"You can’t always do much to change circumstances, so smile."

Dr. Walter R. Hoge, DVM, shares his considerable experience as a veterinarian and as a kind and thoughtful human being in this delightful collection of autobiographical essays. Each chapter addresses a unique topic, or thematic set of memories, and the non-linear format is fresh and appealing, allowing readers to skip around and enjoy their favorite stories while being in the moment with this remarkable man.

Not all the essays are about Hoge's veterinary work, and many have a practical Christian foundation that is never heavy or overbearing. In fact, readers will discover that this blend of science and spirituality is harmonious and steeped in the wisdom that comes from both ends of a necessary spectrum. Some of the sundry, fascinating topics that Hoge addresses are reflected in chapter titles: "Procrastinate or Straightway," "Good Intentions Going Bad May Not Be So Bad," "Every Life Is a Wonderful Story," "Curse and Hate Letters," "Sunflowers and Life," "Divine Intervention," "No One Likes a Frowning Face," "Life As It Is," "Sugar Beets and Falling Off the Truck," and "Value of Failure," among many other topics. The more personal essays include titles such as "Our Elf On the Shelf Nearly Started a Fire," "Sheep vs. Goats," "Toothpaste On the Mirror," "Who Packed My Parachute," and "Greyhounds and Al Capone," among many other timely and timeless topics.

Hoge has a pleasing way of ping-ponging from the general to the specific and back again—a good sign of a lively writer with an inquiring mind and the ability to engage readers. It's a refreshing surprise throughout the book to discover where Hoge's mind and spirit have led him as he records his observations on paper. He includes some of his life experiences from boyhood and his coming of age and also reveals much about his veterinary training and forty-five-year career as a veterinarian. Of course, a busy family life with his wife and five children (and later, seventeen grandchildren) spark many reflections.

Hoge also reveals much about his commitments to his physical and spiritual communities. There are many moral lessons in Hoge's writing, and he delivers these fables and aphorisms, many of which are quite profound, with wry humor and a light touch. It feels as if there's hardly anything that the author hasn't thought about or managed to include in these pages, from his experiences raising pigeons in boyhood, working in a mental health facility in Idaho during his high school years, sketches about meeting and courting his future wife, and a plethora of other relatable incidents with both human and non-human beings, whether livestock, domestic pets, or those critters that live in the wild under nature's umbrella.

In one chapter, Hoge writes about the eminent American painter Norman Rockwell, and one can surmise that Hoge has a disposition much like Rockwell's: "Rockwell could have easily painted, as some say, 'life as it is.' He could have concentrated on scenes of his or others' sorrow and moments of misery. He might have painted the mean and nasty, the cruel and depraved." Instead, he notes, "Rockwell chose to look for the good, the kind, the simple and happy moments that make life worth living." Like Rockwell, Hoge has a pleasant and satisfying way of guiding readers along the path of his perspective and then leading them back home to reflect upon their own hearts. Plus, how can readers resist the lure of puppies and wallabies and ants and camels and sunflowers with the comfort of spiritual guidance along the way?

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