Author Tags: Agriculture, Women

"a modern-day James Herriot, B.C. style." -- Vancouver Sun

Raised in Casino, a small community near Trail, B.C., David Perrin started his veterinary practice in Creston, B.C. in 1973 and remained there until 1998, after which he began writing and self-publishing humourous and heartwarming books about his career. He had attended Selkirk College and UBC (1968-1969) and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at Saskatoon (1969-1973). During his practice in Creston he published two papers in the Canadian Veterinary Journal, one on the outbreak of Bacillus cereus mastitis and another on a case of chronic copper toxicity in a dairy herd. He was one of the founders and inaugural president of Associated Veterinary Purchasing Company that distributes drugs and equipment to veterinarians in B.C. Perrin also became a partner in Cascade Pacific Power Corporation, owner of a Goat River power plant purchased from West Kootenay Power. In 1998 he and his family moved to Hawaii where he wrote the first of his 'hilarious and earthy' memoirs. He returned to build dream home under the Skimmerhorns in the peaceful farming community of Lister, B.C., in the Kootenays, where he continued to work as a veterinarian. His medical adventures during this period are described in Never Say Die: New Adventures from the Country Vet. It climbed as high as number two on the cross-Canada TBM BookManager bestseller list compiled from the sales records of 250 retail outlets.

His non-comical book Keep Sweet, about the polygamous Mormon Fundamentalist community at Bountiful, B.C., was not published merely to capitalize on the notoriety of the sect. Perrin married a woman in 1982 who, as a teenager, had broken away from the Mormon community in Lister. He consequently met Debbie Palmer shortly after his marriage. He and Palmer later co-wrote Keep Sweet, Children of Polygamy (Dave's Press, 2004) and earned the VanCity Book Prize in 2005. Herself the oldest of 47 children, Palmer was forced to become the sixth wife of the community’s leader when she was 15. Assigned to two other older men after that, she fled in 1988 and has since been profiled on CBC’s Fifth Estate. Perrin had provided veterinary services to the Mormons over the years so he had some foreknowledge of the subject prior to helping Palmer write her memoir.


Don’t Turn Your Back In The Barn: Adventures of a Country Vet (Dave's Press, 2000)

Dr. Dave’s Stallside Manner: More Adventures of a Country Vet (Dave's Press, 2002)

Where Does It Hurt? Further Adventures of a Country Vet (Dave's Press, 2003) 0-9687943-2-7, $23.95

Keep Sweet: Children of Polygamy (Dave's Press, 2005). With Debbie Palmer. 0-9687943-3-5

Never Say Die... New Adventures of a Country Vet (Dave's Press, 2006). 0-9687943-5-1, $23.95

When the Going Gets Tough: Still More Adventures of a Country Vet (Dave's Press, 2010). $23.95 978-0-9866569-0-3

A Dog to Give Away (Dave's Press 2017) $12.95 978-0-9866569-7-2

[BCBW 2017] "Medicine" "Agriculture" "VanCity" "Women"

Don’t Turn Your Back In The Barn: Adventures of a Country Vet (Dave’s Press $23.95)

Pulling calves before the sun’s up, deworming smelly and occasionally lustful goats or removing a dog’s ruptured spleen in the middle of the night: the life of a country vet never lets up. Dr Dave Perrin, on the line from Creston says one must weigh such demands against the benefits. “You can be so exhausted that you can hardly stay awake, and yet when you pull a calf through a cow’s side and you see the eyes open, it’s such a fantastic feeling.

Don’t Turn Your Back In The Barn: Adventures of a Country Vet by Dr David Perrin (Dave’s Press $23.95) is a humorous and vivid account of his first year as a vet on a shoestring budget. “I started my practice much the way I self-published this book, with a wing and a prayer. I had a 1963 Volkswagen and eight thousand dollars in student loans and I made up my mind I was going to start a practice and make the most of it.”

Fresh out of Saskatoon’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine, he opted for a rural practice not far from his childhood home in the West Kootenays. He packed surgical instruments, a bachelor’s food rations and a box of playful kittens into an abandoned log cabin overlooking the Creston plateau where his grandparents had lived years before. It was a cheap way to set up shop. “A leaky roof had left gyproc and paper dangling from the ceiling and walls, but a myriad of spiders had done its best to weave a matrix to hold the structure together.” Messages from prospective clients were relayed through a party line of farmers, pet lovers and friends eager to see him establish a name for himself.

Years of veterinary school theory were quickly put to the test. The morning after performing surgery on a calf’s twisted bowel, he imagined the worst. “From the time I got out of bed, my thoughts revolved around the pathetic little creature we had done surgery on the day before. One minute, I pictured her tearing across the pasture as if nothing had ever been wrong. The next, I jerked myself back to reality and saw her lying there bloated, with her feet in the air.” As it turned out, this calf did live to kick up its heels. Perrin’s confidence blossomed, and it wasn’t long before he was moving into an office in town seeking an assistant. A local widow named Doris didn’t flinch when she was called upon at a moment’s notice to help save a cat crushed by a farmer’s truck. She got the job.

Perrin covered the countryside, resetting dislocated hocks on horses; stomping through manure piles to conduct pregnancy checks on heifers and performing caesareans on mountainside pastures. That first year also included a memorable encounter of the human variety. “When you’re a young country vet and going to a small town you’re fair game. I got this call from an under-appreciated woman who had a mess of kids, and her husband didn’t pay her much attention. She decided to get some extracurricular activity, and claimed her cow was sick. It was after hours, and when I got to the barn there was this woman--a good looking woman at that--with nothing on but a negligee. Fortunately I had Doris with me.”

English vet James Herriot didn’t begin writing his stories about animals and his beloved Yorkshire dales until he turned 50. After 26 years practicing in the Kootenays, Dave Perrin felt compelled to do the same, with a focus on being as realistic as possible. “Herriot took a picture in the 50s, 60s and 70s. I felt like I wanted to take a picture in the 80s and 90s. Some practitioners are dead on their feet - for long periods of time. They go day after day with hardly any sleep - one caesarean after another.” Perrin tells a good story, and there’s enough detail about maneuvering a breeched calf or amputating a cat’s leg to satisfy the curious - not to mention aspiring students of veterinary medicine. The doctor’s compassion for animals and admiration for people who treat them with respect and dignity underscores each of these stories. Box 616, Lister, B.C., V0B 1Y0; 0-9687943-0-0

[Mark Forsythe / BCBW 2001]

"Where Does It Hurt?"
Press Release (2003)

Further Adventures of a Country Vet

For 26 years, Dr. Dave Perrin served as a country veterinarian in the rural but colourful Creston Valley of Southern British Columbia. Where Does It Hurt? continues to chronicle his journey with all new stories, bringing back familiar faces and offering up more loveable country characters. These stories of calamity, adventure and humour provide a passionate glimpse into the life of a country doctor torn between nature’s odds and human expectations.

Originally self-published in 2000, and in its fourth reprint, Don’t Turn Your Back in the Barn was also on Quill & Quire’s national paperback nonfiction bestsellers list. This first book sold more than 25,000 copies in Canada, and was also published in the US, Australia and New Zealand. Don’t Turn Your Back in the Barn, and the second book, Dr. Dave’s Stallside Manner, were simultaneously in the Top 10 of the Association of Book Publishers of BC’s Bestseller list in 2002. Stallside Manner has sold 20,000 copies.

VanCity Prize (2005)
Press release

“Keep Sweet: Children of Polygamy” wins 2005 Vancity Book Prize

Vancouver, August 31, 2005 – An intimate memoir of girlhood and womenhood within the patriarchal system of a Mormon Fundamentalist community has taken the 2005 Vancity Book Prize.

Written by Debbie Palmer and co-authored by Dave Perrin (Dave Press and Sandhill Book Marketing), this compelling work takes the reader into the plural marriages and daily lives of children, sister-wives, husbands and leaders in communal Mormon Fundamentalist communities in North America. Debbie Palmer grew up in the Mormon Fundamentalist community of Bountiful near Creston, BC. Her father had six wives. Dave Perrin is known for his popular books about his life as a Kootenay veterinarian.

Vancity Book Prize runners up include “Winning Choice on Abortion: How British Columbian and Canadian Feminists won the Battles of the 1970s and 1980s” (Trafford) by Ann Thomson and “Mariah Mahoi of the Islands” (New Star) by Jean Barman.

Vancity Book Prize was founded in 1992 and is one of the most lucrative literary awards in BC. It is designed to raise awareness of women’s issues while recognizing B.C. writers’ contribution to the literary community. Winners receive $3,000 from Vancity, and $1,000 from the BC Ministry of Community Services to be donated to the charity of the winner’s choice.

“Among many excellent books in this years' submissions ,the judges chose “Keep Sweet” because of its powerful subject matter,” says Reva Dexter, Vice-chair of Vancity’s Board of Directors. “Polygamy has been somewhat of a taboo subject due a misguided concept that deeply held religious beliefs somehow supercede societal obligations. The judges ranked this disturbing memoir not only because of its literary merits, but also because we felt more citizens need to be aware of this phenomenon. This award will ensure that the plight of children of polygamy will surface from the darkness of betrayal into the light of knowledge and truth.”