An Animal Life

The Beginning

Fiction - Humor/Comedy
314 Pages
Reviewed on 12/23/2013
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Howard is an aquatic animal veterinarian and science writer who’s worked with everything from humpback whales, dolphin and jellyfish to sea turtles and lumpfish. With a long-standing goal to combine his love for animals, science and creative communication, Howard enrolled in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University where he studied science writing, nonfiction and fiction writing. He graduated in 2002 with a MA and has published numerous scientific articles and penned chapters including “When Whale Sharks Fly” in: The Rhino With Glue-on Shoes and Other Surprising True Stories of Zoo Vets and Their Patients (Bantam/Dell Publishing Company). In fact, Howard loves writing so much, he’s been known to compose emails and to-do lists on a daily basis. Currently, he lives in Vermont with his fabulous wife, their sweet dog Mola and a really-good kitten, Lucky George.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Katelyn Hensel for Readers' Favorite

An Animal Life: The Beginning is a fabulous story from Howard Nelson Krum and Roy PE Yanong. Veterinary School: no matter where you go, getting into this level of veterinary medicine is basically Harvard for animal lovers. What do you get when you mix a horse racer, a pageant queen, and a K-9 cop? An amazing and funny read! The first years of the Death Row Crew are interesting, to say the least. But this enthralling story goes even deeper than a funny take on vet school. There are moments of pain, of deep thought and learning, as well as a few romantic pairings that will definitely have you scratching your head.

This is a very realistic and funny story. I had roommates in college who studied veterinary medicine, and while I was reading it was almost like I was back in my dorm room listening to them tell me stories about their day. Krum and Yanong really captured the light-hearted humor that they were going for. On one hand, the story is quite funny; on the other it's a really accurate portrayal of one of the best feelings in the world - when you close a book, and have a warm happy glow because the book brought you such joy. An Animal Life: The Beginning really is that book. It's a great read for vets and vets in training, as well as anyone who loves animals, people, and the crazy glue that holds us all together.

Jack Magnus

An Animal Life: The Beginning is a humorous story about the experiences of a first year class's first semester in veterinary school, written by Howard Krum with Roy Yanung and Scott Moore. While it is fiction, the authors' own experiences in Vet School form the basis for the story. The first time we see the students are when they're being interviewed by admissions officers. Then the reader is off to school, lining up with the freshman class as it assembles in Room 101 for the first time. Immediately, grouping behavior begins. The ardent students gravitate to the front row labeled the Front Row Geeks (or FRoGs)who assiduously take down every word uttered by their professors and wave their hands frequently with a barrage of questions. Then there's the group that gravitates to the very back row of this largish room, the row that's been nicknamed Death Row.

Howard Krum brings the experiences of first year veterinary school students to life in his funny and heart-warming book An Animal Life: The Beginning. The Death Row Inmates will remind some of the MASH characters whose pranks and practical jokes made even the harshest situations somehow bearable. In An Animal Life, there's little time for sleeping, dozens of exams, thousands of terms and definitions to memorize, larger than life professors and senior advisers, Friday Night Happy Hours... and the animals. It's all about the animals, and it works so incredibly well. I loved this book. It answered all the questions I've ever entertained about becoming a vet and what that journey would have been like -- marvelous, grueling, insane, and incredible all at once. An Animal Life: The Beginning is remarkable, powerful,and beautifully written. It's very highly recommended.

Mamta Madhavan

An Animal Life: The Beginning by Howard Nelson Krum and Roy PE Yanong is the humorous account of first year veterinary students. These students come together to discover the exciting world of veterinary medicine. For those who are interested in enrolling into a veterinary college, this is the perfect book to experience the joys of being with animals. The characters, apart from being kicked and bitten by animals, manage to find time to handle their other relationships too, which are not with animals. The book is a guide on everything you wanted to know about different animals.

The authors have done their homework well before deciding to write this book. The book is humorous, candid, and breezy and it keeps readers glued to the story. The veterinary hospital is not only about cats and dogs; it also has other animals. I found the words on the chalkboard funny:

Weekly Grand Rounds
Case Highlights:
– German Shepherd, Hip Dysplasia
– Feline Unilateral Kidney Tumor
– Comminuted Fracture Repair in a Rhinoceros
So, apart from dogs and cats, there are other animals like rhinoceros and giraffe that are being treated in the hospital. The book has humor, medicine, animals, and it is a good read for students who are in a veterinary college or are planning to join one.

The funny and exciting characters along with the animals make the book a hilarious read. The authors have written this book from the perspective of a student and it covers almost everything: college, friends, love, animals, and it has an excellent plot.

Melinda Hills

Truly heart-warming, An Animal Life: The Beginning by Howard Krum along with Roy Yanong and Scott Moore is a chronological description of the first semester of veterinary school at The University of Pennsylvania in 1988. Following the ups, downs, laughs, and tears of a group of first year students, their fourth year advisers, and several faculty members, An Animal Life takes a realistic look at their dedication and determination and also the rewards of this demanding academic pursuit. Inspired by some great teachers and nearly bored to death with others, these students deal with sick animals, their owners, corporate interests making money off of animals, and a group of animal rights activists opposed to the inhumane treatment of animals. They enter school in September as unique individuals but friendships and even more are forged through the long hours, heartbreaks, and successes that define the life of a veterinary student. In place of individuals, An Animal Life ends with the coming together of the combined Class of 1992 as they finish the first of eight semesters.

An Animal Life: The Beginning is a wonderful book that challenges readers' knowledge of the basics of biology and health classes. Howard Krum has beautifully depicted the many experiences veterinary students live through as they pursue their education in the quest to be able to help animals – whether domestic, on the farm, in zoos, or in the wild. They not only have to deal with instructors and mountains of material, they learn about working with one another and others who have dealings with the animals. An important feature of An Animal Life is that it presents the well-being of all animals as inter-related to that of mankind – on not only a physical but also an emotional level. ‘Do no harm’ is a motto that pertains to all living things and is clearly demonstrated by Howard Krum in An Animal Life.

Kathryn Bennett

An Animal Life: The Beginning by Howard Nelson Krum, Roy PE Yanong is the story of first year veterinary students who have to run the academic gauntlet known as veterinary school. You follow Jack, Hoss, Kerri, and more of their class mates as they are kicked, bitten, scratched, and oh much more while they struggle to find balance and to become the people we trust most when it comes to our animals. No matter what you were before entering veterinary school, animals will level the playing fields.

When I was growing up, I wanted to be a vet. I always loved animals and I still do, although I never made it to veterinary school. Being able to jump into this book was the next best thing and I am so glad that I got the chance to read it. You get to run the full gamut of emotions with these students as they are in school and I have to wonder how any of them make it out alive. You can follow their lives as students, romantic moments, to everything in-between. Thanks to the wonderful descriptions of everything going on around in their lives, you truly feel like you are one of the students, or at the very least you feel attached to them and what they are going through. I laughed more than anything with some of the situations and the characters of the book. It is so well written and delightful that I would recommend this one highly.

Alison Cobianchi in Preto

I just finished the book and loved it! Wonderful, relatable characters and the perfect blend of humor and drama. I need that second book!


Grey’s Anatomy with Animals! — Got hooked immediately reading about Lucy, the pregnant giraffe! This book is not what I expected at all. It’s more than cats and dogs. Interesting characters and situations, filled with excitement, drama and humor! ENJOY!


A truly enjoyable read. Well written, fully developed characters made for a fast paced zip through the first semester of Vet school. I am looking forward to the next installment. When can we pre-order on Amazon?

Michelle Mueller

I loved this book, couldn’t put it down and finished it in three days! A must read for potential vet students, full of humor and emotion as well as medicine. Gets you excited for vet school! Can’t wait to read the next one!

PetWorld Insider

… It’s a great read … folks, if you’re out there thinking, ‘Maybe I should, maybe I shouldn’t’ — do it! This one is great for so many different reasons, it really is a unique topic … Lord knows I’ve got shelves of books by veterinarians [but with An Animal Life] you’re able to get the personality behind them, and you’re able to get into the stories. It’s not so much about the medicine … It’s about the people themselves and I love that aspect of it. I also love that [the authors are] donating back to charity with this.


A wonderfully written and vivid account of the trials and tribulations of veterinary school. If you have ever wondered what it takes to become a veterinarian, look no further than this tale of mystery, love, and dedication to all things animal. I am not sure I could have done it, but reading this story has me rethinking my career choice (probably too late, but I’ll settle for experiencing it vicariously). And I can’t wait for semester two…please hurry!


In the interest of full disclosure, I am not what anyone would call an animal lover. So I was a bit hesitant when An Animal Life: The Beginning was recommended to me. Wow, am I glad I overcame that hesitation! You don’t have to have pets, or know anything about vet school, to love and appreciate the characters, the drama, and – yes – even the animals that inhabit this world. It is a funny, endearing read that had me wishing I had taken more science classes in college. The vet students are people you can route for and against, and for whom you can feel sympathy, empathy and sometimes a bit of “Ha! You got what you deserved!” Curl up with An Animal Life this winter and enjoy an experience few of us ever have first hand, but all of us can enjoy as spectators. It’s fabulous!

Phil Bush

Google “What’s vet school like?” and you’ll get answers like “some people say vet school is socially like high school – and it can be … there is bound to be friction, gossip, backbiting, etc.” and “we spend about 3 hours a day 4 days a week doing dissection and then you’ll need to come back in later to study it all and learn the names of everything.”

But if you want to drill down deeply into the reality of all aspects of life for a vet school student – the grind, the hilarity, the gore, the love – read An Animal Life: The Beginning by Howard Krum. Even if you never thought to ponder this question, read it anyway. You’ll have a blast.

Krum gives us an insider’s view of one of the top vet schools in the country at the University of Pennsylvania. But he gives much more to any genre-loving readers of Mystery (there are two, one mostly human, one mostly animal), Horror, Farce, and yes, even Romance.

Read it. You’ll simultaneously want to laugh, cry, swoon, and throw up.

Rikki Schroeder

I was laughing out loud reading this. It was a nice review of course material as well – for current veterinary students!
A witty combination of humor and academia.


A playful view inside the world of veterinary students as they start down the path of their new animal life — What a great perception of the ups and downs in vet school! I could imagine every detail and was right there with each character throughout the entire story. What a shame I had to come to the last page- I enjoyed every well written word!

Kwiat Girl

Great characters, so real! — If I had just gone to college with these characters, I may just have chosen veterinary medicine instead of the humanities. Such wit and charm in a place I would have expected mind-numbing technical mumbo jumbo (appreciated the glossary and diagrams, too). Bravo to the writers for making the story (and the characters – love, love, love Jack) so interesting – a very pleasant read indeed.

Ever think of making this into a movie or even a regular series? Definitely something I’d enjoy watching - looking forward to the next installment. Don’t keep us waiting too long!

Lisa Britt

Humor, compassion and energy! — An interesting and educational read. An Animal Life: The Beginning is well written with believable characters, conflicts and poignant moments. It is full of humor, compassion and energy.

Gary Celli

Best Book I Read All Year! — I just finished this wonderful book. I cannot remember the last time I read such a smartly written book. For once in my life, I didn’t want the semester to end! The writing is unique and sharp. I even enjoyed reading the glossary and the recommended song listing for each chapter. What a brilliant idea. I strongly encourage all pet lovers to read this book. You will have a much better appreciation the next time you bring your special friend to see the vet.


Highly Entertaining — I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical of this book at first; I don’t generally think of scientists as being good fiction writers. The funny, captivating, and at times sentimental story completely blew me away, and I have been looking forward to the sequel ever since finishing this first installment! I am a veterinary student myself and related to many of the trials and challenges these first-year students faced, More than once I caught myself laughing out loud reading about their scrapes and remembering my own first year in vet school. I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves James Herriot, wants to go to vet school, or knows someone in vet school. It’s a very entertaining read!

Meredith Allison

Wonderful Story, Unforgettable Characters — I bought this book at the beginning of my very first semester of veterinary school after enjoying a lecture presentation by the talented author himself. I was definitely intrigued, and this book lived up to my high expectations. The story itself is absolutely wonderful (and very true!), and the characters are unforgettable. I am already recommending it to friends and family-such an enjoyable read!

Meg B

Great Book! I haven’t enjoyed one as much in a long time. The humor is wonderful and it gives a glimpse into what it takes to survive the rigorous life of a veterinarian student. For those of us who are not scientifically inclined, taking advantage of the Glossary of Selected Terms and Jargon is both wonderfully helpful and hilarious! The suggested Soundtrack was an extra treat that completed the whole experience. Can’t wait to see what happens next Semester.


Wishin’ I went to Vet School — The sacred halls of VHUP have never sounded so fun! Had I read this book when I was deciding between animal and human medicine, I most definitely would not be a Physician Assistant. Compassion for animals and their two-legged companions shines through while the reality of grueling course loads and personal relationships adds humor and humanity. This book is the “House of God” for vets across the globe. And if you have ever been to school, whether in 9th grade or in a doctorate program, you will be able to relate to the FRoGs, death row,Dr Linnehan, and all of the characters in this wonderful, can’t-put-it-down, re-reading it already piece of fiction. Where’s the sequel??

Laurie in Nantucket

A natural for TV — Just finished reading An Animal Life: The Beginning and am totally hooked. The character development was excellent and I found myself thinking about them as real people. I look forward to meeting them again in the next book. I also liked the science, the mystery and the institutional conflicts. While I agree with one reviewer that An Animal Life would make a good movie, I think it better lends itself to a major TV series, in which the story could be presented in chapters over a season. Then as subsequent books are published we could have the next in the series, ultimately with a good four years or more of sharing the adventures and misadventures of these wonderful students. Anyone who loves animals, science, medicine or just a good story with laughs would enjoy this book.