CSU alum shares her veterinary experience in new memoir, ‘Drinking from the Trough”

Claire Oliver

CSU Alumna Mary Carlson's memoir discusses her story of being a veterinarian
CSU Alumna Mary Carlson’s memoir discusses her story of being a veterinarian. (Nathan Tran | Collegian)

Becoming a healer of animals can be hard work and dealing with different maladies and injuries can take a toll, but for Mary Carlson, the journey of becoming a veterinarian was worth the long hours.

“You learn all the hard stuff in vet school and I can tell you with total honesty that I could not get into vet school today,” Carlson said. “They take ‘A’ students and they say to everybody else, ‘have a nice life.’”

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The Colorado State University alumna and now retired vet shares her experience in “Drinking from the Trough: A Veterinarians Memoir.” The book was released in late August and focuses on Carlson’s residency in Fort Collins as well as the rigors of vet school here at CSU.

According to Carlson, the ability to write seemed almost genetic. Her mother was a writer for radio when she was growing up and her father was a sketch artist.

“[My father] did sketches and drawings and I never knew that,” Carlson said during a Q&A session at Old FireHouse books on Aug. 29. “So I came from a writer and an artist.”

Carlson has also written as a reporter for the Coloradoan. Carlson said she always wanted to write but didn’t want to write short stories or poetry, so a book seemed like the perfect fit.

“You have to have compassion. Anything you can do when you are on your off time would be good, but you need that compassion.” Mary Carlson, author of “Drinking from the Trough: A Veterinarians Memoir.  

Carlson, who originally hails from Chicago, fell in love with the West after visiting her uncle in Fort Collins. She came to CSU to get a degree in physical therapy, which is when she met her husband, Earl Carlson.

Earl Carlson was in his freshman year of vet school when the two met. Carlson was inspired by Earl to go back to school and apply to become a vet.

After graduating and working on a small farm in Fort Collins, Mary Carlson opened up the Blue Spruce Cat Clinic in her home. The clinic provided medical care for all the felines here in the city. She and her husband connected to the community by taking care of neighborhood animals through house calls.

CSU Alumna Mary Carlson signs her books at Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, CO.
CSU Alumna Mary Carlson signs her books at Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, CO. (Nathan Tran| Collegian)

Karen Boehler, a friend of Mary and Earl Carlson, said that they are a lovely couple devoted to their practice and their clients.

“They were both incredible vets,” Boehler said. “[Mary] did large animals and was certified as a horse acupuncturist, one of the first.”

During the Q&A, Boehler shared a heartwarming memory of when her cat Rascal had to be put to sleep and how compassionate and kind both Earl and Mary Carlson were through the entire process.

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Compassion is something Mary Carlson says is crucial when working with animals and is an important element of studying veterinary medicine.

CSU Alumna Mary Carlson greets her book launch attendees at Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, CO.
CSU Alumna Mary Carlson greets her book launch attendees at Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, CO. (Nathan Tran| Collegian)

“You have to have compassion,” Mary Carlson said. “If you were to do some volunteer work at the humane society or if you were to go to a nursing home or shadow someone with a therapy dog, that would be a good thing to do. Anything you can do when you are on your off time would be good, but you need that compassion.”

Mary Carlson retired from veterinary medicine in 2008 due to a hip replacement surgery. Mary Carlson is now a lecturer in anatomy at the CSU college of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Drinking from the Trough: A Veterinarians Memoir” is now available in bookstores and online.  

Collegian Arts and Culture Editor Claire Oliver can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @claire_oliver21.