Dr. Kwane Stewart began his philanthropic vet care in the wake of the Great Recession. He wanted to do what he could to support people who could no longer afford to care for their animals. Since then, he has cared for hundreds of homeless pets, at his own expense. His work on the streets has revealed how vitally important the bond between pet and human can be, particularly for those living homeless.
The Great Recession Was a Career Turning Point
Stewart was practicing veterinary medicine in Modesto, which was hit hard by the recession that began in 2007. He told CNN, “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.” This was a turning point for his career. Up until then, he had been caring for people who could afford vet care for their pets at any cost. Now they could not afford to even keep them. The number of homeless people continued to climb year after year. Inspired to help humans and their pets stay together, Stewart had an idea.
He Set Up an Exam Table at a Soup Kitchen
On a whim in 2011, Stewart, his girlfriend, and son set up a table at a soup kitchen. He offered to give check-ups to anyone who wanted their pet to have one. Before he knew it, a line was forming. He was inspired. He loved the interactions with both the pets and their caretakers. He noticed that his preconceived notions about homeless people were wrong. He wanted to help them more. So he decided to take his work to the streets to find more people and pets to help rather than asking them to come to him.
On the Streets, He Finds Connections with the People and the Pets
Stewart spends hours of his free time driving around the Los Angeles area. He gets out and walks skid row. He travels with a fully stocked medical bag. When he sees someone with a dog or cat, he offers to give them an exam. As he talks with the people about their pets, he gets to know them, too. What starts as a conversation strictly about the animals’ health and wellbeing morphs into a human connection. These open conversations challenge Stewart’s preconceptions about homeless people. They reveal to him that as much as these dogs rely on their humans for care, it is the humans who need the dogs even more.
Dogs Become the Sole Source of Emotional Support and Love
Stewart has seen over and over again that these dogs are given better care than the homeless human gives themselves. They prioritize their pet’s well being over their own. Why? Their dog is their sole source of emotional support and love. The dogs protect and guard, making them feel safer. Stewart has heard again and again that dogs are the best therapy available to those living on the streets. With Stewart’s help, these important relationships can continue to thrive uninterrupted. Homelessness is a massive problem in cities across our country. Thanks to Stewart, these dog-and-human families are healthier and able to stay together.
If you are interested in supporting the work of The Street Vet, check out his Go Fund Me page. For routine care, Stewart donates his time and supplies. The fund is used to cover surgery and urgent care that he cannot deliver on the streets.
Featured Image Screenshot The Street Vet/YouTube
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