Northwest Herald

Oliver: End of beloved veterinary show brings touch of sadness for viewers

All good things must end, or so the saying goes.

Sometimes that means saying goodbye to people or places, when the end is life-altering and significant. Sometimes, though, it’s a lot less earth-shaking, but still produces a twinge of sadness.

So it is with the abrupt end to one of my favorite shows on television. On Saturday, Nat Geo Wild aired the finale of the long-running series “The Incredible Dr. Pol.”

Because I had somehow missed the memo about the show ending, this took me by surprise. Apparently, the network decided to cancel the show that had run for 24 seasons.

The series about a Dutch-American veterinarian who practices in rural Michigan began airing in October 2011, with a couple of new seasons each year.

The premise of the show was simple. Each episode showed the cases that Dr. Jan Pol and his staff would handle. Since the vets on the show also worked with large animals, viewers would be taken along on farm calls, too.

I had never heard of the show when a friend suggested in 2014 that I watch it when I was at her house to sit with her special-needs daughter. They didn’t have regular TV, but they did have a streaming service.

I can’t say that I fell in love with the series then and there, but I did find it interesting enough to watch more episodes when I found them on Nat Geo Wild.

The show appealed to me on a few levels. Perhaps because Michigan weather is a lot like the weather in northern Illinois, I could relate to the many references to unpredictable weather. The ice storms looked familiar, as did the crazy springs.

I grew up around farms, so the number of farm calls shown on the show felt like going home again.

Dr. Pol himself is a mixture of “old ways” and practical wisdom that I found endlessly fascinating. Although he had “been there and done that” for many years, he wasn’t above asking the younger vets he’d hired about what they had learned in veterinary school.

Then, of course, there were all the animals that needed to be helped. The show offered a bit of mystery solving along with the slice-of-life wholesomeness. I’ve learned so much about so many conditions that can afflict not only dogs and cats, but also birds, snakes, cows, goats, horses and even reindeer.

“The Incredible Dr. Pol” was the first vet show that I watched regularly, but it certainly isn’t the only one. I guess one could call it my “gateway” show, since I’ve found myself watching vets practice all over the United States, from rural Georgia to Nebraska, from Denver to Alaska.

Then again, despite that, I’ve always gone back to Dr. Pol’s show. I’ve come to view Dr. Pol and his wife, Diane, as well as the vets who have worked with him over the years, as part of my extended family.

I will miss how Dr. Pol and his son, Charles, interacted with each other on all those farm calls. And I’ll miss seeing Charles raise his children with his adorable wife, Beth. That viewers got to see Charles finally settle down with a girl he’d known all his life just seemed right.

I’ll miss Dr. Brenda, who was the one vet who had been with Dr. Pol for the entire series. She combines a no-nonsense demeanor with a genuine caring for the animals and people she helps.

Over the years, I had to learn to say goodbye to some of my favorite vets on the show. I got misty-eyed as I watched Dr. Emily pack up and move away with her husband and kids. Although I still follow her on Instagram, it just isn’t the same.

Dr. Lisa and Dr. Nicole both have been around for a few seasons, but they are exactly the type of vets I would want for my own pets. Dr. Olivia is brand new, and I haven’t had enough time to get to know her. I’m sure I would have liked her if given a chance.

The other great thing about “The Incredible Dr. Pol” is that it also was a favorite show of my husband, Tony. Despite his Alzheimer’s disease, he still will sit still and watch. I’m not sure if it’s because of the animals or because the storylines aren’t hard to follow, but I’m happy that he likes the show too.

Of course, not being able to see new episodes isn’t the end of the world. But it’s an end of an era for us. And for the show.

It will be missed.

Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

Joan Oliver

Joan Oliver

A 30-year newspaper veteran who has been a copy editor, front-page editor, presentation editor, assistant news editor and publication editor, as well as a columnist and host of an online newspaper newscast.