Introduction to the lesson


A Triumph of Surgery

Introduction to the lesson

This is the storey of Tricki, a dog who is the pet of a wealthy lady named Mrs. Pumphrey. She adores her dog and is unable to refuse him anything he desires. Tricki enjoys eating cream cakes and chocolate. So, one day, while Mrs. Pumphrey and Tricki are out for a walk, the narrator notices them and stops to talk. While speaking with Mrs. Pumphrey, he realises that she has been overfeeding Tricki and also giving him foods that he should not eat, causing Tricki to resemble a bloated sausage. Tricki soon became ill, and Mrs. Pumphrey was forced to seek assistance from Mr. Herriot (narrator). She does not want to send him away, but Mr. Herriot has suggested that he be hospitalised for 15 days. The plot then shifts to how he recovers.

A Triumph of Surgery Summary

The storey begins when Mrs. Pumphrey, a wealthy lady, goes for a walk with her dog. A nearby veterinary doctor who knows the lady notices the dog and is astounded to see that it resembles a bloated sausage with a leg at each end. He advises her to stop feeding him unhealthy foods, but Mrs. Pumphrey is powerless to refuse him. Soon after, he becomes ill, and the doctor is summoned. Mr. Herriot, the narrator, then takes Tricki, the dog, to the hospital despite knowing that Mrs. Pumphrey is not ready to leave her dog and nearly faints just hearing these words. Then he brings the dog with him and makes a bed for him in his surgery. For the first two days, the dog does not move much and does not eat anything. He looks around and whimpers a little on the second day. He begged to be let out on the third day and began playing with the bigger dogs when he was. On the third day, he also licked the bowls of the other dogs clean.

Then his condition began to improve rapidly. He began fighting for his food with other dogs. When Mrs. Pumphrey found out, she began sending him eggs because she assumed Tricki was recovering from an illness and needed energy foods. Mr. Herriot and his colleagues began eating those eggs for breakfast in the morning. Mrs. Pumphrey then began sending in bottles of wine to improve Tricki's blood, which Mr. Herriot consumed once more. He used to drink two glasses before lunch and a few more while eating. Then, when she began sending in bottles of brandy for Tricki, Mr. Herriot realised that he would really like to keep Tricki as a permanent guest in the surgery. Mr. Herriot used to be ecstatic every morning because he had two extra eggs. Then a few glasses of wine in the afternoon, followed by brandy at night to round out the day. But then he made a wise decision and called Mrs. Pumphrey because she was very concerned, and Tricki was ready to be taken back home. Tricki jumped into the car, overjoyed to see his mistress. Mrs. Pumphrey stated that she would never be able to repay him for what he had done, and that his surgery had been a success because Tricki was now cured.

A Triumph of Surgery Explanation

I was really worried about Tricki this time. I had pulled up my car when I saw him in the street with his mistress and I was shocked at his appearance. He had become hugely fat, like a bloated sausage with a leg at each corner. His eyes, bloodshot and rheumy, stared straight ahead and his tongue lolled from his jaws.Mrs Pumphrey hastened to explain, “He was so listless, Mr Herriot.He seemed to have no energy. I thought he must be suffering from malnutrition, so I have been giving him some little extras between meals to build him up, some malt and cod-liver oil and a bowl of Horlicks at night to make him sleep — nothing much really.”“And did you cut down on the sweet things as I told you?”“Oh, I did for a bit, but he seemed to be so weak I had to relent. He does love cream cakes and chocolates so. I can’t bear to refuse him.”I looked down again at the little dog. That was the trouble. Tricki’s only fault was greed. He had never been known to refuse food; he would tackle a meal at any hour of the day or night. And I wondered about all the things Mrs Pumphrey hadn’t mentioned.“Are you giving him plenty of exercise?”“Well, he has his little walks with me as you can see, but Hodgkin,the gardener, has been down with lumbago, so there has been no ring-throwing lately.”

  • Mistress- a woman in a position of authority or control.
  • Bloated- excessive in size or amount.
  • Sausage- an item of food in the form of a cylindrical length of minced pork or other meat encased in a skin, typically sold raw to be grilled or fried before eating.
  • Bloodshot- (of the eyes) inflamed or tinged with blood, typically as a result of tiredness.
  • Rheumy- watery.
  • Lolled- sit, lie, or stand in a lazy, relaxed way.
  • Hastened- be quick to do something.
  • Listless- lacking energy or enthusiasm.
  • Malnutrition- lack of proper nutrition
  • Cod liver oil- oil pressed from the liver of cod
  • Relent- become less severe or intense.
  • Lumbago- pain in the muscles and joints of the lower back.

The narrator begins by telling us how concerned he was about Tricki, his pet dog. Mr. Herriot, the narrator, comes to a complete stop when he sees Tricki and his mistress on the road. The narrator is astounded to see Tricki because he resembles a bloated sausage. He has gained a lot of weight, and his eyes are red and watery. Mrs. Pumphrey, Tricki's owner, begins to explain. She told Mr. Herriot that she suspected Tricki was malnourished because he lacked energy and excitement. She told him that, in addition to his regular meals, she used to give him malt, cod liver oil, and a bowl of Horlicks at night to help him sleep. Despite the fact that she gave him so much to eat, she claims that she doesn't give him much to eat.

The narrator then asks her if she cut down on his sweets as he had requested, to which she responds that she did for a while but that she felt he was getting weaker as a result of which she had to stop being so harsh with him. She also claims that she is unable to refuse him cakes and chocolates because they are his favourites. The narrator finally understood Tricki's predicament. The dog was a glutton who could eat at any time of day. He did not know how to say no to food when his stomach was full. The narrator also reflected on all the things Mrs. Pumphrey would not have mentioned that she fed Tricki. The narrator asked Mrs. Pumphrey again if Tricki was exercising, and she replied that she does take him out for walks every now and then, but he is not doing his ring throwing exercise because the gardner who takes him out to play is not coming these days due to pain in his lower back.

I tried to sound severe: “Now I really mean this. If you don’t cut his food right down and give him more exercise he is going to be really ill.You must harden your heart and keep him on a very strict diet.”Mrs Pumphrey wrung her hands. “Oh I will, Mr Herriot. I’m sure you are right, but it is so difficult, so very difficult.” She set off, head down, along the road, as if determined to put the new regime into practice immediately.I watched their progress with growing concern. Tricki was tottering along in his little tweed coat; he had a whole wardrobe of these coats —for the cold weather and a raincoat for the wet days. He struggled on,drooping in his harness. I thought it wouldn’t be long before I heard from Mrs Pumphrey.The expected call came within a few days. Mrs Pumphrey was distraught. Tricki would eat nothing. Refused even his favorite dishes;and besides, he had bouts of vomiting. He spent all his time lying on a rug, panting. Didn’t want to go for walks, didn’t want to do anything.I had made my plans in advance. The only way was to get Tricki out of the house for a period. I suggested that he be hospitalized for about a fortnight to be kept under observation.The poor lady almost swooned. She was sure he would pine and die if he did not see her every day. But I took a firm line. Tricki was very ill and this was the only way to save him; in fact, I thought it best to take him without delay and followed by Mrs Pumphrey’s wailings, I marched out to the car carrying the little dog wrapped in a blanket.

  • Severe-  very great; intense.
  • Regime- a system or ordered way of doing things.
  • Tottering- move in a feeble or unsteady way.
  • Tweed- a rough-surfaced woolen cloth
  • Wardrobe- a large, tall cupboard or recess in which clothes may be hung or stored.
  • Harness- a set of straps and fittings
  • Distraught- very worried and upset.
  • Bouts- a short period of intense activity of a specified kind.
  • Rug- a floor covering
  • Panting- breathing with short, quick breaths; out of breath.
  • Fortnight- a period of two weeks.
  • Swooned- a partial or total loss of consciousness
  • Wailings- crying with pain, grief, or anger.
  • Marched-  walk quickly and with determination.

The narrator tried to convince Mrs. Pumphrey that if she did not control Tricki's eating habits and increase his exercise, he would become ill soon. He advised her to be firm and strict with him, and to put him on a diet. Mrs. Pumphrey conceded that, while she knew Mr. Herriot was correct, it was too difficult for her to refuse him anything. But then she left, as if she was now fully prepared to follow the new routine. Mr. Herriot stood there watching them walk away, his gaze fixed on Tricki, who was walking unsteadily. Tricki's tweed coat drew the narrator's attention as well. He had a closet full of these coats, as well as a raincoat for rainy days. This line also implies that Mrs. Pumphrey was a wealthy lady because she had so much money to spend on her dog. But the narrator knew he'd be getting a call soon about Tricki's illness, and it did. After a few days, the call came. Mrs. Pumphrey was furious because Tricki was refusing to eat anything, including his favourite dishes, and was vomiting frequently. He didn't want to do anything at all.

The narrator, as a veterinary doctor, knew that the only way to get Tricki well was to get him out of the house for a few days. He then suggested to Mrs. Pumphrey that Tricki be hospitalised and kept under observation for 15 days. Mrs. Pumphrey nearly passed out when she heard this. She was convinced that if Tricki did not see her every day, he would perish. But the narrator stuck to his guns. He informed her that this was their only option because Tricki was gravely ill. The narrator reasoned that it was best to avoid any delays and get him to the hospital as soon as possible. He went to their house, and despite Mrs. Pumphrey's tears because she did not want her dog to leave her, he took the dog, wrapped it in a blanket, and loaded him into the car.

The entire staff was roused and maids rushed in and out bringing his day bed, his night bed, favorite cushions, toys and rubber rings, breakfast bowl, lunch bowl, super bowl. Realizing that my car would never hold all the stuff, I started to drive away. As I moved off, Mrs Pumphrey, with a despairing cry, threw an armful of the little coats through the window. I looked in the mirror before I turned the corner of the drive; everybody was in tears. Out on the road, I glanced down at the pathetic little animal gasping on the seat by my side. I patted the head and Tricki made a brave effort to wag his tail. “Poor old lad,” I said. “You haven’t a kick in you but I think I know a cure for you.”

At the surgery, the household dogs surged round me. Tricki looked down at the noisy pack with dull eyes and, when put down, lay motionless on the carpet. The other dogs, after sniffing round him for a few seconds, decided he was an uninteresting object and ignored him.

I made up a bed for him in a warm loose box next to the one where the other dogs slept. For two days I kept an eye on him, giving him no food but plenty of water. At the end of the second day he started to show some interest in his surroundings and on the third he began to whimper when he heard the dogs in the yard. When I opened the door, Tricki trotted out and was immediately engulfed by Joe, the greyhound, and his friends. After rolling him over and thoroughly inspecting him, the dogs moved off down the garden. Tricki followed them, rolling slightly with his surplus fat. Later that day, I was present at feeding time. I watched while Tristan slopped the food into the bowls. There was the usual headlong rush followed by the sounds of high-speed eating; every dog knew that if he fell behind the others he was liable to have some competition for the last part of his meal.

  • Roused- cause to stop sleeping.
  • Maids- a female domestic servant.
  • Rushed- done or completed too hurriedly; hasty.
  • Supper- an evening meal, typically a light or informal one.
  • Despairing- showing loss of all hope.
  • Glanced- take a brief or hurried look.
  • Patted- touch quickly and gently with the flat of the hand.
  • Wag- (especially with reference to an animal's tail) move or cause to move rapidly to and fro.
  • Surged- move suddenly and powerfully forward or upward.
  • Motionless- not moving; stationary.
  • Sniffing- the action of drawing in air audibly through the nose.
  • Whimper- make a series of low, feeble sounds expressive of fear, pain, or unhappiness.
  • Trotted- run at a moderate pace with short steps.
  • Engulfed- sweep over (something) so as to surround or cover it completely.
  • Slopped- spill or flow over the edge of a container, typically as a result of careless handling.
  • Liable-  likely to do or to be something.

The maids were then roused from their slumber and instructed to remove all of Tricki's belongings. His belongings included a day bed, a night bed, favourite cushions, toys, rubber rings, a breakfast bowl, a lunch bowl, and a snack bowl. Mr. Herriot was aware that so much of his belongings would not fit in his car, so he began rushing things. Mrs. Pumphrey threw a lot of coats Tricki used to wear in the car as the doctor was leaving with Tricki. As the narrator turned the car, he noticed through the rearview mirror that everyone was crying. He stroked the helpless animal, who reacted by wagging his tail. The narrator then thought and told Tricki that he knew Tricki didn't have any energy, but he was sure he could make him feel better.

When they arrived at the hospital, all of the other dogs gathered around the doctor. Tricki looked at everyone, and when the doctor placed him on the carpet, he couldn't move. The other dogs sniffed him and decided that he was a very uninteresting object and that it was pointless to stand there, so they left. The narrator then made Tricki a bed in a warm box with the other dogs. The narrator kept him on water and nothing else for two days. On the second day, he wandered around looking at the surroundings, and on the third day, he made noise to let the hospital staff know that he, too, wanted to go out with the other dogs. When the narrator opened the door, Tricki rushed out, surrounded by Joe, a greyhound, and his friends. After another moment of sniffing him, they all went to the garden, and Tricki followed them. Later that evening, the narrator was present at dinner and was watching everyone, especially Tristan as he slopped the food. They were all eating quickly because they knew that if they didn't finish quickly, the other dog would come to eat their meal after he finished his.

When they had finished, Tricki took a walk round the shining bowls,licking casually inside one or two of them. Next day, an extra bowl was put out for him and I was pleased to see him jostling his way towards it.From then on, his progress was rapid. He had no medicinal treatment of any kind but all day he ran about with the dogs, joining in their friendly scrimmages. He discovered the joys of being bowled over, trampled on and squashed every few minutes. He became an accepted member of the gang, an unlikely, silky little object among the shaggy crew, fighting like a tiger for his share at mealtimes and hunting rats in the old hen-house at night. He had never had such a time in his life.All the while, Mrs Pumphrey hovered anxiously in the background,ringing a dozen times a day for the latest bulletins. I dodged the questions about whether his cushions were being turned regularly or his correct coat worn according to the weather; but I was able to tell her that the little fellow was out of danger and convalescing rapidly.The word ‘convalescing’ seemed to do something to Mrs Pumphrey.She started to bring round fresh eggs, two dozen at a time, to build upTricki’s strength. For a happy period my partners and I had two eggs each for breakfast, but when the bottles of wine began to arrive, the real possibilities of the situation began to dawn on the household.It was to enrich Tricki’s blood. Lunch became a ceremonial occasion with two glasses of wine before and several during the meal.

  • Licking- pass the tongue over (something) in order to taste, moisten, or clean it.
  • Pleased- feeling or showing pleasure and satisfaction,
  • Jostling- push, elbow, or bump against (someone) roughly, typically in a crowd.
  • Scrimmages- a confused struggle or fight.
  • Trampled- tread on and crush.
  • Squashed- flat, soft, or out of shape as a result of being crushed or squeezed with force.
  • Shaggy- long, thick, and unkempt.
  • Hovered- remain poised uncertainty in one place or between two states.
  • Anxiously-  feeling or showing worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.
  • Dozen- 12 in number
  • Bulletins- a short official statement or broadcast summary of news.
  • Convalescing- recover one's health and strength over a period of time after an illness or medical treatment.

When everyone had finished their meals, Tricki went around inspecting the gleaming bowls and licking a few of them. The next day, an extra bowl was placed for him, and the narrator was pleased to see him running towards it. Then he started getting better quickly. He didn't need any medications and spent the entire day playing with the other dogs. They used to play with each other, collide, walk over each other, and squash each other. All of the other dogs accepted him as a family member, despite the fact that he was very different from the others in that he was well cared for by his owner and the others were not. He also used to fight for his food with other dogs that were much bigger than him. He would also hunt rats in the henhouse at night. He was having a good time because he had never done anything like this before.

Mrs. Pumphrey had been calling more than twelve times a day to inquire about Tricki. Mr. Herriot used to avoid questions about coats, beds, and so on. But he assured her that Tricki was doing well and recovering quickly. Mrs. Pumphrey wished Tricki a speedy recovery. She began sending him two dozen eggs every day, but Mr. Herriot and his partners would only have two eggs for breakfast. Mrs. Pumphrey then began sending in bottles of wine to improve the quality of the blood. Mr. Herriot made it a habit to drink two glasses of wine before lunch and a few more afterward.

We could hardly believe it when the brandy came to put a final edge on Tricki’s constitution. For a few nights the fine spirit was rolled around, inhaled and reverently drunk. They were days of deep content, starting well with the extra egg in the morning, improved and sustained by the midday wine and finishing luxuriously round the fire with the brandy. It was a temptation to keep Tricki on as a permanent guest, but I knew Mrs Pumphrey was suffering and after a fortnight, felt compelled to phone and tell her that the little dog had recovered and was awaiting collection.

Within minutes, about thirty feet of gleaming black metal drew up outside the surgery. The chauffeur opened the door and I could just make out the figure of Mrs Pumphrey almost lost in the interior. Her hands were tightly clasped in front of her; her lips trembled. “Oh, Mr Herriot, do tell me the truth. Is he really better?” “Yes, he’s fine. There’s no need for you to get out of the car — I’ll go and fetch him.” I walked through the house into the garden. A mass of dogs was hurtling round and round the lawn and in their midst, ears flapping, tail waving, was the little golden figure of Tricki. In two weeks he had been transformed into a lithe, hard-muscled animal; he was keeping up well with the pack, stretching out in great bounds, his chest almost brushing the ground. I carried him back along the passage to the front of the house. The chauffeur was still holding the car door open and when Tricki saw his mistress he took off from my arms in a tremendous leap and sailed into Mrs Pumphrey’s lap. She gave a startled “Ooh!” And then had to defend herself as he swarmed over her, licking her face and barking. During the excitement, I helped the chauffeur to bring out the beds, toys, cushions, coats and bowls, none of which had been used. As the car moved away, Mrs Pumphrey leaned out of the window. Tears shone in her eyes. Her lips trembled. “Oh, Mr Herriot,” she cried, “how can I ever thank you? This is a triumph of surgery!”

  • Brandy- a strong alcoholic spirit distilled from wine or fermented fruit juice.
  • Constitution- the composition of something.
  • Reverently- with deep and solemn respect.
  • Temptation- the desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise.
  • Compelled- bring about (something) by the use of force or pressure.
  • Awaiting- wait for (an event).
  • Gleaming- reflecting light, typically because very clean or polished.
  • Chauffeur- a person employed to drive a private or hired car.
  • Clasped-  grasp (something) tightly with one's hand.
  • Trembled- shake involuntarily, typically as a result of anxiety, excitement, or frailty.
  • Fetch- go for and then bring back (someone or something) for someone.
  • Hurtling- move or cause to move at high speed, typically in an uncontrolled manner
  • Midst- in the middle of.
  • Lithe-  thin, supple, and graceful.
  • Startled- feeling or showing sudden shock or alarm.
  • Swarmed- move somewhere in large numbers.
  • Shone- a quality of brightness produced

Mrs. Pumphrey began bringing in brandy. Mr. Herriot couldn't believe Mrs. Pumphrey actually wanted them to give Tricki brandy at the time. They distributed it amongst themselves. Mr Herriot used to be very happy some days because he would start his day with extra eggs, then have a few glasses of wine in the afternoon, and then end the day with brandy in the evening. Mr. Herriot was tempted to keep Tricki as a permanent guest at the surgery because of all the things that were being sent for him. He really wanted Tricki to stay with them forever, but then he realised that Mrs Pumphrey, who was like a mother to Tricki, was in a lot of pain and desperately wanted Tricki to return soon. Tricki was ready to return home after 15 days, so Mr. Herriot called Mrs. Pumphrey to come pick him up. A long black car arrived outside a few minutes later. Mrs. Pumphrey was sitting inside, nervous and excited, when the chauffeur opened the door. With trepidation in her voice, she inquired if Tricki was truly better, to which the doctor replied positively. Mr. Herriot then went inside to find Tricki.

Mr. Herriot went to the garden behind the house and saw all the dogs running around, with Tricki sitting between them. In just two weeks, he had made a complete recovery. He appeared to be in better health, playing with the other dogs and his chest was touching the ground. Within two weeks, he had developed into a strong, muscular dog. When Mr. Herriot brought Tricki to the front of the house, he noticed that the chauffeur was still holding the car door open, and Tricki was overjoyed to see his mother-like mistress. He bolted and jumped into Mrs. Pumphrey's lap, licking her face and barking in delight. While all of this was going on, the chauffeur and Mr. Herriot moved all of his belongings to the car, which had not been used during the treatment in the previous 14 days. When Mrs. Pumphrey was about to leave, she leaned out the window and told Mr. Herriot, with tears in her eyes, that she couldn't thank him enough for what he'd done. "This is a triumph of surgery!" indicated that Tricki's treatment had been successful.

About the Author

James Alfred Wight (3 October 1916 – 23 February 1995), also known as James Herriot, was a British veterinary surgeon and writer who used his many years of experience as a veterinary surgeon to write a series of books about animals and their owners. He is best known for these semi-autobiographical works, which began with If Only They Could Talk in 1970 and spawned a series of films and television series.