'Doc' Writes About Dogs She Knows

December 27, 1991|By Gina Spadafori | Gina Spadafori,McClatchy News Service

There are three things that matter to veterinarian Wendy Furie:

* Animals, especially hound dogs.

* Rural Maryland, especially her family's 30-acre farm in Frederick County.

* Writing, especially about animals and rural Maryland.

"As a kid I doodled around with stories," she said. "It's something that sort of stuck with me as I got older."

The result of Dr. Furie's lifelong avocation is two slim volumes of warm, often funny short stories, "The Doc Poe Reader" and "Mo' Doc Poe." The main character in all the stories, Doc Roy Poe, is a middle-aged rural veterinarian, a man who feels out of place in the big city and won't put down a dog unless it's suffering.

Dr. Furie, 35, quit a job in Baltimore a few years back to return to her farm and start a rural practice that combines work on large animals, house pets and hound dogs. She has 26 dogs, many of which were brought to her to be euthanized. And only her family calls her Wendy; most people call her "Doc."

"I didn't have the guts to write with my own name, so Doc Poe is me, slightly fictionalized," she admitted. "Every one of the Doc Poe stories is based on something real."

Docs Poe and Furie take their responsibilities seriously, despite their self-effacing manners. In one of the saddest and most deeply touching stories, Dr. Furie tells of the last days of an ancient beagle:

"Leader had had a very unremarkable life. He had never pulled a child from a train track, never bit a famous person. The years crept by and his birthdays added up -- 15, 16, 17 years. When a dog gets that old, you're so used to having him around that you can't imagine how life was without him. You start to think he might live forever. . . .

"Some folks thought that being a vet made it easier when the dog to be put to sleep was your own. Doc knew otherwise. . . .

"There came a familiar howl from the bedroom. Doc checked his watch: It had been an hour since the last dose of painkiller. He took the phone off the hook. He rolled the syringe in his fingers. He entered the bedroom and shut the door quietly behind him."

Dr. Furie sighed, remembering the passage. It's one of her favorite pieces.

"That one was true, right down to the names of the dogs," she said. "There were a lot of tears on the pages as I wrote it.

"I can't get used to losing a dog. If it doesn't hurt to lose one, maybe you won't fight so hard next time."

Other stories are considerably cheerier. Like the one where Doc Poe, an avid participant in beagle trials, is revealed as too much of a softy to shoot rabbits. Except that he disguises his feelings by pretending to be the county's worst shot, and becomes the butt of some not-so-gentle teasing because of it. Or the one where he decides to get tough and start charging more -- like city vets -- but ends up charging less.

Dr. Furie runs her practice and her life pretty much the same way.

"I work out of my home," she said. "I do most of my calls out of a little old Honda, 10 years old with 106,000 miles on it. Maybe it's not the right way to run a practice, but it's my way. I'm enjoying the way I'm doing it."

Her writing successes are modest, but just as satisfying to her as her practice. The first volume of Doc Poe stories, published by a small regional press, sold less than 200 copies.

"The first one came out in September of 1990," she said. "It didn't do so well and I guess I can't blame them for not wanting the second one."

Dr. Furie put out the second book herself, preparing the stories for publication on an electric typewriter -- she won't touch a computer -- and drawing the illustration for the cover. The second volume has so far sold a little more than 100 copies. Undaunted, she's working on a third book now.

"I probably give away just as many as I sell," she said. "It doesn't matter. As long as people tell me they enjoy reading them, I'll keep writing them."

"The Doc Poe Reader" is available for $7 from University Editions, 59 Oak Lane, Spring Valley, Huntington, W.Va. 25704. "Mo' Doc Poe" is also $7, but must be ordered from Furie's Honest Dog Bookshiller, 6006 Linganore Road, Frederick 21701.

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