It’s about the peo­ple, not the an­i­mals: au­thor

Vet­eri­nar­ian-turned-writer An­drew Pea­cock wins NL Book Award for non-fic­tion

The Compass - - NEWS - BY TARA BRAD­BURY tbrad­bury@thetele­gram.com Twit­ter: @tara_brad­bury

The non-fic­tion judges for this year’s New­found­land Book Awards gave An­drew Pea­cock’s book, “Crea­tures of the Rock: A Vet­eri­nar­ian’s Ad­ven­tures in New­found­land” a glow­ing re­view, but there’s one part of it Pea­cock would like to dis­pute.

Con­trary to what the judges wrote in their ci­ta­tion, it wasn’t the an­i­mals that kept he and his wife here af­ter they ar­rived 30 years ago. It was the peo­ple.

It’s the peo­ple of the prov­ince that make up the real sto­ries in the book, he in­sists, and the an­i­mals sim­ply form the back­drop.

“When I started out (writ­ing the book), I thought it was go­ing to be a book about the an­i­mals,” Pea­cock said. “But it’s about the re­la­tion­ships be­tween an­i­mals and peo­ple, and the re­la­tion­ships be­tween peo­ple and other peo­ple.”

Pea­cock is an On­tario na­tive who worked in a mixed an­i­mal prac­tice in ru­ral New­found­land from 1982 un­til just a few years ago. He first came to the prov­ince and set­tled in Fresh­wa­ter as a farm an­i­mal vet, think­ing he’d mostly be see­ing cows and horses and sheep. As the vet for Sal­monier Na­ture Park, Pea­cock’s pa­tients in­cluded lynx and foxes and minks, and through his work with sci­en­tist Jon Lien of MUN’s Whale Re­search Group, also in­cluded whales.

“If I was in On­tario, I’d never had done any of that kind of thing,” Pea­cock ex­plained. “Peo­ple who do that kind of work in main­land Canada have a PhD in wildlife medicine, and I, with­out any spe­cific train­ing in wildlife medicine, prob­a­bly did more of this kind of work than those peo­ple.”

In On­tario, Pea­cock says, he also wouldn’t have got­ten the same hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I think maybe I get to see how funny the peo­ple here are a lit­tle dif­fer­ently, be­ing an out­sider,” he said. “The lan­guage is so dif­fer­ent than what I was used to. My wife’s a med­i­cal doc­tor, and when we first moved here, she had a trans­la­tor work­ing in emer­gency. That’s real grist for the book, and there are sto­ries about that kind of thing: peo­ple phon­ing me up and not re­ally hav­ing a clue what they’re telling me and try­ing to fig­ure it out when I’d get out on the call.

“I was re­ally lucky to have the kind of prac­tice that I had.”

On Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, Pea­cock’s book - his writ­ing de­but - was named the win­ner of the 2015 New­found­land and Labrador Book Award for Non-Fic­tion. Other fi­nal­ists for the award were Great Big Sea front­man Alan Doyle for “Where I Be­long: From Small Town to Great Big Sea,” and for­mer long­time po­lice of­fi­cer Janet Merlo for “No One to Tell: Break­ing My Si­lence on Life in the RCMP.”

Carmelita McGrath won the E.J. Pratt Award for po­etry for “Es­cape Ve­loc­ity,” beat­ing out fel­low fi­nal­ists Michael Crum­mey for “Un­der the Keel” and Mary Dal­ton for “Hook­ing.”

“I know she’ll be to­tally ex­u­ber­ant,” Writ­ers’ Al­liance of New­found­land and Labrador ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Alison Dyer said of McGrath, who re­cently re­lo­cated to Que­bec and wasn’t able to at­tend the cer­e­mony, which took place at Gov­ern­ment House.

Pea­cock and McGrath each won a cash prize of $1,500, while the other fi­nal­ists each re­ceived $500.

Spon­sored by the Lit­er­ary Arts Foun­da­tion of New­found­land and Labrador and ad­min­is­tered by the Writ­ers’ Al­liance, there are four book awards, which are handed out in pairs. The awards for non-fic­tion and po­etry in odd-num­bered years, and fic­tion and chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture in even years.

PHOTO BY RHONDA HAY­WARD/TC ME­DIA

Re­tired vet­eri­nar­ian An­drew Pea­cock won the New­found­land and Labrador Book Award for non-fic­tion with his de­but book “Crea­tures of the Rock: A Vet­eri­nar­ian’s Ad­ven­tures in New­found­land.” The Awards were an­nounced at a cer­e­mony at Gov­ern­ment House in St. John’s on May 27.

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