The Incredible Dr. Pol

By Lisa Wogan, February 2012, Updated February 2015

Large-animal veterinarians put in long hours and spend lots of time on the road, visiting farms in sparsely populated rural areas. It can be bitter cold or swelteringly hot, and is often muddy work. These challenges, plus an ever-shrinking number of people involved in agriculture, have been driving a shortage of large-animal and mixed-practice veterinarians nation-wide. As of last fall, 1,300 counties did not have a single doctor for farm animals, according the American Veterinary Medical Association. And the problem was expected to get worse.
Time for a game-changer. Enter Dr. Jan Pol, unlikely star of National Geographic Wild’s “The Incredible Dr. Pol,” a sort of James Herriot reboot for the reality TV crowd. The 69-year-old Dutch immigrant with a mixed practice in Central Michigan brings an engagingly cantankerous manner to his work. He can be brusque and even a little biting with people, especially with his city-slicker son, Charles, but you never doubt that he’s a truly compassionate, committed and effective vet.
Whether he’s untwisting a cow’s stomach or yanking an astonishing number of quills out of a Hound’s muzzle, Dr. Pol gets the job done with a minimum of drama, which makes for really good TV—and maybe, for some, inspiration for a career.

Article first appeared in The Bark, Issue 68: Jan/Feb 2012

(C) Jon Schroder

Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of several books including Dog Park Wisdom.