4 stories from Bruce R. Coston's vet memoir 'The Gift of Pets'

As a veterinarian, Bruce R. Coston has seen many kinds of animals, from the docile to the ill-behaved to the truly bizarre, come through his doors. From a dog who swallows rocks to a sugar glider who requires mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, Coston recalls the adventures of his professional life in his new memoir 'The Gift of Pets.'

1.Rock-swallowing dog

A beagle, one of the dog breeds which Coston said Greco resembled. Tom Uhlman/AP

One dog Coston treated was a mixed breed who swallowed a rock, which then blocked his intestines. Coston says the dog, Greco, was tough and seemed to be trying not to display any signs of weakness despite his pain. "Stoically, Greco stood as if planted on my examination table," he wrote. "Too macho to exhibit his discomfort overtly, he simply stared straight ahead, eyes fixed on the wall in front of him... staring at the wall as if engrossed in must-see TV." Coston operated on Greco, and the operation was successful. The veterinarian said the dog seemed to view the trouble as over and done with after the operation. "No sooner had Greco opened his eyes after surgery than he was trying to stand," Coston wrote. "Within another ten minutes, he was staggering drunkenly toward the door. His sentiments and intentions were unmistakable. 'Thanks, Doc,' he was saying. 'You did good. I'll take it from here. See ya later.' We literally had to tie him down till he was fully recovered."

Mistaken for college-age

David Goldman/AP

While he was still in high school, Coston was given the opportunity to speak with four equine doctors, then go on the rounds with one of them. Coston had cheerfully told the group that he was about to graduate, but was soon cowed by the questions the doctor asked him as they completed the rounds. Coston got almost all of them wrong, and the veterinarian, Dr. Evers, was looking more and more displeased. Coston was crestfallen, thinking the day had been a disaster so far. "Honestly, Bruce," Evers told him after a few visits with patients, "I have some real concerns about your readiness for practice." Coston, confused, told him he'd gotten straight A's all through school. "You're kidding me, right?" Evers asked. He was silent for a moment, then asked Coston about his plans. "I'll be working at camp this summer again," Coston said. "Then I'm headed to Tennessee for college." Evers looked at him, then burst out laughing. Evers and the other doctors had taken "senior" to mean senior in college and had been aghast that an almost-college graduate couldn't answer their questions correctly. "With that piece of vital information, I have to say that you have handled yourself amazingly well," Evers told him.

Hound dog

Beagles with their owners at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show Craig Ruttle/AP

Coston recalled a couple who owned a beagle named Branson who were devoted to the dog. "Both spoke in quiet, relaxed tones, seldom raising their voices," he wrote of the couple. "Neither was excitable beyond [a] quick and easy chuckle." Their dog Branson was their opposite. "We always had advance warning that he was coming, since Branson displayed another common beagle trait," Coston wrote. "As soon as the Kovacs put him in the car, he commenced to baying, a term that perfectly conveys the action... This mournful tune could be heard faintly at first, then more loudly, as the Kovacs' car neared the clinic. It reached an earsplitting crescendo as they eased into a parking space in front of the office. Listening to the racket, you expected to look out the window and find a pack of hunting dogs surrounding a treed raccoon. Instead, you just saw Branson in the backseat."

Recovering sugar glider

A sugar glider Julie Lewis/AP

A woman brought in her pet sugar glider to Coston's office after the sugar glider's tail appeared to be broken. Coston agreed that it was and told the sugar glider's owner that the tail would have to come off, as the animal was so active the tail would have no time to heal. Coston completed the surgery successfully, then removed the anesthetic mask from the face of the sugar glider, Perky. "I... watched for the respiratory movements of his chest wall," Coston wrote. "There were none. I felt a cold sweat pop up on my face." Coston gave the sugar glider mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. "With a wave of relief, I felt Perky's body stiffen and his legs give a quick jerk," he wrote. "How that animal went from dead to running around the treatment room in less than ten seconds, I will never know. But before I knew it, he had jumped from my hands onto the surgery table and then climbed the stainless-steel grate covering the sink. I had to throw a towel over him like a fishnet to gain enough control to place him back in his carrier."