Herriot checks on a ewe who has just had a lamb. The owner of the ewe is drunk, and Herriot freezes in the cold while the owner finds the animal for him. As it turns out, the ewe has another lamb to be born. This is an exciting time for Herriot.
Herriot describes some of the daily details of his life since his marriage. They are low on usable furniture, but they are happy. Herriot works on a foal’s leg at a nearby farm, and their dog Jock chases his car as he leaves. Jock’s puppies are soon overtaking him in the chasing department, but after they are sold, Jock is the best car-chaser once again.
At a farm, busy helping ewes who are lambing, Herriot notices one lamb whose mother won’t let him drink. Later, he returns to the farm because the lambs have been chased by a local dog. Later, a ewe who lost her lamb is depressed, so they take dead skins and use them on the ewe whose mother won’t let him drink. So the mother with no baby adopts Henry, whose own mother wouldn’t feed him.
In this chapter we meet a dog named Clancy, who is sick, and no one can figure out why, unless it’s his habit of eating trash. They make a plan to hold the dog down for an exam, but the owner is late for the appointment. So the vets all take the chance and leave. They don’t relish having to deal with the dog, since he is ill-tempered.
Mr. Pickersgill is introduced in Chapter Five. He feels educated because of a two week college course. He actually knows very little. Herriot has to deal with these feelings while getting Mr. Pickersgill to realize the real problems he has.
Siegfried, who is Herriot’s partner and who used to be his boss, lectures Herriot and Tristan, since they are forever forgetting surgical equipment at the farms where they visit. He removes a cow’s tumor, only to be reminded that he left the forceps at the farm. He is very hesitant to admit this, since he has preached about not losing track of one’s equipment.
Chapter 7 tells the reader of an encounter between Herriot and Helen, and her family, prior to their marriage. Helen’s father seems to take an instant dislike to Herriot, and the veterinarian thinks he will impress the man when his cow becomes ill. Instead, despite his treatment, the cow dies.
In Chapter 8, Herriot recalls an embarrassing time in his life. While attempting to befriend a client, he drinks too much wine, and then he’s called to Bamford’s farm to deliver a calf. The next day, Siegfried is not at all pleased that Herriot had shown up at the Bamford’s farm so fully intoxicated. Siegfried hopes they couldn’t tell he was drunk, as they are strict Methodists, but Herriot knows that they could tell.
We meet Mrs. Donovan in Chapter 9. She enjoys showing up at farms where Herriot is treating an animal, and treating them herself. The farm people of the community sometimes trust her treatment more than they trust that of Herriot. When her dog Rex dies after being hit by a car, she vows never to own another dog. Nonetheless, a month or so later, she is witness to a dog cruelty intervention by Herriot, and asks to take the Golden Retriever home. The dog has a happy home with Mrs. Donovan for many years.
Herriot writes about serving the Darrowby Fair as their veterinarian, in Chapter 10. He sees Helen there, with her other male friend. Herriot spends some time with Tristan, then is called to see to an injured heifer. He cannot clamp the blood vessel, and is forced to simply cover it over with gauze. Helen and her other beau are watching. Herriot next sees a dog who should not be showing, since it is exhibiting signs of distemper. He also has to measure ponies to make sure they are of correct height for their classes. He is interrupted to check the dog’s temperature again by the dog’s owner, and then he continues measuring ponies, and listening to arguments by owners whose ponies are not the correct size for their classes. He notices that Helen and her other boyfriend are watching him once more.
Still at the fair, Herriot must judge the Family Pets divisions. He judges them based on the knowledge of the owners about how to care for them. First prize goes to a goldfish. As Helen and her beau leave, his car won’t start and he must crank start it.
In Chapter 12, we meet the widow Dalby, and learn of her fight to keep her family’s farm. Herriot arrives to see to some coughing cattle. They are sick, and must be kept inside and fed, instead of pastured. Twelve of her cattle die, and Herriot fears that her continued bad luck will result in her losing the family farm.
Herriot must go to the Dalby farm again in this chapter, for more sick cattle. He tests the cattle, and it turns out that they are deficient in copper. The animals’ conditions improve with treatment. The widow Dalby still runs the farm, with her sons, and she still gives Herriot special treatment and tea when he comes to see to her animals.
In this chapter, Herriot is looking at purchasing furnishings for Helen’s room, and his as well. He has a history of bringing home useless things from sales, but he resolves not to do that when he makes a trip to the Leed’s Laboratory, and attends a sale nearby. So what does he do? He buys a set of books. He can’t get them on the bus, so he finally gets them home, but they smell. At home, Helen isn’t mad, but won’t let them stay in the house because of the odor. They end up in the basement of Skeldale House.
We meet the Raynes ghost in Chapter 15. It is reportedly the ghost of a monk who was murdered, and one night, after working on a pony, Herriot stops by the abbey. He gets spooked, but doesn’t see a ghost. He’s still feeling uncomfortable at home, when Tristan appears in his room, dressed as a monk. He has been the “ghost” all along. A couple days later, Siegfried and Herriot have a farm call for a cow, and Herriot rides home with a local policeman. The policeman sees the ghost and takes chase, but loses him. Tristan has to spend the night inside a drainage pipe, though, and he gives up his “haunting” ways.
Granville Bennett is a small animal veterinarian, called in sometimes by Herriot for complicated small animal cases. Granville’s skilled assistants and spic and span operating room impress Herriot. He remembers, now, that he really wanted to work with small animals, when he originally went to veterinary school. He and Bennett share a beer as their small animal patient recovers.
In Chapter 17, Herriot is pushed to have more beer than he should, by Bennett. At Bennett’s house, he has even more to drink, and pickled onions that upset his stomach. He is more than a little amused to see that Bennett’s last patient is already feeling better than he does.
Chapter 18 tells us about Monty the bull. He is a pedigreed Newton bull, and the farmer who has purchased him feels he will be worth a lot of money. He falls ill, and Herriot treats and heals him with a miraculous surgery, and thereafter, the two have a special bond. Herriot never leaves the farm without petting the bull. When Monty the bull is fully grown, he has become mean. Herriot must get a blood sample, and does, but is then knocked to the floor. He scrambles away before the bull can gore him. The farmer finds this amusing, as Herriot leaves the farm.
There are many fewer horses working on farms, as Herriot tells us in Chapter 19. He remembers a time when he was nearly kicked by a horse who is later subdued with the farmer’s voice, not needing a sedative to finish his work. The next time Herriot is at that farm, only one old horse is left. This horse has tetanus, and the antitoxin doesn’t work, so Herriot has to put the aged horse down.
Christmas arrives in Chapter 20. Herriot wants a light business day so that he can relax. But he gets called to a farm in the early hours of the morning. The farmer is ungrateful and rude, and Herriot gets home only to see another call. Helen makes him breakfast while she relays the information on the second call. Herriot’s second Christmas call is a choking goat, whose owner is apologetic. As it turns out, the goat has swallowed a pair of underwear belonging to the farmer. Herriot is able to pull it back out because the elastic was stuck on the goat’s tongue. After they’re done, the wife of the farmer has Herriot in for cake and a drink. In this way, the veterinarian’s love of farmers and spirit of Christmas is renewed.
Herriot gets to see Marmaduke Skelton in Chapter 21. Duke is a quack as far as medicine is concerned, and he attempts to treat animal diseases. In the case of a cow with a prolapsed uterus, one of Herriot’s veterinarian friends, Ross, arrives only to find Duke already trying to treat the animal. Ross is ready to leave but the farmer wants him to stay. Ross puts the uterus back in easily, and Duke assumes he was part of the cure.
We meet Mrs. Bond’s cats in Chapter 22. She has many cats, both inside and outside. Boris the cat dislikes Herriot, since he had to give him a worm tablet once. On one day, Tristan accompanies Herriot to Mrs. Bond’s house, since one of her cats has a bone stuck in its teeth. Of course, as fate would have it, that cat is Boris. Tristan lets him out of the basket, and then chases the cat, trying to catch him. This stirs up all the other cats, who also scatter and run. Tristan actually has fun on the chase, but Mrs. Bond tells Herriot to please leave Tristan behind, next time.
Herriot visits Bennett in Chapter 23. He takes along Maudie, who is a cat owned by Colonel Bosworth. Maudie was struck by a car and injured her face, but Herriot thinks Bennett can help her. After the surgery, Bennett takes Herriot along to a veterinarian meeting. Since Herriot has dressed up for the day, he agrees to go along.
The snow is flying as they drive to the meeting, and Herriot fears that they will be late. They do arrive as the meeting is just ending, but as it turns out, this is what Bennett intended to do. Herriot didn’t want to meet Zoe Granville again unless he was sober and not filled with food, but they have food and drink after the meeting. Herriot starts feeling poorly on the way back to Granville’s house. The sliding of the car in the snow doesn’t help his stomach at all. They make it back to Bennett’s house safely, and Herriot is once again drunk and ill when he says good-night to Zoe.
Herriot meets a dog with a testicular tumor in Chapter 25. The owner, Mr. Partridge, is afraid that his dog Percy might die in surgery, so he lets it go much too long before addressing the problem. The owner is quite enamored of his dog, to the point of not having his tail docked when all his friends ridiculed him for the decision. He cannot bring himself to allow Herriot to cut his little dog.
Herriot finally gets to operate on the little dog in Chapter 26. But it was there for so long that it grows back. Herriot uses a new drug to help stop the regrowth, and it works, but causes the little dog to give off a scent much like a female dog in heat. Soon Partridge’s house is flocked by avid male dogs. But the tumors on Percy the dog do shrink, and the male dogs leave after Herriot takes the dog off those particular meds.
Herriot remembers some unique ways that clients have sought his services, in Chapter 27. One particular client was in the office but drunk, and thought he was talking on the phone. Some of his clients were not always sure they needed a vet, and some wanted him to decide without even seeing the animal, if a farm call was needed. Often, his clients will give him descriptions that are not clear when they call, so Herriot sometimes doesn’t know what he’ll find when he gets to the farm.
Herriot reminisces about Richard Carmody in Chapter 28. He was a student observer. He seems financially secure, and educated when Herriot first meets him. For his part, the observer is not impressed with the Skeldale House clinic, and the usage of old remedies. On his first day of farm calls with Herriot, he disagrees often and answers questions condescendingly. But a dog bites Carmody on the back-side, which does cause him to lose his poise.
Carmody has decided he wants to work on the animals himself in Chapter 29, and Herriot allows it. Carmody, for all his book learning, hasn’t any common sense. Herriot watches him chase pigs, drench a horse and bleed a pig. The last task must be taken over by Herriot. Later that day, Herriot watches a bull drag Carmody across a field covered with manure. Many years later, Herriot sees Carmody once more, and they share a minute together, during which Herriot believes he sees some warm emotion.
In Chapter 30, we meet Mr. Kitson, who used to attempt to deliver his lambs himself, so as not to have to pay a veterinarian. By the time Herriot arrives, there is one dead lamb, and the rest are more difficult to birth. Herriot also notices a sick ewe while he is there, but Kitson doesn’t want him to treat her. Knowing she will die, Herriot secretly gives her some anesthetic so that she can die in her sleep. As it turns out, when Herriot returns to the farm several days later, the sick ewe is better, having slept for a couple days. Herriot rightfully believes her days without pain allowed her to recover.
Herriot treats a poodle with gastroenteritis in Chapter 31. He uses various remedies, but none of them work. When they are so far along that euthanasia is discussed, Herriot puts the poodle into a deep sleep for several days, which gives her body time to recover. The dog recovers, to everyone’s delight.
We get to meet Sam in Chapter 32. He is Helen’s dog, a beagle, who accompanies Herriot on his farm calls. Next, the veterinarian remembers a time he was nearly smashed by a bull who just had an itch, and another time he attempts to treat a budgie’s beak, and the bird dies of fright. He cannot bring himself to tell the older owner, so he buys a new bird to replace the dead budgie.
Herriot attends to a worried owner whose dog is pregnant in Chapter 33. The dog isn’t near her due date yet, but the owner insists it’s time. Herriot attempts to explain that the dog’s cervix is not dilated, so she can’t have the pups yet. Siegfried makes the next call to the lady’s house, and by this time, the dog is ready to have her pups, so he administers the shot to give her contractions. The owner scolds Herriot the next time she sees him, saying he doesn’t know his job.
Mr. Wilkins’ dog, Gyp, has unexplained periodic convulsions. He recovers, but James tells the owner it will be a lifelong issue. Gyp also never barks, but his brother Sweep, who was given away turns into a great sheepdog for George Crossley. At the Mellerton Agricultural Show, Gyp sees Sweep running sheep and lets out one bark. After this, he never barks again.
James reminisces about the Daffodil Ball at the Drovers Arms. He sees Helen there dancing with Richard Edmundson and wants to ask her to dance but doesn’t get the chance and gets called away. On the way out, he runs into her and tells her to come with him. They kiss and then go up to Bert Chapman’s place where Susie, his dog is having puppies. James delivers the puppies and realizes that Helen is now his girlfriend.
James meets the Dimmocks, who bring him their dog Bonzo, who has been hit by a car. He patches him up and that begins a relationship with the entire Dimmock family. Then, the young daughter, Nellie brings in her puppy, Toby who can’t keep his food down. James realizes he has pyloric stenosis and calls Granville Bennet, who says he would be happy to operate.
Granville comes and operates on the dog and invites James to lunch at the Old Oak Tree Inn. Once there, James has a few whiskey and sodas. Then he goes to Granville’s house where his wife, Zoe makes them lunch. James has a hard time keeping himself together from all the alcohol he has consumed. The dog ends up recovering after the surgery.
Former steel worker, Frank Metcalfe, shows off his new barn and dairy to James. He has a cow that develops brucellosis, which may have infected the other cows. When they all start aborting, James’ fears are confirmed. Another farmer, Mr. Bagely says he has a cure, Professor Driscoll’s Abortion Cure. After giving it to the cows, some heifers have calves and Mr. Bagley say it is because of him. But then there are five more abortions, causing Metcalfe to have to sell everything and move.
James revels in his marriage to Helen and the domestic bliss she brings to Skeldale House. After a calving, Mr. Horner invites him into a breakfast of bread, butter, jam and 100% fat bacon that is eaten cold. Only by spooning tons of piccalilli on it, is James is able to gag it down.
Walt Barnett demands a horse be gelded and when James gets upset, Siegfried tries to calm him down and tells him he stresses out too much. Then Barnett calls again and irritates Siegfried and now it is James’ turn to laugh. Siegfried agrres to do the job but tells James he will overcharge him. He does the job, asks for 10 pounds and after a long period of silence, Barnett pays. Siegfried then manages to lose the check and makes James go back and get another one.
James comes back late from a job and ends up chatting and drinking all night with Siegfried who is leaving for the RAF in the morning. Siegfried says he owes James money, 50 pounds, and gives it to him before leaving. James only realizes years later that it was a gift.
Helen and James are invited to the Hodgsons for dinner. James has three jobs before dinner and he assumes they will not take that long. First, he goes to Edward Wiggins farm to give some vaccinations. While Wiggins fumbles around trying to catch a bullock, James gets angrier and angrier. He eventually gets run over and while he is resting, James and Wilf, the farmhand, catch and vaccinate the bull. Next, James has to go stitch up a pig who has a minor cut at the Misses Dunn’s farm. To get the pig to walk to where James can stitch it, they have to throw digestive biscuits in front if it. This takes forever because the pig will only walk if the biscuit is thrown close to him, so they have to throw a lot of biscuits to get the pig to where James wants it to go.
After James is done with the pig, it’s off to Ted buckle’s farm to put a ring in a bull’s nose. As he is about to the put in the ring, the bull jumps the gate and runs out into the field. James is panicking and he can’t even call Helen because the farm doesn’t have a phone. The farmer says it isn’t a problem and sends a cow out into the field and when he calls the cow back in the bull is following her. James is amazed and the farmer tell him his secret, the cow is the bull’s mother.
James sees Tristan’s car at a farm and wonders how he is doing. Tristan always seems to get along with the farmers, although this farmer is Mark Dowson, who can be difficult. Tristan puts on such a performance helping a cow give birth that he is invited in for brandy much to James’ amazement.
White scour infects Mr. Clark’s cows and they have to call out Jeff Mallock, the knacker. He says he will give them a day and James ends up curing the cows with a new drug, sulphapyridine. James thinks back about how this was the start of a drug revolution in antibiotics.
James is having a pint at the Drovers Arms and Magnus, a mini daschund barks at him. He remembers how he had to bandage his mouth shut the first time they met just to get his nails clipped. Magnus has obviously not forgotten. In contrast, James remembers Mrs. Hammond’s Irish Setter, Rock, who gets his foot stuck in a animal trap. Even though it is completely swollen and James has to clean and dress it for a week, Rock never minds. Another dog, Timmy Buttermark, a wire haired fox terrier, eats poison and James has to make him throw up by giving him lots of mustard. Much like Magnus, he never forgets and eyes James whenever he sees him.
James gets called up to military service on his birthday. He goes to help a Old English sheepdog, Benjmain who has a dislocated elbow. James manages to pop it back into place, amazing the farmer. He revels in the moment, knowing he will be back after the RAF.
James leaves for the RAF while Helen waves once more from the window.