There’s no doubt Dr. Jeff Wells is an outstanding veterinarian. But the route he took from veterinarian to author is another story.
“I would have been voted the last person in my high school class that would ever write a book,” the 1988 DVM graduate of Iowa State said. “I can pull a mean calf, but I can’t spell at all.”
What Wells is, is a story teller, which he has put to good use in the publication of three books – “A Veterinarian’s Handbook for Horse Husbands,” “All My Patients Kick and Bite” and “All My Patients Have Tales.”
The material for the Colorado veterinarian’s books have come from his experiences as a small and large animal veterinarian.
“The stories are real life – my life,” he said. “It wasn’t hard to write down, the hard part was thinking about who I was writing to.
“Veterinarians think something is funny but it may not be funny to the general public. I had to be careful about it in my books.”
His first book was “A Veterinarian’s Handbook for Horse Husbands.” At his mixed animal practice in Colorado, Wells says a majority of his horse clients were women and their husbands had little, if anything, to do with the animals.
The book, which Wells self-published, walks horse husbands through some common equine emergencies enabling them to stay on good terms with their wives.
“Self-publishing books is a huge risk,” Wells said. “When 3000 books show up at your house, it makes you want to market them. That’s a built-in driver.”
In his next book, “All My Patients Have Tales,” Wells wrote a series of charming, funny and engaging stories of his practice. This collections includes stories of, among other things, a turkey attack, porcupine-quill covered terriers, a pregnant male cat, a heavy-metal Chihuahua with road burn, an ornery pygmy donkey, a giant hog, and a constipated cow.
A fortunate meeting with an executive with Barnes and Noble, got “All My Patients Have Tales” into those stores and the book took off. Soon Wells was spending his weekends traveling to book signings throughout Colorado, Iowa and New Mexico.
“Unless you’re JK Rowling, people don’t line up to have get your signature,” Wells said. “More than anything, this experience helped me with my speaking skills. I really didn’t read from the book but told stories. In a way I was expected to entertain the customers during my book signings.”
“All My Patients Have Tales” was such a success that Wells wrote a follow-up, “All My Patients Kick and Bite.” Similar to the previous book, in this collection, he recalls how he had to run for his life and vault over a fence while treating a calf and how llamas don’t respond well to having their toenails trimmed.
“ I had 20 years of practice so I had a few stories to tell,” Wells said. “These are my best stories.”
The books continue to get good reviews both from his readers and reviewers. The Tucson Citizen says his books are “filled with stories that are touching, poignant, and funny, all reflecting his experiences as a dedicated veterinarian.”
As a writer, Wells may not be as prolific as say a James Patterson or Stephen King. But the veterinarian turned author and now Elanco representative does have his fans. “All My Patients Kick and Bite” and “All My Patients Have Tales” have sold a combined 50,000 copies and he still receives royalty checks to this day.
He also has a built-in audience courtesy of his mom, who lives in the Greens Hill retirement community in Ames.
“I think everyone in Green Hills has a copy of my books,” Wells said. “My mom gives them to every new resident.”