Animal attraction

Vet’s new book coincides with Seven Bends’ 20th anniversary

By Josette Keelor — jkeelor@nvdaily.com

As a veterinarian and owner of Seven Bends Veterinary Hospital in Woodstock for the last 20 years, Dr. Bruce Coston is never short on anecdotal stories of his clients and the animals they love. He had so many stories to tell that three years ago he published a book, “Ask the Animals,” through Thomas Dunne Books at St. Martin’s Press.

Now, only three years later, he has another book on the market, “The Gift of Pets: Stories Only a Vet Could Tell,” which pays tribute to the clients, patients, colleagues and mentors he has met through the years.

He has changed names, he said, but his clients might recognize themselves by description.

“It’s funny how people respond to their presence in the book,” Coston said. “They’re true stories, so not all of the stories are stories I necessarily tell in ways that the client would want to see.”

But, he said, “Telling the stories is way more about the story than the person.”

That the book release coincides with Seven Bends’ 20th anniversary is also anecdotal, but it offers a certainty that Coston will have many more stories to tell in the future.

In the book he talks about jotting down notes for future books while interviewing clients on patients’ symptoms, just in case they’ll contribute to future stories. A book he’s planning next takes a different angle, though, offering a look at Biblical animals. He also hopes to write a novel about a dog.

“The Gift of Pets” tells “the significant things that pets bring to our lives,” Coston said on a recent afternoon at the office.

“There’s the story of the dog that broke its leg and we did surgery to repair it,” Coston said. After the ordeal, the dog fell in love with him and soon started looking for ways to return to the vet’s office.

“Dog figured out that if she jumped in the creek, she could come and see me,” he said. She did this about eight times before her wound healed, he said.

Another time, Coston said, a Boston terrier contributed to its hospital bill after Coston fished 76 cents out of the dog’s stomach. Pennies, he said, are mostly zinc, which is extremely toxic when consumed in high proportions.

Already the book has landed on the L.A. Times Summer Reading List, “Which is a big deal,” Coston said, and received glowing reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus Reviews.

This book is much like the first one, he said, but it also delves into his beginnings in the veterinary field, discussing some of his stories with his mentor Dr. Virgil Boyd on dairy farms in Minnesota, when Coston was 17.

In this book, Coston features several stories on a former vet technician, Lisa, who returned to school to study veterinary medicine after working at Seven Bends.

“My favorite story is Lisa,” Coston said. “It’s a great story but it’s also a difficult story.”

“People will get to meet Lisa and see what she was like,” he said. “It’s quite a touching story.”

After completing veterinary school in 1987, Coston interned for a year in Rochester, N.Y., and then worked at a practice in Waynesboro. Three years later he moved to Woodstock and started his own practice with his wife Cynthia, who is Seven Bends’ bookkeeper. They moved the business to its current location in 2006 and last month became the fifth veterinary hospital in Virginia licensed to practice nuclear medicine.

The license allows Seven Bends to use radioactive iodine therapy on hyperthyroid cats, Coston said, something that actually is fairly common in cats.

“So it’s pretty exciting to be able to offer that service now,” he said, and Seven Bends can offer the medicine for significantly less than Northern Virginia, Virginia Tech, Richmond and Virginia Beach can because of a grant from the Tracy Webb Memorial Foundation.

According to the license, Coston said, cats who need the service are admitted on a Monday to be treated and are released on Friday. The license limits the hospital to offering nuclear medicine specific to one radioactive isotope, as well as the amount the hospital can have on site each month, and the number of cases the hospital can take each week.

On Tuesday Seven Bends, at will host an open house celebrating its 20th anniversary, which Coston called “an amazing thing.” Hospital tours will be available to visitors, as well as refreshments and pictures of animals featured in Coston’s book. He’ll also be available for a book signing.

Each of his books is, he said, “a vet’s eye view of pets and the people they love.”

Bruce Coston’s book “The Gift of Pets: Stories Only a Vet Could Tell,” is available at Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Amazon.com and most other booksellers. For more information, visit BruceCoston.com. Seven Bends Veterinary Hospital, at 1121 Hisey Ave. in Woodstock will host an open house from 5 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday. For more information, call 459-8387.