Dedicated to animals
I grew up on a dairy farm in the Netherlands. My parents said that when I was less than 3 years old, I was already taking care of a chicken that was crippled. When I was 12 years old, the local veterinarian let me help deliver piglets at my brother’s place. I was lying in the straw and up to my shoulders in the sow, trying to get the pigs out. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a vet.
The feel of fur
My wife’s mother was a widow for quite a while. She didn’t want any animals, but we just brought her a cat. There are real health benefits to rubbing your hands through fur. It’s been proven that dogs and cats can lower your blood pressure. For older people who are alone, it’s good to have something alive in the house. Petting an animal provides peace of mind.
Animals accept people for who and what they are. If you treat an animal right, it will reward you with unconditional love. We come home and our pets (a Great Dane, a Saint Bernard, a Newfoundland, three cats, two Friesian horses, and a menagerie of peacocks, pheasants, turkeys, chickens, ducks and tropical fish) are happy to see us. Just like people are happy when they feel wanted. It feels good. That’s what people need in this world — a little more love, instead of hate.
Favorite animal movie
Beethoven. We have a 250-pound Saint Bernard. He’s the most lovable dog.
The longer I work with animals, the smarter they get. If you let an animal tell you what it thinks it wants or what’s going on, it can save lives. I saw this lady about eight months ago who has diabetes. Her husband was taking care of her but passed away. Her little foo-foo dog has taken over for him. The dog blows in her ear to wake her up if he suspects something’s wrong. Nobody taught that dog to do that.
Keeping it real
What you see on the [Nat Geo Wild] show is real family life. In the beginning a producer wanted me and my son, Charles, to get into a fight for the cameras. I said, “I’m not going to do it; our family loves each other.” My glass is always half full. I think that’s what people are looking for and why the show is so popular. My wife, Diane, and I go to church every Sunday, and we believe in treating others how we would want to be treated.
Sometimes people want to keep animals almost too long. I don’t like to see this. If the animal has problems getting up and around — even with medication — or he’s pooping in the house even though he’s been housebroken for 15 years, maybe it’s time to let go. Sometimes it’s a blessing for the animal. You have to accept death as a part of life.
Dr. Jan Pol, 76, is the star of The Incredible Dr. Pol on Nat Geo Wild.