Carmel Valley resident relates career veterinary experiences in ‘Lions, Tigers and Hamsters’

Dr. Mark Goldstein interacts with a chimpanzee at one of his early jobs.

With a career in animal care spanning four decades, Dr. Mark Goldstein has done everything from tending to rhinoceroses and healing a goldfish to managing zoos and overseeing the creation of an animal shelter.

The retired Carmel Valley veterinarian and administrator distilled many of his experiences in his recently released book, “Lions and Tigers and Hamsters: What Animals Large and Small Taught Me About Life, Love and Humanity.” It was published by Florida-based Health Communications Inc. and can be accessed for purchase at

Dr. Mark Goldstein
Dr. Mark Goldstein Janie DeCelles

Goldstein will be available to sign copies of his book and talk to customers at 2 p.m., June 22, in the Barnes & Noble bookstore at 1040 N. EL Camino Real in Encinitas.

Though he had authored educational and opinion pieces before, Goldstein said he did not consider writing about his life until a few years ago.

“My kids said, ‘Dad, you’re a great storyteller. Why don’t you write your stories down?” Goldstein said. “My first goal was to leave something for my grandkids. I have two wonderful grandchildren. ... I wanted them to know who Dr. Mark and Papa Mark is. ... As I started to write, I really felt I enjoyed it.”

His ability to craft the autobiographical pieces that form a 25-chapter, 230-page book came as a self-revelation.

“If you would have asked my high school English teachers if Mark Goldstein was going to write a book, I think they would have said you’re talking to the wrong person,” Goldstein said.

Book cover
The cover of “Lions and Tigers and Hamsters: What Animals Large and Small Taught Me About Life, Love and Humanity.” Janie DeCelles

To get the process rolling, he listed as many of the story ideas he could think of.

“I started making a list and I had four pages,” he said. “My goal was to write the stories in the format of the life lessons I learned from each.”

Goldstein initiates the book by relating some seminal early incidents that were often humorous, sometimes painful learning experiences.

The chapters include his memories of working on wild-animal reserves, at thoroughbred horse farms and in communities in Israel.

Middle chapters delve into specific episodes while working as a veterinarian not only in rescuing pets but in saving the life of a child in Mexico.

Goldstein writes in depth about the importance of pets to the mental well-being of their owners and his willingness to go to great lengths to save their animal companions.

The latter portion of “Lions and Tigers and Hamsters” highlights his career as an administrator, including his tenure as head of the San Diego Humane Society. Goldstein elaborates anecdotes about donors instrumental in ground-breaking achievements at the institutions where he worked.

Chapter 21, titled “Angel,” is devoted to an anonymous Coronado woman whose millions of dollars in donations enabled the Humane Society in the early 2000s to complete its then state-of-the-art San Diego campus.“I feel very fortunate to be part of that,” Goldstein said of the effort. “It had a demonstrable effect in being able to adopt all healthy animals that came through the door. We never had to euthanize in the 10 years I was there. ...

“We had over 600 kids coming to summer camp at the animal shelter. Instead of something to avoid, it became something to come to and learn about.

“It takes a team to build something like that. It was one of the highlights of my entire career.”

Interspersed among the book’s chapters are “Ask Dr. Mark” segments, in which he offers insightful essays in answer to questions such as “Why Do We have Zoological Parks and Aquariums?” and “Should Homeless People Have Pets?”

“One of the goals of the books is I hope it gives me the opportunity to speak about the human and animal bond,” Goldstein said. “I firmly believe that is a critical thread in creating a healthy community. It directly reflects on how people treat each other.”

The book received publicity endorsements from an eclectic assortment of professionals: Temple Grandin, author of “Animals in Translation”; Wallis Annenberg, CEO of The Annenberg Foundation; Douglas Myers, CEO of San Diego Zoo Global; Peter Yarrow, singer and songwriter with Peter, Paul and Mary; Carter Luke, CEO of MSPCA-Angell; Richard Lederer, author of “Anguished English”; and national radio host Steven Dale.

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