The First Chapter
Once upon a time there was a doctor; and his name was Dolittle – John Dolittle, M.D. “M.D.” means that he was a good doctor and knew everything. He lived in a little town. The name of the town was Puddleby. All the people, young and old, knew him well. And when he walked down the street, everyone said, “There goes the Doctor! – He’s a clever man.” And the dogs and the children all ran up and followed behind him.
The house where he lived was quite small; but his garden was very large. His sister, Sarah Dolittle, was a housekeeper for him; but the Doctor looked after the garden himself. He loved animals and kept many kinds of pets. Besides the gold-fish in the pond, he had rabbits in the cupboard, white mice in his piano, a squirrel in the linen closet and a hedgehog in the cellar. He had a cow with a calf too, and an old horse who was twenty-five years old, and chickens, and pigeons, and two lambs, and many other animals. But his favorite pets were Dab-Dab the duck, Jip the dog, Gub-Gub the baby pig, Polynesia the parrot, and the owl Too-Too.
His sister often grumbled about all these animals and said that they made the house untidy. And one day when an old sick lady came to see the Doctor, she sat on the hedgehog who was on the sofa and so she never came to see the Doctor any more, but drove every Saturday to another town to see a different doctor.
Then his sister, Sarah Dolittle, came to him and said,
“John, how can sick people come and see you when you keep all these animals in the house? We are getting poorer every day. If you go on like this, none of the best people will come to visit you.”
“But I like the animals better than the ‘best people’,” said the Doctor.
“You are foolish,” said his sister, and walked out of the room.
So, as time went on, the Doctor got more and more animals; and at last he had no patients at all. He got even more pets; and of course it cost a lot to feed them. Then he sold his piano and let the mice live in a bureau-drawer. But the money he got for the piano began to go, so he sold his good brown suit and went on becoming poorer and poorer. And now, when he walked down the street, people said to one another, “There goes John Dolittle, M.D.! There was a time when he was the best known doctor in the West Country – Look at him now – He hasn’t any money!” But the dogs and the cats and the children still ran up and followed him through the town.
The Second Chapter
It happened one day that the parrot, Polynesia, flew onto the Doctor’s table and said,
“Be an animal-doctor. Don’t treat the silly people – if they haven’t brains enough to see that you’re the best doctor in the world. Take care of animals instead.”
“Oh, there are plenty of animal-doctors,” said John Dolittle.
“Yes, there ARE plenty,” said Polynesia. “But none of them are any good at all. Now listen, Doctor, and I’ll tell you something. Did you know that animals can talk?”
“I knew that parrots can talk,” said the Doctor.
“Oh, we parrots can talk in two languages – people’s language and bird-language,” said Polynesia proudly. “If I say, ‘Polly wants a cracker,’ you understand me. But hear this: Ka-ka oi-ee, fee-fee?”
“Oh!” cried the Doctor. “What does that mean?”
“That means, ‘Is the porridge hot yet?’ – in bird-language.”
“Really!” said the Doctor. “You never talked that way to me before. Tell me some more!” And he rushed to the desk and came back with the note book and a pencil. “Now don’t speak too fast – and I’ll write it down. This is interesting – very interesting – something quite new. Give me the Birds’ ABC first – slowly now.”
So all that afternoon Polynesia sat on the table and gave him bird words to put down in the book. After a while, with the parrot’s help, the Doctor learnt the language of the animals so well that he could talk to them and understand everything they said. Then old ladies began to bring him their pets; and farmers came many miles to show him sick cows and sheep. One day a farmer with a horse came to him; and the poor animal was really glad to find a man who could talk in horse-language.
“You know, Doctor,” said the horse, “that vet over the hill knows nothing at all. He thinks that I have a problem knee. But I just need GLASSES. I am going blind in one eye. Why can’t horses wear glasses? That stupid man over the hill never even looked at my eyes. He gave me big pills. I tried to tell him; but he couldn’t understand a word of horse-language. What I need is glasses.”
“Of course – of course,” said the Doctor, “I’ll get you some at once.”
“I would like a pair like yours,” said the horse – “only green. They’ll keep the sun out of my eyes while I’m plowing the field.”
“Certainly,” said the Doctor, “I’ll have the glasses for you next week. Come in again on Tuesday!” Then John Dolittle got a fine, big pair of green glasses; and the horse could see very well. And soon many farm-animals wore glasses in the country round Puddleby; and there were no blind horses.
Sick animals told the Doctor where the pain was and how they felt, and of course it was easy for him to cure them. Now all these animals went back and told their brothers and friends that there was a doctor in the little house with the big garden who really WAS a doctor. And all the sick animals wanted to see John Dolittle. So his big garden was always crowded and he had special doors for the different kinds. He wrote “HORSES” over the front door, “COWS” over the side door and “SHEEP” over the kitchen door. Each kind of animal had a separate door – even the mice had a tiny tunnel made for them into the cellar. And so, in a few years’ time, every living thing for miles and miles knew about John Dolittle, M.D. And the birds who flew to other countries in the winter told the animals in foreign lands of the wonderful doctor, who could understand their talk and help them in their troubles. In this way  he became famous among the animals – all over the world. And he was happy and liked his life very much.
The Third Chapter
More Money Troubles
And soon now the Doctor began to make money again; and his sister, Sarah, bought a new dress and was happy. Some of the animals who came to see him were so sick that they stayed at the Doctor’s house for a week. And often even after they got well, they did not want to go away – they liked the Doctor and his house so much. And he never refused them. So in this way he got more pets.
Once an Italian organ-grinder came with a monkey on a string. The Doctor saw that the monkey’s collar was too tight and that he was dirty and unhappy. So he took the monkey away from the Italian, gave the man some money and told him to go. The organ-grinder got angry and said that he wanted to keep the monkey. But the Doctor didn’t let him. John Dolittle was a strong man, though he wasn’t very tall. So the Italian didn’t want to fight with the Doctor, he went away and the monkey stayed with Doctor Dolittle and had a good home. The other animals in the house called him “Chee-Chee” – which is a common word in monkey-language, meaning “ginger.”