Becoming a veterinarian is an arduous task. Most people think it's a tougher job than a physician. But it's not. Most states require a veterinarian student to complete an accredited DVM program that can take eight years to graduate from a veterinary school including both undergrad and graduate study. This is comparable to a physician when both follow-up institutional learning with an internship or residency in the real world.
But it takes street smarts for a vet to decide to help the poor and the forgotten. There is one such vet who has chosen that path. Here is his story.
The 49-year-old animal lover and veterinarian Kwane Stewart has been aptly named "The Street Vet." Little did he know with all his schooling, he would spend his extracurricular time on the ground, fixing the needy. He would be traveling the highways and byways of California assisting the pets of the homeless — as well, as the homeless themselves, by giving them a new lease on life.
Before assuming the role of "The Street Vet," Stewart was born and raised in New Mexico where he spent his childhood trying to rescue stray animals. This led to school and a veterinary medicine practice in California, where he ran an animal hospital before becoming the county veterinarian for Stanislaus County in Modesto, California.
Some of the common illnesses and diseases the 20-year veterinarian treats include allergies, skin and ear infections, flea infestations, bad teeth, and even arthritis.
When he isn't in his car or on the streets, Stewart works for Netflix as a movie set animal expert to ensure the safety of animals on movie and commercial sets.
Recession of 2007
However, when the Great Recession hit the U.S. in 20087, Stewart felt he needed to address another calling. He wanted to do more for the animals who became homeless due to the financial crisis.
"Modesto got hit especially hard, it was ground zero for California as far as job loss and home loss, and people were just dumping their pets in shelters," Stewart told CNN.
"That was the moment for me career-wise that was enlightening. Up until then, I'd been practicing high-end medicine for clients who could pay for everything. But suddenly I was thrown into this economic war and people couldn't even afford to help their pets."
One of the most important lessons Stewart has learned from working the streets is that almost everything he thought he knew about homelessness wasn't true.
"I had my own prejudgments, like a lot of people, about homeless people before I started doing this work," Stewart said. "You just make assumptions about their story without even knowing anything about them. You learn very quickly that you have no idea what put them there. It could be something like job loss which leads to bad credit, so they can't get an apartment, and these moments snowball quickly."
For animals who require vaccinations, medicine, or food, Stewart pays for these expenses out of his own pocket. However, he often runs into animals with severe issues such as tooth decay or illnesses that need treatment at a veterinary hospital. For these cases, Stewart uses his GoFundMe to pay for the surgeries — which will cost tens of thousands on an average in a vet hospital.
As of this posting, Kwane has raised $61.917 with a goal of $75K.
No matter where he is or where he's going, Stewart is always prepared. He takes his medical bag and animal treats -- to make a stop whenever he spots a homeless person with an animal.
On weekends, he walks along Skid Row in Los Angeles and downtown San Diego in search of homeless pet owners who could use a helping hand with their dogs or cats.
To date, he has treated about 400 animals in the nine years he has worked on the streets. Stewart documents many of his stories through his TV series, "Dr. Kwane: The Street Vet," which airs internationally in over 30 countries.
Perhaps instead of being called "The Street Vet" he should be called "The Street Angel."
Primary Source: CNN