiritual beings often have more than two legs and frequently look much different than our human relatives, yet they have so much to offer and deserve respect, love and gratitude. Wonderful reminders of what is truly important.
Profile Image for Dee.
1,416 reviews
September 19, 2017
its always interesting listening to the introspection of individuals who we place our trust in (doctors, vets) and how they face their own experiences and mistakes to help make them better at what they do
261 reviews
September 16, 2018
I thought this book would be funny, but it was quite serious. Even though it wasn't what I expected, I enjoyed it very much. It's very touching and the themes of love in it can be applied to people's relationships as well as pet owners' love for their pets.
Profile Image for Bob.
95 reviews2 followers
August 25, 2019
This a wonderful book! Trout delivers a brilliantly heartwarming and enlightening account of joys and heartbreaks he has faced as a veterinarian, and the lasting impact two amazing dogs had on his life.
Profile Image for Marilyn Johnson.
27 reviews2 followers
June 17, 2020
You had me at dog. Ok, I'm a sucker for dog bios. I inhaled this book. Dr. Trout brings his characters to life and best yet, these are the kind of people you want to befriend. This book hooked me emotionally in a good way and gave me insight into the thoughts of a veterinarian, at least, this veterinarian.
Profile Image for Audrey Rollins.
7 reviews2 followers
April 5, 2021
This was such a great one to read right before I start my clinical year. Reminder about all the wonderful lessons we learn from the animals we get to treat
Profile Image for Margo.
559 reviews2 followers
November 15, 2021
3.5+ stars. Remarkable stories of two real dogs in a time of need, and their impact on their owners and the vet who tried to help them. I would certainly read more by Nick Trout.
63 reviews
January 22, 2020
I like his writing style. Additionally, as a healthcare professional, I really appreciate the inside workings of an animal hospital. I love comparing the animal hospital and care of animals to that of humans. This is nonfiction, which adds to the appeal.
Profile Image for Christine Goodnough.
Author 4 books11 followers
February 6, 2020
Overall I enjoyed the book and the two stories very much. There were places where I found the philosophical musings a bit long-winded and deep, so I skimmed over some of those paragraphs, but overall the story is inspiring and definitely informative. A look behind the scenes, at veterinary medicine from the doctor's view.
304 reviews
December 2, 2022
I enjoyed reading this book of a veterinary's experiences with dogs and their owners and what we can learn from each other.
Profile Image for Peggy.
11 reviews
March 31, 2020
This is my second Nick Trout book. After enjoying The Wonder of Lost Causes, I looked for a followup of his to read. I’m a fan because I’m an animal lover. His stories of his work as a surgeon in the animal hospital are inspiring. We recently lost our beloved peke and I relate so well to the families in this book.
11 reviews
July 3, 2019
As both a pet lover and a vet pharmacy tech - I loved this book.
Profile Image for Angela.
169 reviews4 followers
June 28, 2019
A must read for pet owners - whichever animal you choose to love be it dog, cat, bird, etc. - this book will make you think, laugh and cry. Beautifully written and heartfelt. I'm not sure how Dr. Trout faces each challenging case but it appears he has a heart of gold and certain animals and owners leave traces of themselves in his life.
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