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Local vet puts experiences into book


Many of us experience awkward moments now and again, but few manage to translate those experiences into funny tales to fill a book.

Dr. Andrew Peacock has given a voice to rural veterinarians, especially in Newfoundland, by sharing his experiences through a book that will be released Nov. 18.

Dr. Andrew Peacock, veterinarian, has more than a handful of stories to share with the world. And when you're working with some unusual species, including lynx, emus, moose and whales, you're bound to have a story or two to stir up a conversation.

In 1982, Peacock, and his wife, Ingrid, moved to Newfoundland from Ontario. The couple, who are both doctors, arrived totally blind to the language of the province.

It would be safe to say relocating from the big city to the community of Freshwater, Conception Bay, was culture shock.

Throughout Newfoundland, and especially in outports, there are countless variations in dialects. But Peacock was not prepared for the lack of punctuation or slang terms, at least not at first.

Fresh out of veterinary college, Peacock took the less travelled path of jumping into private practice. Only intending to stay for a couple of years in Newfoundland, Peacock retired after 30 years learning the language of Newfoundlanders, meeting and treating many species he likely would not have ever come in contact with in any other province and raising a family in this place he now calls home.

After gathering dozens of unique, and some humourous, stories over the years, he has translated them into a book.

Path to publication

"Creatures of the Rock: A Veterinarian's Adventures in Newfoundland," is getting released across North America this week, but the path to get there was not quite as Peacock would have thought.

"I have always been interested in writing a book," Peacock told The Compass Nov. 10 in a sit down interview at the Carbonear office. "But I didn't really know the process before."

Being his first book, he decided to ask around to other published authors, and learned there are three ways to have a book published - self-funded printing, mid-level publishers - like local businesses who publish books - or one of the five the major book companies in Canada.

Not knowing what path to take, he asked for some assistance from someone who knew the business through personal experience.

Peacock's brother Shane is a published author best known for The Boy Sherlock Holmes series. He advised Andrew to find an agent if he hoped to crack into the business through a major publisher. So began the hunt.

He was turned down several times before getting picked up by an agent in Vancouver, something almost unheard of in the local writing circuit. But the hard part appeared to be over.

Peacock's agent sent his manuscript to the big five. What followed was quite surprising; three wanted a piece of the Peacock pie.

After discussing his options, he decided to make a deal with prestigious publisher Penguin Random House Canada - an affiliate of the international company that goes by the same name. And now, a year later, the book is ready for release.

The book

After months of editing and tweaking by a senior editor at Penguin, the book was ready for publication. But what would the cover look like?

Normally, Peacock explained, several mock-ups are done for books. In his case, only one was considered.

The pale yellow sleeve has received much praise so far, especially from Peacock. Gracing the front of the book are a pair of dirty and worn green rubber boots, a stethoscope and a baby chick, with his head cocked slightly.

Seeing the photo brings the meaning of the book in focus; stories of a rural Newfoundland veterinarian.

Although many of Peacock's stories have humour, there is a sprinkling of mixed emotions throughout the book. Some stories teach lessons, like dealing with the death of a pet, while others reveal the interesting and quirky personalities of some of Peacock's clients.

"The nature of telling stories; the funniest (ones) are of things that have gone wrong," Peacock explained. "But some stories are quite sad. One of the realities is we lose (pets)."

The dialogue is written the same way a Newfoundlander would talk - rapid, without breaks and with jargon.

Experience

Peacock uses the book to introduce people to the unique experience of living in Newfoundland, and many he has spoken to over the past few years believe there is plenty to write about.

"When I tell people I've written stories about rural people and their animals, they've said, 'You'll have no trouble finding funny stories,'" Peacock smiled, recalling past conversations.

One of the fears he had about the book was it wouldn't radiate with a wide range of audiences. He has since learned that is not the case.

While on a bicycling trip in Turkey, he shared stories with those he met.

"They laughed," he said. "A lot of the humour is self-deprecating. And a lot of it is about the way people and animals interact."

But, the central theme, which ties the stories together, is about the move to Newfoundland.

"Ultimately, it's about becoming part of the place you've come to," he said.

Release

The book's official release is set for Nov. 18. It will be available where all Penguin books are sold.

Starting this week, Peacock tours Ontario and Newfoundland, with the intention of visiting other provinces in the Spring.

On Saturday, Nov. 22, Peacock will make his first Newfoundland stop in his home community of Freshwater. At 2 p.m. he will be at the United Church Hall for an event open to the public.

The following Saturday, he will be at Chapters in St. John's.

"It's exciting to know that people from all over the world will get to read about our (community)," Peacock said.

Melissa.jenkins@tc.tc

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