Animals

You’d be forgiven for thinking, if you know me well, that I’m about to launch into some kind of blog about the Pink Floyd album with the same name (which is, I have to say, a very good album). But no, this is really about ‘animals’ – or, more specifically, about household pets.

I’ve just finished reading Dr.Nick Trout’s latest book ‘Ever By My Side’. Nick is a veterinarian. He grew up and trained in the UK but since shortly after qualifying as a veterinary surgeon he has worked almost exclusively in the US. In his first book (which I also narrated: Tell Me Where It Hurts) he described several of the cases he has worked with in his time at the Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston. In his latest he takes a more autobiographical look back at his personal experience with his own (and his family’s) feline and canine companions.

I must confess here that occasionally I am driven to tears by the material I read. Nick’s first book had one passage which I had to read several times before I was able to keep my emotions enough under control to allow the reader to experience their own truth of that particular moment in the story. But this time he had me going three or four times at least.

***************************

Those of you who have had no experience of growing up with pets may not understand what all the fuss is about. But I had the company of pets throughout my childhood. In my parent’s house I knew three dogs and four cats (not to mention a great many goldfish). Sandy was an Irish terrier, Mandy a black Labrador and Candy a Beagle. Smokey was a British Blue, Whisky and Frisky were Siamese and there was a ginger cat called Shandy (do you think we had a thing for rhyming names?).

But the pets that mean the most are those I had a part in choosing myself. Shortly after my first marriage my then wife and I went to pick up a kitten from a friend who had several. Needless to say we came home with two – Charlie and Champers we called them (something to do with ‘Champagne Charlie’). Charlie (he) was shorthaired and Champers (she) was longhaired.

After the end of that marriage both cats came with me, eventually surviving a long journey to settle in California. Charlie died at 11 years old – he hadn’t been well for a while and one day he crawled to his favorite place under the bed and left his mortal remains for us to find a few hours later. After Charlie left us Champers became a much friendlier cat – they’d neither of them been lap cats and that didn’t change, but she certainly sought our company much more often.

Champers was a tart! She really was. She was a real charmer and although she never became comfortable with being handled she loved to be near us and to be tickled and stroked. She slowly developed more and more health issues, but she stuck in there and made it past her 20th birthday. Then we come to the part that connects with my emotional side so strongly when I read about Nick and his experience as a vet. Especially when he describes dealing with the end of a much-loved pet’s life.

In January 2006 I flew to Toronto to film a role in an episode of a new ABC TV series (The Evidence – don’t ask! It was canceled after they’d filmed 8 episodes – I was in the 6th). Champers hadn’t been well, but looked like she’d hold on for a few weeks more. It was a Saturday when I was to fly home. While waiting at the airport I received a call from the vet – she wanted permission to put Champers to sleep. She had been brought in the night before, after having a relapse, by the person in whose care I had left her. She was not in a good way at all.  It was Saturday; they couldn’t wait until I got home… I said my goodbyes.

I still regret not being there, though I couldn’t insist on keeping Champers alive for my own selfish reasons and I trusted my vet to tell me the truth.

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Now, you may have noticed the photographs up and down this page. This is not Champers and Charlie, this is Sebastian and Simone, almost four years old (they joined the family in March of 2007). Just to confuse me, the boy, Sebastian is longhaired and it’s the girl, Simone, who is shorthaired.  They kept the names they were given when we collected them from Community Concern for Cats.

My wife and I wanted lap cats and we got them. No butt can hit a chair in this house without a cat appearing from nowhere to take up residence in the lap. While writing this I’ve had to redirect Simone three times and Sebastian is on the couch beside me.

Neither Champers nor Charlie could ever be replaced, but I love these guys.

I’m sure that if you’ve ever had a relationship with a pet you’ll enjoy Nick Trout’s books… they may even make you cry!

Take Care
Simon (and Simone and Sebastian)

About Simon

Simon is an actor who found his way into audiobook narrating as a side-gig and seems to have made a success of it.
With some training as an actor as a child (just a couple of hours a week, but it stuck) and 15 years working inside the BBC (ending up as one of the presenters/newsreaders on BBC Radio 4 in London) he found the ideal combination for an audiobook narrator.
Found his way to California two decades ago and never left.

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25 Responses to Animals

  1. Joanna January 21, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    Hello Simon Vance,

    I am now deeply involved in your audio book recording of NICHOLAS NICKLEBY and have been so hugely blown away by your work, I had to look you up and write to you. I absolutely LOVE Dickens (like I have a crush on him) and often turn to him when I am fed up with modern authors. I found your audio of the book at the library and duly downloaded it to my very own, minute MP3. Miraculous.

    I don’t drive or clean when I’m listening to a book: I just LIE THERE and form pictures while I listen. It’s a great story – as you know – but with a lesser voice, it could drive one mad, I’m sure. I mean, he does go on! But your ability to make all these – so many – characters come alive was riveting and so impressive. And funny and sad. Can’t imagine how you survived it without developing some form of mental illness or at least very colorful and disturbing — and loud– dreams!

    And now I find you are also a serious cat person so…..what can I say, Simon Vance.
    YOU’RE THE MAN!!!!!
    Best,
    JK

  2. Jonathan McKellan March 25, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    Get out the Vote! Simon, I just voted for you on Audible.com. Get the word out. You must win this year. I have a question though, just finished The King’s Speech narrated by you and found another The King’s Speech on audible narrated by someone else. How does this happen?

    • Simon March 25, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

      Might be the UK edition – that was recorded before mine. Often there are different narrators in the different countries – even if we speak the same language…!
      – S.

  3. Sarah L. March 25, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    Hi Simon, Sebastian looks like a Maine Coon cat. I also have four cats, two of whom are Maine Coons. They are very fluffy, have grand tails, and weigh over 15 pounds. They make great lap cats if you like having your thighs raked on a regular basis. I don’t especially, and I’m not into chainmail. So, one sleeps on my computer and the other sleeps in my inbox on my desk. My other two cats, ragdolls, sit on my printer and fish tank, respectively. My 80-pound black lab sleeps under my desk. When any of my cats want attention when I’m at my computer, they either walk across the keyboard and swish their tails in my face or plop down on the keyboard which prevents any typing. Very clever. I love animals, but don’t think I could handle the Nick Trout book, especially if it made you cry.

    • Simon March 25, 2011 at 11:50 am #

      Oh, but it’s a good kind of cry!
      – S.

  4. Brittany March 23, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    Just finished Caveat Emptor and The King’s Speech. Dreaded Lurgy or not, your voice sounded perfect. Onward now to tackle the “mountain” of audiobooks at Audible. Most of my downloads are Simon Vance. 200 and counting . . .

  5. Kate March 20, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    Drums, Rain, and Roses

    Dear Simon, I love the drum solo. You inspire me to chase the dream of playing guitar. That said, I have found either competition or inspiration for you. I hope you enjoy these videos:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDsHbewTn44

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rLJQrm4O84&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3lQWQxjka8&feature=related

    Kate

    • Simon March 20, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

      Thanks for the comments on the latest vlog, Kate.
      But perhaps not the links 🙂 Oh, my! He’s certainly not competition (he’s too far ahead of me already) and as far as inspiration goes… Well, if I were 3years old, maybe!
      It’s just as well I don’t feel I’m in competition with anyone…
      Seriously, he’s one of those phenoms you either admire or could possibly feel sorry for – not sure where I’m at yet, though he seems to be enjoying the attention so far. I’m grateful I’m able to use my meager musical skills just to entertain myself!
      All the best
      – S.

      • Kate March 20, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

        Simon, Quite right. The child is already a world-wide phenom, as you noted. And he is very sophisticated for a six-year old in front of the camera. As a parent, though, I would be concerned about the little guy’s hearing, as well as the kind of role models to which he is exposed. There is always the concern of “too young, too soon.” I wouldn’t waste his talent on playing in rock bands, but rather send him to Julliard to study music. I suspect his life would be happier and more fulfilling in that regard. It’s up to the parents really. Keep up with the sticks and looking foward to your solo some day! Best, Kate.

  6. Jennifer March 16, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

    Simon and the Gift

    When I was thirty years old and in graduate school, I started to lose my hearing. Because deafness ran in my family, I was not surprised. Assuming that I would one day lose my hearing permanently, I spent my free time listening to my favorite music and trying to forever commit it to memory.

    By the time I was in my forties, I lost my hearing in my left ear and most of my hearing in my right ear. My world was silent. I couldn’t hear music, conversations, outside traffic, or use a phone.

    After spending years visiting doctor after doctor, I finally found a specialist at Stanford University who correctly diagnosed my problem within five minutes of our meeting. He told me that the cause of the deafness was related to the measles I had as a child. Even though I had fully recovered from the measles, the disease took forty years to manifest itself. It was, he told me, not an uncommon diagnosis.

    The doctor then told me that an operation could restore my hearing. My first thought was, “Oh, my God.” My second thought was for all of my relatives who had been deaf; if only the technology had been available to them.

    I did have the surgery and my hearing was restored through the use of a prosthetic device. The first sound that I heard after my recovery was the ticking of the clock next to my bed. I couldn’t believe it. I kept holding the clock up next to my ear and listening to it over and over again.

    From that day forward, my life was restored to me. I had my music back, I could converse with others, I could use the telephone, I could hear my husband’s voice, I could hear my kitties’ purr.

    But here is where my story becomes personal. Shortly thereafter, I discovered audio books and Simon Vance. You are now a big part of my life. You accompany me to work and are with me all day long. I am never without my audio books. I just wanted to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your gift with us all.

    //Jennifer

  7. Nick Trout March 15, 2011 at 11:28 am #

    Hi Simon,
    I just wanted to thank you for yet another wonderful narration of one of my books. Your Yorkshire accent was fabulous as was your Australian! I wish I had written in more about life down under. You even had me in tears!
    Best wishes and thanks again,
    Nick Trout
    Ever By My Side

    • Simon March 15, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

      Thanks, Nick
      Always something of a relief when an author declares their approval of my ‘interpretation’!
      Glad I had you in tears (in a good way) – I was just getting my own back… 🙂
      – S.

  8. Paula March 3, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    You are by far my favorite narrator!!! I listen to audiobooks on my hour long drive to work, and then home. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the 2 sequels were excellent, and I was just researching what else you may have narrated when I found your website.

    Love this entry about animals, I’ve always had cats growing up also, and now have a much loved yellow lab. We can’t believe she’s already 11!

    Can’t wait for you to read more to me!

    Paula

  9. Trish February 7, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

    Simon (updated),

    I look forward to meeting you on March 2 when you join Ann Richardson at our Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic Record-A-Thon in our Palo Alto studio.
    Please ask Ann about Meow.Org: The Cat-Napping Caper which she recorded in our studio last year. The author Darby Patterson will also be a guest during the Record-A-Thon.

    In the meantime, I offer another wonderful “memoir” by a wonderful cat person–which I finished yesterday. Homer’s Odyysey is Gwen Cooper’s tale of her adopted “special needs” cat when it was not a month old…to join her other two cat kids. Homer is blind.

    Because we prepare human-voice recorded audio textbooks and other educational materials for students who are blind, visually impaired or who have learning disabilities or other physical challenges that preclude holding a book or turning pages, I wanted to invite her to a Record-A-Thon studio. Since she lives in New York, I couldn’t enlist her in Northern California. Fortunately, Homer’s story is already available to our RFB&D members through our library of over 63,000 titles, downloadable 24/7 to our members.

    Last year I loved Dewey and this year Homer. I look forward to checking into the titles you recommend–though I read the first 3 of Herriot’s books.

    Our current feline family member is Annie (Little Orphan) who as a tortoise shell has the comic character’s highlighted eye. Before that was Angie, Tommy, Muffin and Lea who lived almost to her 18th birthday…and we had had her since she was found abandoned near the school where I was principal–with Leo the lion our mascot. When delivered to me in my office, the benefactor announced, “Our own little Leo.” Upon introducing Leo to my husband that evening, he renamed her Lea.

    Trish

  10. Jo February 7, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    Hi Simon

    Wow – I didn’t think Champers and Charlie would ever make such good reading!!

    So very glad they managed across the pond with you and had what would appear to be great lives.

    I still have pictures of them in the “Webbs Wonder” cardboard box at Isleworth.

    Take care
    Love
    Jo

  11. Robin January 17, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    Hi Simon – I am having a hard time keeping up as I have just downloaded Dance to the Music of Time but now I think I would like to try the Trout but alas Ever By My Side is not avaiable in Audible.com so where am I to go? I too grew up with animals (being the grand daughter of Hugh Lofting, it was inescapable). When my husband and I met we each had two cats and he had a dog and we combined those households and took in my mother’s cat and one by one they each died including a House finch we had for almost fifteen years who had a broken wing and a broken leg but who still maintained an “I’ll kick your ass” attitude every time I put my hand in his cage. We went “catless” for about 10 days right after 9/11 and now we just have two cats, brothers, one of which [Cheddar] is brain damaged but probably the most lovable creature on earth. Animal stories get me more than people stories so like Xe and Jennifer, I am a tad nervous about listening to you especially reading one and perhaps it will not be a good idea to listen to Ever By My Side while I am driving. But I know the experience will be worth it. If I can’t get ahold of the latest Trout, do your recommend Tell me Where it Hurts as a good one to start with?
    Robin

    • Simon January 17, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

      Hi Robin – I have only just finished recording Ever By My Side so it won’t be available for a few weeks. The best I can suggest is that you go to http://www.tantor.com, the publishers of the audiobook, and see when they are planning to publish (okay, I just looked myself and it say 02/08/11).

      Hugh Lofting was your grandfather? That’s quite a family connection – how many times did you try to have conversations with your animals? Or are you tired of people asking that? – I imagine the latter! I apologise…

      I’m sorry to say I have never read the Dr.Dolittle books, but I did practice piano a lot as a child using the music from the Rex Harrison musical (I wonder what your family thought of that version).

      From what you’ve said I think you’d enjoy ‘Tell Me Where It Hurts’ – sometimes it’s fun(!) getting emotional over a book. My only issue, which I referred to above, is not to allow it to get in the way of telling the story… so that you can have the emotional experience.
      Lovely to hear from you and thanks for the compliments.
      – S.

      • Robin January 18, 2011 at 5:26 am #

        If you look at the pictures in the Dr. Dolittle books you will see that he was short and a bit round. Rex Harrison was of course tall and thin(ner). Anyway we never even saw the movie so enough said.

        I am a great fan of the Herriot books so I do look forward to the Trout books. But while I’m waiting I will perhaps read another Trollope – perhaps The Warden this time. I saw that listed as one of your favorites. I read Dr. Thorne and thoroughly enjoyed it – I was an English major but had never read Trollope – for some reason always assumed he was “boring.” Maybe I am old enough now to enjoy him. Isn’t it interesting how one’s appreciation for literature changes as you age.
        Audio books have afforded me the chance to read books I never would have otherwise, like Swann’s Way for instance. Now there’s a book I would not have picked up in a million years until I learned that you would read it to me!
        Cheers, Robin

  12. Xe Sands January 17, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

    Oh Simon. That was truly lovely. I too have always had companion animals in my life, most of whom were lost to disease over the years. We’ve had many of “those” visits with our vet…and I carry each and every one of them as a distinct hole in my heart. It never gets any easier to say goodbye. Sometimes it is more crushing than others. Your story of having to miss Champers’ passing was very affecting. I have had that happen only once and it prevented the closure I would have liked. I can imagine the stress and sadness you experienced and feel for your self of those years past.

    Nick Trout’s book sounds absolutely beautiful, but I am not sure I could endure it. And with you reading it, I think the poignancy would flat out kill me. But I will recommend it to my mother, who I think could derive from healing from it.

    Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience as you read your way through this life. It is always inspirational (sometimes poignant, sometimes hilarious, ALWAYS valuable) to hear how you connect with your project on a personal level.

    Peace,
    Xe

    • Simon January 17, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

      Thanks, Xe. I hope your mother likes the stories – Nick tells them so well. And don’t deny yourself the therapeutic effect of a good cry!
      – S.

  13. Jen January 16, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

    What a heartfelt and loving post. There have been several books that have put me in tears when a beloved pet had to be put to sleep, and I’ve never had a pet of my own. I can’t imagine what that must be like for someone who has loved many. It broke my heart to read about poor Champers. I cannot imagine.

    We used to beg my folks for a dog. My Dad always jokes about how my Mom had another baby every time we did. As the oldest of five, there might have been some truth to that. 🙂 I found out when I was home in September that my parents had a dog before I arrived that was very sick and it traumatized them enough that they never got another.

    Now, I’m the Mom and my kids are begging for a dog. Especially Emma. She has such a heart for animals. Danny never grew up with pets either. Neither of us are keen to add more responsibility to our lives, but it’s probably just a matter of time. Truth be told, I’m mostly scared of giving my heart to something that I will someday lose. From your post, I can tell it’s worth it.

    • Simon January 16, 2011 at 8:05 pm #

      Oh, Jennifer! You should definitely listen to Nick’s book (if you have the time in your listening schedule) – they give you a great perspective on the responsibilities involved. I would LOVE to have a dog and even, after reading the book, looked up some rescue sites to see how easy it might be to get the kind of dog I’d want… but I really don’t think I can do it even now. I think Nick might also admit that as they can do even more for pets than they used to… the vet bills have the potential to be enormous!

      • Jen January 17, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

        I definitely will. It will be good to have down the road, too. Emma and Allison have both said they wanted to either work at the zoo or become a veterinarian. As they get older, this will probably be something they will enjoy.

        • Simon January 17, 2011 at 9:32 pm #

          Do check out the James Herriot books (11 of them on Audible) – or even the TV series from the UK based on those books: “All Creatures Great and Small” – they’re an absolute joy for animal lovers.
          – S.

          • Jen February 28, 2011 at 8:13 pm #

            Just finished EVER BY MY SIDE and it was fantastic. Full of life and joy. I got misty eyed in a few places, but it was always good. 🙂 I’ll keep trying to convince my pet owner friends that they shouldn’t shy away just because of those sections. Thanks so much for this post and your recommendation.

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