On Nat Geo WILD’s fourth annual celebration of man’s best friend tonight, BarkFest will feature The Incredible Dr. Pol’s most beloved dog cases on The Incredible Dr. Pol: Be My Canine special.
Ahead of this extra-special TV event, we spoke to Dr. Jan Pol’s wife of 50 years, Diane Pol, as the couple share some of their exclusive family pics.
You name it, from puppies to pit bulls, squealing beagles to big-eyed spaniels and loveable counter-surfing labs, Dr. Pol and his team have seen it all and really give the poop on the show tonight for handling, raising and keeping Fido from falling ill and promoting a long happy tail-wagging life.
But as fans know, the Pol veterinary practice sees all animals, including the wooly farm critters and bigger clients like horses and cattle. Diane is right by her husband’s side — if the former school teacher is not running things in the office, she lends a hand out in the field too.
And the strength behind The Incredible Dr. Pol not only is with the affable good doctor but his Michigan bride too, who fell for him in high school and has raised a family with him.
Together they have created a successful veterinarian practice and now have achieved a huge hit TV series for Nat Geo WILD.
Unquestionably, Diane is Dr. Pol’s biggest fan. In a down-to-earth interview with Monsters and Critics, she spoke about their own trio of dogs and much more:
Monsters and Critics: BarkFest is coming, and I know that there’s a special Dr. Pol episode. I was wondering how much you knew of it and what you could share?
Diane Pol: The whole program is going to feature dogs. And the clips that I have seen have been mainly about new puppies coming in, the necessity for them to be vaccinated and wormed, and routine checkups.
M&C: That’s so important. When I spoke to your husband, he said that you had three dogs right now. He said the Great Dane was yours…
M&C: …and the Newfie was both of yours, but the St. Bernard was his. And I was wondering if you could tell the fans about your dogs, their names and anything about them.
Diane: Sure can. We love all three of the dogs, of course. We don’t always choose which dog is going to be ours, but the dog that we had the longest is a Newfie. She’s a female. Her name is Annie and, of course, she’s black, and she is just the sweetest little girl.
We got her as a puppy and she is so happy to see you when you come home and she’s the first one out to greet my car and wags her tail, and then the big boys come along and they push her aside.
So the second dog that we have gotten is Donner, and he is a black-and-white Great Dane. And he came as a rescue, basically. The previous owners had medical issues and he was being boarded for a long period of time. So he has some hangups from being boarded when he was a young pup.
But Dr. Pol was so excited to get him, and the dog does not like men especially, especially veterinarians, and he can smell it on Jan [Dr. Pol]. He gets along fine with Jan, but he is my dog; he’s a woman’s dog. And so he’s my best buddy and I can do anything with him.
The third dog that came along was also a rescue, and that is a St. Bernard, and his name is Killian. Dr. Pol used to raise St. Bernards when he was over in the Netherlands. And I assumed that when we got over here and got settled, that’s probably what we would have, but we switched over to the Great Danes.
So when this St. Bernard came along to be rescued and Jan had to treat him, I looked up at him — and he was going to a foster home because he was being taken away from the previous owner — and I said, “What are you going to do with this dog?” And he said, “What do you mean?” And I said, “Well, he’s not going back to the pound.”
And you should have seen him just light up. He was delighted with this dog. So he has become Jan’s dog. He loves me and he loves attention, and I love him too. He’s really got a great personality, but he is Jan’s dog.
M&C: That’s wonderful. And they all get along well?
Diane: Oh, they all love to play with each other. The two big dogs overshadow the female, but she runs along with them and nobody has any fights over whose food is going to be what or who’s getting in first. They all share everything, so that’s great.
M&C: I noticed when we watched the show that there was a cat that hangs out in the office. Can you tell us about that cat? And does Dr. Emily and Dr. Brenda, do they bring animals in as well from home or do they keep their animals out of the office?
Diane: Everyone has pets, and Dr. Emily and Dr. Brenda basically keep their pets at home unless there is a problem. The cat that hangs out in the clinic is actually our clinic cat. And what happened with that case was, it was a cat that Dr. Brenda took in on an emergency call at night and it came with a trap on its front leg. And so a gentleman brought this cat in and he said, “This is my neighbor’s cat. It came up to my door and I need to have something done right away.”
So Brenda took the trap off the cat’s leg, she treated it, but it was badly infected and broken and so the next day she said to Dr. Pol, “What are we going to do with this cat?” The animal shelter wouldn’t want to take it if it didn’t have all four legs, and it was impossible to keep this cat with all four legs.
So Jan says, “I can’t put this cat down. He’s got such bright, beautiful eyes and he’s so alert and so attentive,” and he said, “We’ll just take the leg off and we’ll make him into a clinic cat.” So that’s what he has done.
And we had a couch in the office, and he would get up on the couch and lay there after his surgery. And if you walked by, he would take his good paw and he’d reach out and grab you, because you had to stop and pet him. So he was a couch potato, so his name became Tater. So that’s how he got his name and he controls the whole clinic.
I did leave out the part that when this gentleman who brought the cat in went back home, he called his neighbor and said, “I took your cat into the veterinarian.” And they said, “No you didn’t because our cat’s right here in the house.”
So we have no idea whose cat it was or where it came from. And he could have come from a long way, but he came dragging this trap in. So no one’s claimed him and we’re sure glad that they didn’t because we sure like him.
He greets all the patients as they come in and he lays right in the middle of the waiting room and looks up at the other dogs, and is not afraid of them at all. And he’s not overly fond of other cats, although he tolerates them, but the cats are invading his territory.
M&C: You live in a small community and this is a serious question. People report bad parents to Child Welfare. Is there a system like that for people in the community that may be abusing pets or animals, and is there a network or a way for veterinarians and law enforcement to work together to find these people out? Is that something that exists?
Diane: Basically yes. We have an animal control system here. We have a prosecuting attorney, and Dr. Pol works with these people to try to help take care of the pets that are being mistreated in the community.
The basic protocol is that if someone thinks that there is a problem with someone else with their animals, they will call animal control and animal control will go out and they will talk with them.
If there is a problem that could be corrected, they try to train them with what you need to do like protection, make sure they got enough food, this type of thing. And then they’ll come back and check to see whether they’re doing it.
If they’re not, then they bring in Dr. Pol, he comes out and he checks out the situation and he says, “Yeah. This is a bad situation.” And they do go to court sometimes and take the animals away. And we have to go to court to help do this.
M&C: You met Jan Pol in high school in Michigan. What was he like as a young man in high school when you met him? What turned your head?
Diane: Well, basically he was pretty much about the same as what he is now. He always had a lot of wit about him. He was, of course, very intelligent, and I liked the idea that he knew a lot about travel and other countries, and of course being from another country, but the Europeans travel around a lot over there. So that intrigued me, but he was always…how do I want to say it? He cared for other people, he was always kind and I liked his wit and his intelligence.
And coming from the opposite side of the world, it was amazing that we had a lot of common things in our background. I was an only child, he was seven years younger than his youngest brother, so he was basically raised like an only child.
And he took care of a pet chicken when he was young.
We both like water sports. So we just clicked. But then we had this good friendship and he went back to the Netherlands, and when he went back to the Netherlands we wrote letters, but it was once a month. Then I went over there to stay with his family, and after that things really started to develop. That was two years later.
M&C: One interview of yours I read said you wanted to visit Scotland because of your own heritage. Have you ever been able to get to Scotland?
Diane: Right! No, not yet. I still have that on my bucket list that someday I would like to do that. My mother’s side of the family is all pure German, and of course I’ve been to Germany when we were living over in the Netherlands, but I have not been to Scotland yet.
M&C: Is there something that you can tell the fans about your son Charles that maybe no one else knows?
Diane: Okay…what can I say that no one else really knows? It has already come out in the episode that he does have a girlfriend; it is very serious and it’s developing. And I think that’s probably all I’m really allowed to say right now at this point!
M&C: Oh no. Your husband spilled the beans.
Diane: Oh he did?
M&C: Yeah. Dr. Pol told me that Charles was engaged.
Diane: Yep. Right. And actually, his wedding is coming up in the first part of April. So we’ll be going down to North Carolina for his wedding!
The Incredible Dr. Pol BarkFest edition airs Saturday, Feb. 10, at 9/8c on Nat Geo WILD.