“This is Elvis,” proud pet mama tells me showing off her dapper tuxedo-clad Cocker Spaniel. “He’s dressed up to meet Dr. Pol.”
Elvis might be the one of the few dressed up at the Westminster Dog Show weekend event, but he’s not the only dog here who wants to meet Dr. Pol and have a photo taken with the namesake star of The Incredible Dr. Pol, a popular documentary-style show on the National Geographic Wild cable television channel.
Security installed a velvet rail to corral the weekend crowd forming around Dr. Pol. Even purebred dog lovers know Dr. Pol.
Full disclosure: I’ve never watched The Incredible Dr. Pol before meeting him at the 2020 Pier 94 Westminster Dog Show in NYC, which was why I hesitated asking questions, unlike many of his superfans. (And there are superfans). I generally find watching pet medical shows too emotionally taxing. Dealing with my own special needs cats and aging dog is as much vet care issues I can take right now.
But, after my celebrity encounter, I checked out The Incredible Dr. Pol on National Geographic Wild.
Jan (Dutch and pronounced ‘Yahn’) Pol and wife Diane Pol run a real veterinary clinic in Weidman, Michigan serving five surrounding counties, primarily rural areas.
Reality-style television show follows Dr. Pol and four staff members out to farms to treat animals, sometimes in ways considered ‘old fashioned’ by urban viewer. But Pol is sensitive to the financial limitations of running farms – and he’s 77-years-old and trained in the Netherlands and aware the show makes him open to criticism. Pol told Parade.com, “My biggest beef is I want to keep pet ownership affordable, so that the animals can be taken care of.”
Cows, pigs, horses, alpacas, beef cattle, and yes cats and dogs (most rural barn animals) are client regulars. Both farm procedures and office visits are edited for time (it is a show), but the dirty realities of rural veterinary care are in full view. Bull castration is particularly challenging to watch, and one of the reasons I generally avoid watching Vet shows.
Episodes are filmed one year in advance. The staff has changed during the eight year. Fans frequently show up at the clinic (a real working clinic) for meet and greets and photos, which clearly isn’t a good idea.
The show premiered in October 2011 and was the idea of the couple’s son, Charles, working in Los Angeles. The idea proved very popular, so popular Dr. Pol and Diane were celebrity features at the Pier 94 Westminster Dog Show events February 2020. Fans lined up and yes, Elvis dressed up.