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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Tales of a Vet Nurse by Jade Pengelly


Tales of a Vet Nurse is full of fascinating stories by Jade Pengelly about the highs and lows of her job in both the UK and New Zealand.


She starts with a nightmarish tale about a soot-covered border collie called Duke, who was brought into the clinic by a very distraught woman. The dog was locked inside when her house caught fire in her absence. The veterinary team miraculously managed to pull him through from the brink of death after his horrific ordeal.

Sometimes too, terrible injuries had to be dealt with, as in her story about a puppy. A neighbour’s dog had bitten off most of its paw, leaving only one toe. After some very skilful surgery, it made a remarkably good recovery.


When pets swallow an object which they shouldn’t, surgery may be required to remove it. She tells a funny story about a Golden Labrador who had swallowed a used condom to the great embarrassment of his owner.


There were some delightful surprises, too, like the day when Goldie, a golden retriever, gave birth to 17 puppies by cesarian delivery, and they all survived.

Sadly, not all sick or injured animals can be saved despite the best of care. Jade would feel devastated when this happened. But the reality is that you simply cannot save every animal.


When she worked as a vet nurse in the UK there were creatures that you would never meet in a New Zealand veterinary clinic, like foxes, turtles and snakes. Jade has a snake phobia and was terrified of them, but the rest of her colleagues loved them!

She met most of these exotic animals when working for a vet who had a passion for wildlife, would go all out to save them, and was exceptionally talented at treating them. She was there to assist when he managed to create a prosthetic leg for a turtle. Any other vet would most likely have put it down.


Jade really enjoyed interacting with the pets’ owners. But there were a few exceptions. The worst times were when owners arrived who were simply tired of their pet and, although it was perfectly healthy, demanded that it be put down.

Owners could also get very stressed when their pets were sick. This was especially so during a Covid lockdown, which Jade spent in the UK, as clients were not allowed to come into the clinic to be there for their precious pets when they were dying.


In her book, Jade shares her own journey of how she became a vet nurse. Since childhood, all she had wanted was a job where she could look after sick animals and help them. She had hoped to get into Massey’s Veterinary School, but her grades were not high enough. She was devastated. But it turned out to be for the best as she trained as a vet nurse instead, and this proved to be a much better career choice for her.


While vets are very much in charge of the medical and surgical side of things, vet nurses care for the animal, spend time with them, observe them and treat them according to the vet’s diagnosis (and yes, cuddle them if that is what they need). That was the kind of caring profession that she had dreamt of.


Vet nurses do have some messy jobs to do, like cleaning out cages, but they also wear many other hats like anaesthetist, surgical assistant, groomer, phlebotomist, dental hygienist, X-ray technician and animal wrangler, to name a few. It is an extremely rewarding and skilled profession. The only downside is that it is not a well-paid job.


Tales of a Vet Nurse would make a wonderful gift for any youngster who loves animals and is wondering if being a vet nurse could be the job for them. It is a unique insider look at what the job entails.


But anyone, especially those who have a pet of their own and occasionally need to visit a vet clinic, would thoroughly enjoy it.


Reviewer: Lyn Potter

HarperCollins NZ



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