“I became a vet because it was the only thing I ever wanted to do. There isn’t a type of animal I haven’t looked in the eyes and wondered how it was feeling.” – Dr. Jan Pol
Incredible! The Story of Dr. Pol Premieres Saturday, Jan. 10 at 10 PM ET/PT Following the Season Premiere at 9 PM ET/PT On Nat Geo WILD
Bottom line: “Incredible” is an overused word, but well applied here in describing the storied life of a caring man who left his Netherlands home for the love of an American woman and the career of a lifetime, thankfully still going strong, who can teach a thing or three to everyone who crosses his path on compassion, humility, wit, warmth, humor and how to express love. Bravo to Nat Geo WILD and the “Incredible” Dr. Pol’s son for bringing his story and ongoing adventures to light for us all.
Meet Jan Pol, DVM, a mixed-animal veterinarian in rural Michigan, and reality television’s shining star now at age 71, practicing on large animals (mostly cows) just as he did in his home of the Netherlands, armed with a Dutch veterinary degree in 1970.
This special is his back-story and ethos on treating animal life, and it is incredibly touching and unexpected gem for all viewers of any age, especially those with children. This intimate reveal will educate, entertain and genuinely move you to tears at times.
Nat Geo WILD’s “The Incredible Dr. Pol” is a love letter of sorts to one of the best examples of Nat Geo’s family of naturists, animal experts and personalities. Dr. Pol is a Dutch immigrant who fell in love with a leggy tall gal from Michigan to practice the veterinary sciences. There’s so much still to do with this affable energetic man, as we learn more of his early life as a boy finding out his family took in a starving Jewish boy as the Nazis swept over their homeland in the early 40s.
Remembering this time and asked of the “why” his family put themselves in such extreme danger, he breaks down, as this is just what Dutch people do, he explains, barely able to finish the sentence. This value of human compassion and decency is the common thread that engages Dr. Pol, then a lad, to find interest in helping animals. He shares his life-changing moments, including the joy of delivering a litter of piglets on his family’s farm when he was 12 years old and how that started his journey of working with animals. His mother further fans this flame and instills even more interest in animals and healing values, and we see how this curious affable young man eventually makes his way to the USA, meets a girl, move back to the Netherlands and becomes a vet, then reconnects with his American sweetheart as they settle on making a life together back in her home-state of Michigan.
It’s a wild ride, not easy, long hours, lots of having to reach one’s arm up cow’s wazoos to pull out a stuck calf to life in dramatic flourish. But his instincts with diagnosing and treating large livestock and straight shooter approach with farmers allows his practice to grow, his family to thrive, and to this day he actively takes the beasts, large and small, reptile, mammal whatever comes through the door and heals. The Doc is now an author to boot.
A few years ago his son decided to come to Hollywood to get into film and production, and wound up pitching his dad’s amazing life and good work. Little did anyone know that, at the age of 70, Dr. Pol would become a global Nat Geo WILD star, the network has struck solid gold. Now cameras have collected great B-Roll on him and his ways for five years, shadowing him as he saves lives, births baby animals large and small and cares for thousands of species throughout rural Michigan.
This event is his personal story about how a Dutch farm boy grew up to become a world-famous veterinarian. For more information, visit www.natgeowild.com/drpol
One thing is evident, he loves his wife very much. “Diane came out of the crowd, first thing I say, ‘man, she’s tall.’ We got along fine, it seemed like Diane and I had the same interests an awful lot. We love the beach, we love to go swimming, so we had a lot of hobbies that were together,” says Dr. Pol.
Enjoy this personal history of an optimistic man who has empathy and a solid work ethic, a no-nonsense vet who isn’t afraid to make the difficult decisions in order to do what’s best for his patients and their hard-working owners.
“Be honest with your clients. That was always first. Work hard, and if you don’t know what the problem is, don’t be afraid to admit it,” says Pol in the special.
The Incredible Dr. Pol is produced by National Geographic Television for Nat Geo WILD. For National Geographic Television, executive producer is Ted Duvall and co-executive producer is Andrea Schwartzberg. For Nat Geo WILD, executive producer is Jenny Apostol and executive vice president and general manager is Geoff Daniels.
An excerpt from his new book:
By Dr. Jan Pol with David Fisher
Published Aug. 14, 2014
I have spent my whole life being with animals, as a vet and as an owner. Until they start inventing new animals, I think I can say there isn’t a type of animal I haven’t looked in the eyes and wondered how it was feeling. My wife, Diane, and I once estimated that I’ve handled more than a half-million patients, without one of them ever complaining about me!
In 2009 my son, Charles, who had moved to Hollywood to be in the entertainment industry, thought that people might be interested in a television reality show about a farm vet. I asked him who he thought would be interested in watching an old man who speaks with a funny accent putting his hand up the back end of a cow.
“You’d be surprised,” he said.
“Yes, I would,” I agreed.
“Everybody likes animals,” he explained. “Every day in the practice is very different,” he said. “You’re dealing with life and death all the time and doing it with patients who can’t tell you where it hurts. And unlike most city vets, you also have to consider the economic impact on the farmer’s business.
Besides,” he added, “you’re a character.”
I didn’t know if your son calling you a character was a compliment. But when he also pointed out that we would be telling the story of American farmers in the Midwest, that got me intrigued. I come from a farming family, I know how difficult that life can be, and I know that is a story very much worth telling. So I agreed to let his camera crew follow our staff for a few days, still wondering if anyone was going to watch.
It turned out Diane and I raised a smart son.
When I opened my practice outside the small town of Weidman, Michigan— which is about twelve miles from the larger and better known Mount Pleasant— in 1981, it was about 80 percent large animals, farm animals, and about 20 percent pets. It was mostly family dairy farms when we started, with several pig farmers. We took care of all their animals. But those family farms are mostly gone now; instead, we have the big concerns that supply to the chain stores, and they have their own vets. The workhorses are mostly gone too, and there are no more pig farmers. I remember that not too long after Diane and I moved to Mount Pleasant, I got a call from a farmer named Don Hatfield. Don and his brother had just taken over their uncle’s dairy farm in Mecosta County, and they needed help with a calving. “We’re having trouble getting the calf out of the cow,” he said in his wonderfully deep voice I got to know so well. When we started talking, Don admitted he didn’t know much about dairying because his uncle, who had recently died, had taken care of the cows. So I spent quite a bit of time with at the farm, helping them out, teaching them how to care for their livestock.
Don’s family had been on the land a long time; that barn was just about one hundred years old. He was a wonderful man whose real passion was the history of this part of central Michigan. He interviewed all the old- timers and then compiled thick books telling the story of this area. Don did okay on the farm for a long time; then he more or less retired and sold the cows. When Don quit the barn I went over there and picked up some things I found lying around that I still have, like porcelain mineral cups for the cows. “Take whatever you want,” Don told me. I still hear that beautiful grumble of his voice in my head.
The next thing I knew, the farm was sold to a potato farmer, who dug a big hole and pushed the beautiful old stone house and the barn into it and covered them up. I drove by the place once and stopped to take a good look, and I couldn’t even tell where the house and barn had been. All that was left standing was the electrical pole with a transformer. I just sat there for a little while staring sadly at that field and remembering the people who had once been there. A hundred years of farming history pushed into a hole.
Now my practice is about 60 percent small animals. There are basically three classes of animals: farm animals, work animals, and pets. There is obviously a big difference between them; the relationship between the farmer and his animals is based on economics. These animals are the farmer’s livelihood.
The relationship between pet owners and their animals is based on love. That difference doesn’t matter at all to me; I treat all animals with the same concern.