Reviews

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“Von der Lebensgeschichte von Walter Eschenburg bin ich beeindruckt und begeistert. Frau Rohrbach gebührt großer Dank, dieses reiche Leben aufgeschrieben zu haben.
Ich selbst stamme aus Hinterpommern und bin der Sohn (Peter Eschenburg) des in dem Buch erwähnten “”Uncle Boli” (Bogislav Eschenburg) . Als kleines Kind war auch ich wiederholt in Juchow und wurde zusammen mit Jörgen Dennig in der dortigen Kirche getauft. Die Schilderung des Lebens auf dem Gut Juchow ist von Frau Rohrbach mit viel Feingefühl wunderbar beschrieben. Beim Lesen fühlte ich mich in meine Kindheit zurückversetzt. Lübeck, Hinterpommern, das Leben auf dem dortigen großen Gut, 1945 die Flucht in den Westen Deutschlands: Alles hat Frau Rohrbach eindrucksvoll aufgezeichnet.
Diese Buch müßte unbedingt auch in deutscher Sprache erscheinen.”
Peter Eschenburg, 03/03/2017

Five Stars – great read, I felt that I was in the bush.” Caroline Muller, 21/09/2016

“Net om te sê hoe ek jou boek oor oom Walter se lewe geniet het: baie dankie daarvoor! Ek het hom -en Topsy – absoluut belewe soos ons hulle deur die jare leer ken het. Kon die boek nie neersit toe ek eers begin lees het nie. Somtyds hardop gelag, dan weer ‘n traan gepink!” Sita van Niekerk, 29/10/2014

Beautifully written full of heart and SOUL! – Absolutely loved this book. Was reluctant to take this one on since I’d been on a stream of biographies and thought that justice could not be done to a story written by other than the person for whom the story was about. Was I wrong! This is one of my favorites. Rohrbach obviously cared so much for Walter and his life story that she did not miss a beat in making sure the story flowed wonderfully. Anyone would have been honored to have meet this man and lucky to have had him as their veterinarian.”- Rebekkah Hammond, August 3, 2014

Dr Walter Eschenburg’s Biography – I knew Walter and love reading both about him and listening to the stories he had to tell. You can really hear his voice. I have to thank Walter for saving my pony from African horse sickness on two occasions. He was a wonderful vet who worked tirelessly despite the heat. I would have loved to have accompanied him on his rounds but don’t think I could have kept up with him.” – Sophie Neville, March 3, 2014

“A Special Story – A most wonderful story and great read for all those who are interested in the bush and (sometimes atypical) bushveld medicine!” – E A G Herschell, January 12, 2014

“Great – The author and the person she’s writing about are both great story tellers. Quite a few humorous stories. Also provides a good view on the effect of ww2 on the people. – Brian Eschenburg, January 1, 2014

Healing Rhinos – A really wonderful account of Walter`s career as a Bushveld vet and also that of his family`s sojourn in Germany during the war. I loved it Tha Eschenbergs were/are very special people. – Margaret Pleming, 12 June 2014

Africa at its best – Loved this book, perhaps because I know the person who wrote it, but would have loved the down to earth approach to the life of an African vet. – Angela Ashworth, 20 February 2014

Ein Tierarzt mit Wurzeln in Luebeck – Sehr lebendig wird das Leben in Südafrika erzählt und die Erinnerungen an die Zeit und die Familie in Deutschland. Ein liebenswertes Buch, leicht zu lesen – obwohl bisher nur auf Englisch. – Kaete47, 13 Januar 2014

The One Rule-Book Club review in the Prince Albert Friend – “Steffi, a qualified vet turned eco tourism fundi, has lived in Prince Albert since 2005.
“Healing Rhinos and Other Souls” is her first book, a memoir about a friend, Walter Eschenburg, who was a much respected if unorthodox vet and a great storyteller.
After a childhood spent in a German castle, escaping the Russian army, it is in the harsh South African bushveld, the beautiful Waterberg, where Walter settled as a pioneering wildlife vet. Steffi knowledgably transcribes his encounters with charging rhinos, irate cows, angry giraffes, snakes, amorous elephants, cats, dogs and donkeys.
I met Walter a few times and delighted in reading about his intriguing life, so full of satisfying episodes of laughter, silly escapades and some tearful deaths. While reading the first half, I was completely oblivious to my surroundings, becoming completely drawn in by their accidental presence in the middle of the 2nd world war and their miraculous escape, family intact. Later Steffi describes the tragedies and miracles of nature and how Walter made the difference, and I still sat reading!
It is a story of a life well lived, and as our book club knows, I love a true story with a bit of travel…Healing Rhinos was just that!!! – Di Steyn, February 2014

Get a life, James Herriot! – “Whenever anecdotes about vets are mentioned, people of a certain age are bound to be reminded of the innumerable stories of Alf Wright – alias James Herriot – the author of over 20 books (beginning with “If Only They Could Talk”, in 1970) about sick animals, sick owners and their treatment in the Yorkshire Dales. Personally, I found many of those stories rather contrived, especially after the first couple of volumes, and soon stopped reading them.

Now at last comes a book about the experiences of a vet that not only seem very real, but which are also about the area in which we live – the Waterberg. Healing Rhinos (the title aside), is the wonderful story of the life of a beloved and highly competent, if occasionally unorthodox vet many of us living in and around the Waterberg were fortunate to have known: the late Dr Walter Eschenburg.

Walter was and still is regarded as having been one of those truly exceptional vets, who had an innate empathy for animals big and small, wild or domesticated; who (with few exceptions) almost immediately developed a reassuring communication with them; and who would apply his considerable intellect and veterinary skill to finding solutions to their maladies, using whatever equipment and material he had at his disposal.

But Walter was not only a fine vet. He was a remarkable person too. He loved people (including his delightful wife Topsy and their family), nature, the environment, humour, conversation, problem solving, teaching, story telling – and good food. In some respects, he was too good for his own good, too modest, too self-effacing, and there were those who took advantage of these attributes, failing to pay him for his services.

Stephanie Rohrbach, a qualified vet herself, German-speaking like Walter and an old family friend, set out years ago to capture Walter’s history and his often outrageous, even unlikely, but always amusing stories. Walter knew that his experiences needed to be recorded for posterity and co-operated willingly with Stephanie’s project. The result is this new book, published, sadly, four years after Walter’s premature and unexpected passing.

The content is a blend of first and third person memoirs, cleverly compiled, with an easy flow, if a little repetitive in places. While acknowledging the subject’s few shortcomings, like his difficulty with financial administration and his inability to drive slowly, the book is unashamedly a eulogy to a dear friend. As the author notes in her foreword, “This is not a work of fiction, nor is it, strictly speaking, a biography. It is a life-story, a memoir, and a collection of anecdotes. It is a story told by many voices, a picture painted with words. It is my picture of Walter”.

It commences with Walter’s childhood, when in 1939, his family unfortunately chose to visit Germany from South Africa for a family reunion – and ended up having to remain there until the end of World War Two. This section offers a fascinating perspective of the conflict through the memories of a child; and his travails provide a glimpse of the strength of character of the man he was to become.

After the family’s safe return to SA, the book moves on to describe Walter’s affinity for animals on his father’s farm on the Highveld, leading to his decision to study veterinary science and to go into private practice. Along the way, he had the great good fortune – he was always saying how fortune smiled on him – to meet and marry Topsy Graham, a beautiful young farmer’s daughter and agricultural college graduate.

Off went the young couple to their first practice, in Potgietersrus (now Mokopane). And then the stories really began: wild Brahman bulls, reprobate buffalo, lucky escapes, inquisitive elephant, failed tranquiliser darts, cows in calf, a confused circus lion – and another that disappeared, escapades in a succession of clapped-out vehicles, unusual house guests, hungry (and other) snakes, ingenious improvisations and more, tumbling off the pages in rapid succession: the best fireside tales ever. Get a life, James Herriot!

The book’s title is misleading: although there are a couple of stories about rhino, there are so many other fascinating and arguably more rewarding tales told in this absorbing, engaging volume it is a pity the author chose the over-used rhino theme to brand her work. Many indeed were the souls – reptilian, avian and mammalian (including human) – that were bolstered, saved or redeemed during the course of this wonderful gentleman’s career and life, aided and abetted by Topsy and his able assistants Paraffin, Flying Machine and George, as they moved first to Naboomspruit (Mookgophong) and later, to Vaalwater.

We can be grateful for the memorable colourful thread Walter Eschenburg wove through the Waterberg tapestry. And we must thank Ms Rohrbach for having brought so many of his entertaining anecdotes together to paint an accurate portrait of his character, for the enjoyment of all of us who love the world he loved.” – Richard Wadley, January 2014

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