Ever since he can remember, Kenneth Cohn, DVM, wanted to work with animals. “As a child, right from the beginning, I knew that being a veterinarian was exactly what I wanted to do,” says Cohn. Drawing from his 38-year career in St. Louis and Tucson, Cohn has written a book to pass along his wisdom and entertaining stories of pets and their owners, “Laughter and Tears: A Veterinarian’s Memoir and Advice.”
“Whenever we would go out someplace and I would start telling some stories, people would love them and tell me I should write a book,” says Cohn, who is now semi-retired and only makes occasional house calls. While he was working full-time, he didn’t pay much attention to the request. “As I had more time, I found that I was running into a few very interesting stories that were needing to be written.”
When Cohn and his wife, Sharon, moved to Tucson in 2008, their intention was to find a place to retire that would cater to their changing lifestyle. “We wanted to go to a place that had a co-housing community, which never got off the ground in St. Louis, and we wanted a place where we would be able to be outdoors and hike and camp,” says Cohn. While Tucson met their requirements, the move happened a bit sooner than they had anticipated. “Everything I read said that selling my practice should take about five years, so I waited until my wife was about three years away from her retirement to do some simple advertising, and someone was interested right away.” After negotiating for a year, the Cohns came to Tucson and found a home to rent in a co-housing community.
When Sharon retired, the two set out on a year-and-a-half long RV trip. On a pass through Tucson, they discovered that a home in the community in which they were renting was for sale, so they decided to buy. “We bought the unit, finished our trip over the next year, and then came back,” says Cohn. After their trip, Cohn was ready to begin writing his book.
Cohn realized that he needed to write in a way that would appeal to a broad audience. “I found that I would get into a story, and then I would start to lecture like I would in person to a pet owner, but I realized that people did not necessarily want to read all of that while they were enjoying the stories,” says Cohn. Not wanting to forgo the lessons he felt that readers could use, Cohn created a veterinary reference section in the back of the book, which he refers to as needed in each chapter.
What makes “Laughter and Tears” different from other veterinary memoirs is the way in which Cohn introduces each chapter. “The entire book is written around the lifespan of my last cat. I condensed 36 years of veterinary medicine into his 18-year lifespan. I decided that it would be interesting to have him narrate from his perspective at the beginning of the book, even though it is a nonfiction book,” says Cohn. After receiving positive feedback, Cohn decided that the following chapters would open with a narration from each of the other pets he adopted during the cat’s life. “It was so much fun thinking about what each pet thought about living with me, and my rules.”
Currently working on his next book, a fictional murder-mystery involving a pit-bull, Cohn hopes that if nothing else, readers take one lesson from his veterinary memoir: “More than anything, people should pay attention to the food they are buying for their pets. Obesity is a problem for pets, too, and so many other health problems can be avoided with the right food.”
“Laughter and Tears: A Veterinarian’s Memoir and Advice” is available locally at Antigone Books and in print and as an e-book on amazon.com.
Laura Wilson Etter is a freelance journalist, grant writer and artist in Tucson.