I do a lot of channel surfing and streaming of TV shows – it’s part of my job to be a heavy consumer of media, TV included. How can I recommend a media type or buy a program for an advertiser that I haven’t personally watched? In the past, when hiring new media or channel planners or buyers, one of the questions I would always ask job candidates is what do they like to watch on TV? I typically wouldn’t hire someone who said, “I don’t watch TV that much, maybe a little PBS.” (I always thought they were being politically correct, and how could they have a job in media if they didn’t “consume” media?) I loved the candidates that would rattle off several shows, cable networks, etc., and show some excitement about media in general.
So last summer I was checking out National Geographic Wild which I had never watched before (some habits never die), checking it off my list so to speak. The name “National Geographic” sort of gives the stamp of approval of the programming it runs, but I wanted to check it out anyway. The afternoon I turned it on, they were running a marathon of “The Incredible Dr. Pol.” I was hooked – and started watching a few other veterinarian shows on NatGeoWild and Animal Planet, as well as streaming old episodes on NetFlix and Disney Plus.
During this time of social distancing, being quarantined, and working from home, I’ve been streaming even more older episodes and if you don’t watch them already, I’d recommend you check out some of these Vet shows – they are heart-warming, funny, very dramatic, and are a great diversion from the news, from reruns, from Zoom meetings and more.
Five Things I Learned:
But first, here are the top five things I’ve learned about watching these shows:
- How come the animal patients get their lab work back immediately and in my doctor’s office, it takes at least 24 hours to get mine?
- They do pregnancy checks on dairy farms. They line them up, then the Vet sticks his or her hand into their you know where! (They wear these very long plastic gloves.)
- Regardless of it’s a dog, cat, cow, horse, reindeer or moose, it’s so endearing and beautiful how the mommies immediately start washing their babies, nursing and taking care of them.
- Dogs get themselves in so many predicaments: from eating things they shouldn’t (rocks, electrical cords, socks, their own toys to name a few), to having close encounters with porcupines.
- There are a lot of three-legged cats in this world. Given the saying that “curiosity killed the cat” I’ve seen numerous episodes where the veterinarian has had to amputate the leg (up to the shoulder) of a cat. The curious feline either got stuck someplace (like under the hood of a car) and broke it beyond repair, got its paw and leg mangled in a trap, etc. But they bounce right back quickly and are no worse than the wear. In fact, on “The Incredible Dr. Pol,” one of the stars of the show is “Tater,” a 3-legged black cat who was adopted by the clinic after they saved its life.
Rankings of The Best Shows
So here are my top favorite shows (there are a lot more if you dig deeper on NetFlix or Disney Plus). There’s eight of them, couldn’t get to ten, because these are the ones I like the best. Again, these are rankings for the veterinarian shows, there are many other animal shows on TV all over the place! And there are many British veterinarian shows which I didn’t include if you care to check those out.
#1 – Dr. Oakley – Yukon Vet
(NatGeoWild and Disney Plus)
She’s a Wonder Woman! She makes house calls in the far reaches of Northern Canada where the houses may be separated by hundreds of miles. In addition to running an animal clinic out of her home in Haines Junction, Yukon — where she lives with husband Shane and their three daughters — Dr. Oakley also operates a satellite clinic 150 miles away and is the on-call vet for the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, which is about 100 miles from Haines Junction. While her patients are cats and dogs, cattle and horses, she handles all types of animals and probably treats more unusual animals versus the other shows – reindeer, bison, elk, eagles, muskox and more. I love it when the episode shows some interaction with her family as she juggles being a full-time Vet, wife and mom, and does so with a sense of humor, devotion and empathy.
#2 – The Incredible Dr. Pol (NatGeoWild and Disney Plus)
At 77, Dr. Jan Pol has more stamina and energy than most. Originally from the Netherlands, he started out as a Vet for large livestock, but eventually opened a clinic for all animals as people began asking him to treat their pets as well. On the air since late 2011, and in its 16th season, the show is one of NatGeoWild’s top hits. His no-nonsense, old school approach isn’t for everyone, and he has his critics about using older technology and approaches. His office isn’t new or glamorous, but it’s a big practice with lots of caring help, other smart Vets and his wife and son Charles who help keep the clinic running with him.
He refuses to reject any patient and has a sincere and passionate belief that he has a duty to provide care at a price his patients can afford (he’s in rural Michigan). He can come across as gruff, but he’s a softy at heart and loves to joke with kids and talk to the animals while he’s treating them. It’s fun to watch the family dynamics of this show, and his son Charles is a particularly interesting character. Warning, this show can get quite graphic. NatGeoWild often does marathons of this show, so you can find yourself rolling into one episode after the other and not notice that three hours have passed.
#3 – Heartland Docs, DVM (NatGeoWild)
This show just premiered this past January and features a husband and wife veterinary team, Drs. Ben and Erin Schroeder. You’ll get to see the Schroeders at work as they practice in Hartington, Nebraska at their clinic, Cedar County Veterinary Services. It offers a sharp contrast to “The Incredible Dr. Pol.” While both are rural mixed practices of companion and large animals, everything is up to date with the Heartland Docs. They have a large, state-of-the-art facility with slick exam and surgery rooms, and all the latest equipment that they use when making house calls.
Erin is especially engaging and loves all animals, and you’ll love the flirty dynamics between her and her husband Ben. Along with their two sons, Charlie and Chase, the doctors are always on the go as their veterinary practice cares for the region’s myriad of animals in need, including cows, pot-bellied pigs, llamas, deer and possum. But they are especially tender and caring with dogs and cats. As a result, the first season of eight episodes received widespread acclaim from fans and critics alike. While a new season hasn’t been announced yet, it is highly likely that it will be renewed. Interesting sidebar – the Schroeders were approached for a show by HGTV before NatGeoWild. But the couple politely declined the offer that revolved around their home-restoring business, since they’re primarily veterinarians.
#4 – The Vet Life
(Animal Planet and Amazon Prime)
Diarra Blue, Aubrey Ross and Michael Lavigne developed a strong friendship while attending Tuskegee University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. After years of paying their dues, which included honing their surgery skills in Las Vegas, they decided to pursue their dreams of owning their own practice together. In 2015, Cy-Fair Animal Hospital opened its doors in Dr. Ross’ home city of Houston. “The Vet Life” chronicles the doctors’ juggling act running the full-service hospital and animal shelter while managing family lives filled with spouses, parents, in-laws, children, pets and friends. The show has some drama, but it also covers the fun and comedic friendship the three Vets have with each other.
#5 – The Zoo/Secrets of the Zoo (all the Zoo shows are either on Animal Planet or NatGeoWild)
Both cable networks have several “zoo” shows, these are sort of like the NCIS and Law & Order primetime shows – many spin-offs but in different locations. Though not actually Vet shows, a good portion of each show involves treating an animal or two (doing surgery on a silverback Gorilla) for some ailment or just routine physicals (like the episode with the giraffes). If you watch enough episodes there will be several handlers, trainers and veterinarians you’ll enjoy watching, and all the shows give you a behind the scenes look of what happens in a zoo. I like them all, but check out “The Zoo” if you have to choose one — it’s filmed at the Bronx Zoo and many of the keepers are very engaging and interesting to watch.
#6 – Hanging with the Hendersons
(Animal Planet & Amazon Prime)
Animal Planet premiered this feel-good veterinary show early in 2019 after YouTube users swooned over a video of veterinarian Dr. Ross Henderson singing to a golden retriever before surgery. Supposedly, a new season is in the works. The show follows the Henderson family practice in Lakewood, Colorado. The Fox Hollow Animal Hospital was founded by Dr. Tony Henderson in 1996. It now includes Tony’s sons Dr. Ross and Dr. Ryan and technician assistant Cole, plus the extended clinic family and numerous pets, including Tony’s beloved golden retriever and sidekick, Lord Barrington. Drama and high stakes at the clinic with animals are part of the daily routine for this dynamic family but so are jokes, laughter and family camaraderie.
#7 – Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER (NatGeoWild and Disney Plus)
Dr. Susan Kelleher owns and operates a busy exotic animal care practice located in South Florida, Broward Avian and Exotics Animal Hospital. “Everything but dogs and cats. If it will fit through the door, I’ll treat it!” is Dr. K’s motto. Her patients include rabbits, reptiles and birds of all shapes and sizes, foxes, ferrets, fish, marsupials, and even primates. One of the featured veterinarians on the show was Dr. Laura Thielen, a young, enthusiastic and charming vet who was mentored by Dr. K. But last year she moved back to her hometown state of Texas, and low and behold, National Geographic gave Dr. Thielen her own show, the originally titled (pun intended) “Dr. T Lone Star Vet.”
#8 – Dr. T Lone Star Vet (NatGeoWild and Disney Plus)
Beloved veterinarian, Dr. Lauren Thielen or Dr. T as she is affectionately called, now has her own show (having been the bright, plucky and kind Vet who made people fall in love with her on “Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER.”) Like the other Vet shows on NatGeoWild, this new program has humor, drama and makes people feel better about all kinds of animals. Dr. T.’s departure from “Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER” last year was a tear-jerker (try to watch that episode), and like Dr. K, Dr. T specializes in exotic animals and birds. I really like Dr. T and Dr. K, and probably would have rated them higher by a position or two, except that I’m not a big fan of exotic animals, especially snakes and reptiles. But between these two shows I’m learning to appreciate them!
Do You Have Favorites?
Have you watched any of these or any of the other veterinarian shows? If so, which ones are your favorites? Let me know in the comments below!
Note: Photos courtesy of National Geographic WILD and Animal Planet