BUCKSPORT — Retired Bucksport veterinarian John H. Hunt calls his latest book “a labor of love.”
The latest creation by the former owner of the Bucksport Veterinary Hospital is titled “Why Does My Cat Look at Me Like That? Ponderings of a Small Town Veterinarian.” Hunt also is the author of “Ask the Vet: Concise Answers to Common Questions,” released in 1994.
Hunt sold his Bucksport practice in 2014 after 26 years. He now lives with his wife, Michelle, in the York County town of Eliot, but his voice can be heard on WERU Radio’s “Let’s Talk Animals: From Aardvarks To Zebras” at 10 a.m. every fourth Thursday and “Pet Sounds” from 7 to 7:30 a.m. every Sunday.
Despite its title, Hunt’s latest book isn’t all about cats. It’s about a lot of things affecting the lives of companion animals, from the serious to the amusing. The book is made up of dozens of bite-size, readable nuggets, one of which is titled, “Why does my pet pass gas all the time?”
Hunt leads with a simple answer: “Your dog passes gas because he has gas to pass.”
All kidding aside, the section goes on to provide a serious explanation of the causes of canine flatulence and the treatments. The entire section is just two pages.
“It’s like a coffee table book,” said “[Readers] really seem to enjoy the short topics, the varied topics.”
The title came during a phone conversation with his sister.
“All of the sudden, out of nowhere, my sister says, ‘John, why does my cat look at me like that?’” he said.
It seemed like the kind of question Hunt’s book would include and he does, in fact, answer that question, saying cats stare as a means of observing people and anticipating their next move. But, then he concludes, “You are free to make up any story you want because the actual reason will never be revealed.”
The cat pictured on the cover is Bruno. He belongs to illustrator Carol Castellan whose drawings also appear in the book. Photographer Rachel Bennett took the picture of Bruno looking at Hunt, who said he thought the shot worked for the cover.
In addition to the section on behavior, the book includes chapters on veterinary history, medical conditions, social issues, veterinarian responsibilities, alternative medicine and general care, followed by a wrap-up section called “Odds and Ends.”
The history section traces veterinary medicine in ancient Greece and the Wild West as well as a brief history of the horseshoe. The section concludes with a humorous list of 10 embarrassing missteps Hunt made as a veterinarian.
“These are all true, unfortunately. I have more but I take the Fifth Amendment,” he writes.
Information on pet care is available everywhere, especially online, but it is often presented in an uninteresting way, Hunt said. His idea was to take a personal approach. This was similar to how he worked as a veterinarian. He believes a successful vet will treat not only the animal’s ailment but also the whole animal and its relationship with its human family.
“What I wanted to be as a vet was someone who communicates and teaches,” he said. “I keep writing this stuff because I want to keep sharing these things.”
Hunt, who grew up in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., lived in Bucksport while running his veterinary practice. He believes it is important to live in the town where you work and enjoyed meeting and chatting with clients and other people when he was out in the community.
“I’m very happy that Bucksport embraced me as a businessman,” Hunt said. “The town was very nice to me.”
During his years as a veterinarian, he often visited schools where, he said, kids asked the darnedest things. One child asked him if his concern for animals made him decide to become a vegetarian.
“No adult has ever asked me that question,” said Hunt, who answers it in the last section of the book.
The individual essays in each section are based on topics discussed during the two WERU radio shows Hunt hosts. “Pet Sounds” is brief — as in two or three minutes long — and has aired for the past seven or eight years. Recent topics include dealing with seeing hurt or dying animals and how to treat dogs who lose hair around the collar.
“Let’s Talk Animals” is a more in-depth live show, which has run for about three years, lasts an hour and offers listeners a chance to call in. The August show covered the process of setting up a veterinary practice. Earlier shows were about topics such as a horse doctor and unleashing dogs.
Each “Let’s Talk Animals” show include a guest interview and two or three short pieces on related subjects, which Hunt has turned into the articles that serve as the basis for his book. Writing, editing and getting everything ready for publication took five or six years.
“I have more [articles] since the publication of the book,” he said.
For instance, he is planning a show on dog catchers, including the history of the job. He referenced an old saying that a person “couldn’t get elected as a dog catcher,” adding he wants people to rethink the insult.
“The dog catchers really do play an important role,” he said.
Hunt drives to the WERU studio in East Orland once a month to host his live show and pre-record “Pet Sounds.” He still has many connections in Bucksport.
“It’s hard to be away from some place you spent almost half your life,” he said. “It’s just wonderful the connections you have with people at all levels. This is really what life is all about.”
Hunt said Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shops carries copies of his book, which any bookstore can order for a customer. It also can also be ordered through amazon.com.
Hunt’s radio shows are available for listening through the online WERU archives.
“WERU is great,” he said. “They kind of let me do what I want and they haven’t told me to stop.”