DR. MIKE MORENO: All right, hello and welcome to Wellness Inc, I’m Dr. Mike Moreno, and we are taking a deep dive into the big business of wellness. After 25 years practicing medicine, I’m fascinated with the booming wellness industry. I’ll be exploring apps, gadgets, and discoveries. Everything new to help us get and stay well.
My guest today, I mean, I can’t say enough about this guy, I’ve already told him he’s my hero on the down low because he is, but this guy has done it all. I’m going to give you a little bit of a rundown on this gentleman. You’ve probably already heard of him, but he has been a practicing veterinarian for about 23-24 years, almost the same amount of time as I’ve been doing medicine started in San Diego. My hometown. Climbed to the ranks of chief medical officer for Vet Go Hospitals, which I know well because I’ve donated to them. This guy has worked with the likes of Disney Company, United Airlines, you name it. He has this new show, Street Vet, that we’re going to get into that later. Please welcome Dr. Kwane Stewart. How are you?
DR. KWANE STEWART: Good sir. Thank you. Thank you very much.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Listen, I’m fired up to talk to you for so many reasons. I mean, animals to me and I think those are you listening, will agree that they are family. They touch our lives. They are there when our family’s not there, when our friends are not their animals, that that term, unconditional love says it all. What you do is amazing and we’re going to get into that, but let’s talk a little bit about what got you into being a veterinarian. For those guys don’t know, becoming a veterinarian is more difficult than becoming a medical doctor. There are very few schools. There are only a couple, which you went to Colorado, which is very, very well-known and Davis is another really well-known school, but there are not a lot of veterinarian schools. So, talk to us. Let’s go back to Kwane Stewart, where does this all come from?
DR. KWANE STEWART: You know, when you ask vets this question, you’ll get different answers, but I think they boil down to a moment or a couple of moments in time in our youth where we sort of have that lightning strike moment or feeling. For me, I’ll quickly tell you, there was one specific moment, and it revolves around a movie. My mother took me to a movie when I was seven. I sat there starry eyed. She recounts a story I barely remember, but she says, you sat there Kwane. You cried, you laughed for the whole two hours and when we were walking out, I was holding her hand and I looked up at her and I said, When I grow up, I want to be an animal doctor. I didn’t know what a veterinarian was at the time, but I knew. I knew watching that course on that screen with that boy and I’m going to let you try and take a stab at the movie.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Yeah it is killing me. I’m trying to think.
DR. KWANE STEWART: I knew I wanted to have that ability or power to heal an animal and that set my path ablaze.
DR. MIKE MORENO: All right. Now, the obvious question, what is this movie? You and I are almost the same age because I’m 51. I’m trying to think, it was my era. I’m trying to think what it was.
DR. KWANE STEWART: It’s about a majestic black horse and a boy.
DR. MIKE MORENO: God, I’m thinking like Black Beauty or something like that.
DR. KWANE STEWART: You’re close, The Black Stallion.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Ahh. I know the movie. Of course.
DR. KWANE STEWART: Still one of the best movies ever. A classic. But that was it for me. She said after that I took a big interest in science and animals and reading, and my grades improved. We were always around animals. My mom was an animal lover too. Dogs and cats, horses, everything growing up. So yeah, I just had an aptitude for science and for me the path was pretty easy.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Well, I know we all, and I said this before, it is every time I meet someone who’s a veterinarian, unfortunately with one of my felines as of late, I’ve known a lot of veterinarians. It is difficult to go that route. Once you get to that route, you know, I’m always fascinated when I take my cats to the veterinarian and they assess them, and they handle them with such care. This animal doesn’t talk to you. I mean, I know that’s probably a question you get all the time. Do you think there’s some sort of sixth sense or what? How do you go through this process with animals? I mean, what would you say it is?
DR. KWANE STEWART: Yeah, as far as assessing, that’s really everything. I say we’re most likened to a pediatrician, right. Our patients can’t talk. We rely on the owner or the mom or the dad to provide the history and the background. The problem is a lot of pet owners not a lot, but, you know, owning a pet is still different than owning a child. Your focus, your daily routine revolves around your six-month, or one year old child. You know, our pets are going to backyards, they’re getting into stuff. They’re eating stuff. We don’t always know what they’re getting into.
So, you talk about the sixth sense; early out of vet school, I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. I’m guessing a lot of medical professionals is going to say, you get out and you think, wow, I just went to school forever, and I don’t know, I’m in the room with this client. I don’t know what to do right now and start sweating. Yeah so you have these panicky moments, I think, early on out of school, but really doing a comprehensive exam.
Then it’s just experience and time, and that’s why they call it practice. So, you know, 23, 24 years into it, I do, you do, I think, develop this sort of sense to pick up on little, tiny cues probably just been embedded in our subconscious over years and years of practice that it just snaps like this is it. I’ve almost amazed owners when I pick up on things, you know that their like yeah, you’re right, I’ve been seeing that forever and in five minutes you notice that.
So, the whole debate between veterinary school and medical school, people always say that it’s much harder to get into vet school and that schools much tougher than medical. I don’t know, I didn’t go to medical school, but my best friend, who I grew up with since I was nine, we agreed we were going to follow the same path. We were going to be doctors and had this dream of moving the same city and doing all this. When we got to undergrad, he started going down the medical path and I always knew I wanted to be a vet, but we were such close friends, we thought we’re going to do the same thing.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Wow that’s cool.
DR. KWANE STEWART: Yeah, it was cool and we’re still very tight today. He’s an ER doctor in Portland. We have these comparisons sometimes, or actually going through medical school and vet school at the same time, I was like, what’s school like for you? He’s like I’m grinding it out. I was like, you know, man, I feel like I’m kind of coasting and I don’t know why that is. Look, you can relate to this. You spend so many years in school studying English and history and all these things that that really aren’t your thing and then you finally get to the point where it’s like I get to focus on learning about anatomy and physiology, all those things have been jogging in my mind for so long and I don’t know, it just felt like it came really natural to me, so vet school was fun.
DR. MIKE MORENO: All right, let’s get into this thing, because this is the coolest thing. I had told a few people that I was going to be talking with you and I told them about what you do. They’re like, are you kidding? Because it’s so amazing. So, let’s talk about “Street Vet”. Let’s talk about how that came about. I know you worked in San Diego. I know you did some work in Modesto. I’m from Visalia, so I know that area very, very well, but take us through the evolution of street that and tell everybody a little bit about this, because this is really this is like gut wrenching, how amazing this is.
DR. KWANE STEWART: Okay, I’ll give you the quick and dirty. I grew up in New Mexico, went to school in Colorado, Colorado State, graduated ’97. I always had this big dream of practicing on the beach. I wanted to be near water. I grew up in the dusty desert and I wanted to come to the coast. I packed up my old Mustang right after school, drove straight to San Diego without a job and planted my roots and had been in California since. I was a traditional associate for a lot of years. You’re finding your place, what you’re good at, what you like. Was critical care, was it preventive medicine? And then, you know, you find your spot. I did that for a number of years, then sort of rose the ranks quickly. I was chief medical officer for Vet Co. Then about mid-career, so this is going back about 12 years ago, I decided to become, of all things, a shelter vet. A county veterinarian, specifically.
So that’s when I moved to Modesto. I was county vet of [UNINTELLIGIBLE] county and I had a steep learning curve because I’d never done that kind of work. There is a technique or method to being a shelter vet. It seems like would be fairly easy, but when you’re managing herd health for hundreds of animals, thousands of animals in the community, there’s a lot to the medicine. I did that for five years and I burned out.
We’re cat lovers, right? But you know, some mornings before 10:00 a.m., I was euthanizing twenty, thirty cats during kitten season, during the spring. In addition to the dogs. In the month kitten season when female cats are queening, typically from March to June-ish, so they’re just litters and litters of kittens being produced out in the streets and alleys, so they come to the shelter and people don’t want them. A lot of them are sick, they’re malnourished, and they just end up getting euthanized, sadly. Some of them still healthy, but, you know, we’re just overloaded. It was during the time of the recession. So, people relinquishing their pets. Euthanasia rates were skyrocketing. I mean, it’s still a piece of my soul doing that for five years.
DR. MIKE MORENO: I can’t imagine. For those of you out there, we talk about spay and neutering your animals, you got to get this done. I just think people throw that around so loosely, but that is really a big problem as to why these animals out there. Beautiful, loving animals, don’t have homes, don’t have loved ones. You know, to go back what you said, working in that environment, I would think it would have to be so difficult, talk about burnout. I know you mentioned your buddies and E.R. doc, E.R. docs on average lasts about ten years because it’s a burnout type of profession in terms of medicine. You’re handling a lot of animals that come from maybe troubled homes or you don’t know what sort. I mean, I think, it would be really more challenging. I can’t imagine. So, you get burned out on this and tell us what goes from there.
DR. KWANE STEWART: Yeah. So again, during the time of the recession, I’m burned out. I did it exactly five years to the day because that’s when my pension was vested. I was a government employee essentially. You become vested in exactly five years. I made sure I got to the five-year mark and I had to leave. Talk about switching gears, there was an ad a colleague from UC Davis told me about this, quote unquote, cool job in Hollywood where you get to be the authority on movie sets and oversee the care of animals on film sets. It’s the legacy or legendary program known as “No Animals Were Harmed.” So, if you wait for the very end of the movie and you see the credits roll, if there were animals involved in the movie, you’ll often see a credit that says, “no animals were harmed in the making of this movie”. This program has been in existence for 75 years, giving oversight to animals on TV and film sets. They were looking for a veterinarian. They had never actually had a veterinarian run the program and I threw my name in the hat, apparently with over one hundred and fifty veterinarians across the country that qualified and somehow I got the job.
So, I went from being a shelter vet to being a movie set vet and talk about just a breath of fresh air and, you know, a lot of desk work and papers, but I needed that. I mean, after what I had been through and felt like I was in some kind of animal war or battle I needed that. So, I ran that program as director for the better part of six or seven years.
It was right during the transition from the shelter to this new job that I decided after all the things I’d learned, the shelter, I was going to go out in the streets, and this is that moment that happened I decided, I was going to go out in the streets and find people that had pets and help them then and there. Because my experience in the shelter was I was seeing so many people relinquish their pets for economic reasons that I ended up euthanizing. I call it “EE”, economic euthanasia.
During the recession, so many people were just forced to give up their pets because they couldn’t afford medical care or some basic food. Those pets do their holding time. If they’re not adopted, they get euthanized. You talk about spay neuter, the importance of that. It’s a big one, but the other part is some people just need help sometimes with medical care, So, Mike, I got this idea one day. I was just going to go out near a soup kitchen, near a homeless soup kitchen, set up a table and just call over anybody who was holding a pet. Estimates say that in America, about 20% of our homeless population own a pet. So about one in five of people on the streets have a pet and that held true in this line of 40 people or so. I just walked down the line. I said, I’m a veterinarian. I have a little table over here. If you want to bring them over, I’m happy to help and do what I can at no cost.
Before I knew it, I had a cool little line, right. You know, 10, 15 deep and vaccines, preventive care, treat fleas, ear infections, allergies, just basic stuff. That was one of the most memorable days of my life. That started this now eight-year journey as I’m now known, the “Street Vet”.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Do you remember the first animal that they brought to your table?
DR. KWANE STEWART: Yeah, it’s a little hazy because it was so new and weird to me. I was a little nervous. Talk about the sweaty palms. I felt like it was my first day of practice. I think it was a Shih Tzu mix. It was sort of a white brownish small breed dog.
DR. MIKE MORENO: I mean, and it’s true what you said, and I’m surprised to hear that it’s only 20% of homeless have animals because I live in San Diego, downtown and any metropolitan area, you’re going to have a homeless population. It just seems like I see them with animals quite often, so I can imagine. You wonder because when my animals get sick and fortunately for me and my animals, I have the whereabouts and the ability financially to take them somewhere and to care for them, do all these things, but these people are struggling to provide food for themselves and shelter for themselves.
So, to have these animals and I would venture to say that the bond that they have is probably so amazing that they would probably put that animal before themselves. What were some of the kind of the stories that came out of doing that?
DR. KWANE STEWART: Yeah. I’ll start by telling you I think I was relatively naive when I started the work, like, you know, I have my own sort of prejudgments of homeless people or had. When you see them panhandling on a corner and it’s looks like it’s a 28-year-old guy. I’ve told myself before, you know, you look able bodies, why don’t you go get a job, right? Why don’t you start contributing to society instead of begging? I’ve said that to myself, you know, going back eight, ten years ago. I don’t say that to myself anymore, and this is why through these people, I’ve learned that one. It’s wrong of me to try and write their own story. I don’t know what they’ve been through. I don’t know what landed them there. I don’t know what’s holding them back. Do they have mental health issues or drug issues, or do they not have a good family to raise them? There are so many different things that go into these people’s stories.
So, what struck me the most and what I’ve learned the most about these folks is not to judge them, one, to show compassion and kindness first, then this big question of whether homeless people should even own pets, because I get asked that all the time.
DR. MIKE MORENO: And I’m sure that was that’s a great question. Yeah I hear a lot of people saying that. I’m interested to hear you say, but quite honestly, I think they probably take care of these animals better than people who are more able financially and other.
DR. KWANE STEWART: Yes. To the extent they can. It’s amazing what these people will sacrifice for their pets. Their own food. They will stay out of shelters that allow them in, but don’t take their pets. They’ll choose to stay outside or continue sleeping in the alley or under their tarp if the shelter won’t take them and their pets. So, they’re not going to be split from their pet. Back to your question about the bond. The bond I see between the pet and person in these situations is on a different plain. It’s on a completely different level because remember, you and I go to work, most of us who are pet owners, we go to work eight, tern hours a day. Our pets they sit there in pine for us, you know, they’re pulling back the curtains. They hit the garage door, open the door, they jump up. You know, we are their universe, but these homeless people are with their pets every minute of every day. I mean, think about that. Think about how much more time they get together, quality time than we do. We get mornings and evenings and then we go to bed there with them all the time.
So, the relationship I see and the stories I could tell you about some of these people, it’s amazing. Which brings us back to the question, should they even own them? The answer and this is an absolute to me now, the answer is yes. I’ll just put it all encapsulated with a quote that a gentleman that I met here actually in San Diego told me once. He said, you know, Dr. Stewart, I’ve had drug abuse issues, I’ve had alcohol issues. I found my dog Dinker in an alley and now Dinker was seven or eight years old. And he said he has been better for me than any pill or any therapy session I’ve ever had. That says it all to me.
DR. MIKE MORENO: You know, I’ll tell you, one of my little guys, I went through a divorce, it was really difficult. At first when it all happened, I was like, hey, these are your cats, aren’t you going to take them? She didn’t. Long story short, I would just give anything for these cats. When one of them got deathly ill and almost died, it was absolutely traumatizing to me. I remember taking him to the vet and I remember them looking at me saying, you’ll know what happened, he an obstruction, his creatinine was ten. I came home and he was at ten. They said, you got to take him to this vet somewhere in South Bay or Chula Vista. They said, I don’t know if he’s going to make it. I said, listen, I don’t care and at that moment, I was thinking, I’ll sell anything I owned or anything I do because I need this guy. I need to have him be how he was before I left to work this morning.
I’ll tell you I can imagine that bond with and you said it’s exactly that there with these animals constantly, they don’t go off somewhere for eight, ten, twelve hours, they’re with these animals constantly. So, I can’t imagine what it must be like for them when you fix their animal. When they come to you when the animal’s ill are not well and you’re able to fix the animal. I mean, there’s got to be some heart wrenching stories that just make you just smile ear to ear when you think about that.
DR. KWANE STEWART: Yeah, I’ve cried. I’ve had my share of moments where I try and pull it back or tuck it away, but, you know, it’s funny, to touch on something you said a moment ago that they would give just about anything and a lot of them probably care for their pets better than they do; people with resources, it’s so true. Look just to give an example. I’ve had a lady pull up before a Mercedes come in complaining of an ear infection of her dog, that by the way had it for four or five months, a chronic ear infection she should have addressed a long time ago. I said, this is what we need to do. I sort of outlined the treatment. She said, well, I, you know, and then she sort of, you know, she was picking and choosing what she wanted to do. She said no, I’ll just take the antibiotics. I don’t want to do the ear cleaning today. I said, well, you know, really all this at this point, it’s necessary to treat your pet. She said, well, not today. She declined most of the services. I know she wasn’t short on money. That’s not the first time something like that has happened. There are multiple examples I could get similar to that. I’ve had homeless people who already have nothing. One guy said all I have is this backpack with a few things. I’ll trade it for whatever I need to, if you can just make sure he gets the treatment. So, yeah to dispel that rumor, myth that they don’t do what they can or they you know, they don’t care. It’s in my experience in my five hundred plus animals probably now and counting. That’s not the case.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Yeah. You know my ex-wife and I, on Sunday nights, we lived in Little Italy, in downtown San Diego, and there’s a fair amount of homeless people in this area, and on Sunday nights, we would usually make a big meal of which we would eat about 10% of, and then we would take all the leftovers, we package them up and we would take dog food and we would walk through Little Italy for like an hour in the evening, before it got dark out on Sundays, and we would hand out food. I’m telling you, these people, you could tell they were down and out, and they were really happy to be getting the food, but the joy that they had when you gave them dog food was more of a joy than getting food for themselves. So, it makes sense, and I can see exactly what you’re saying. I believe that 100%. So, it’s just fascinating.
Okay so my understanding is that your brother and you collectively developed this show, “The Street Vet”. I mean, tell us a little bit more about how did this happen? So now you’re out there, you’re doing your thing, and then what happens to get you to now this amazing show on TV.
DR. KWANE STEWART: It’s by accident like most things. I had been doing this quietly. In fact, my brother and family, most people didn’t even know I was doing this. It was just my little side passion. I would carve out time, weekends, little time after work whenever I see a homeless person and just do the work. I never really told anybody about it. And I’d carve out a small portion of my income because I fronted as much of this as I could. It got expensive with surgeries and I had to call in favors, hey Doc, can you do this pro bono? But I set aside a portion of what I brought in to buy supplies and meds to do this. So, I had been doing it a few years and like I told you, I had now been introduced to Hollywood, and Hollywood’s a weird beast.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Oh, that’s a whole other story guys.
DR. KWANE STEWART: It’s a whole other thing, but I’m learning, you know, I’m learning my way around on set and I’m talking over years just learning how to hold the whole town works, but I was on set one time with the producer, and he asked me what do you do exactly? I started explaining and he said no, no. What do you do? Like what’s your passion? Like, what do you enjoy doing? I told him one of the things I love to do is this street work. I go and help homeless people.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Oh, he must have lit up.
DR. KWANE STEWART: He lit up. I shared one story. He’s like tell me about an encounter. I shared one encounter and he’s like, that’s a docuseries, that’s a TV show. So, he took it under his wing. He financed it. It got produced. My brother works in the film industry, in TV, in New Mexico. He headed up the project and then, you know, three years ago we made this into a twelve-episode television show. It’s airing in 26 countries, not here yet. My own family and friends can’t watch my own show. It’s in Europe and Canada and China.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Wow. I mean, it’s got to be amazing. Let me ask you this. I have this burning question. Has there ever been an animal that you were truly afraid of?
DR. KWANE STEWART: Oh, yeah, a number of times. You probably wouldn’t know it or see it. You really put on a professional face. You’ve had those moments. They’re not going to see me sweat. I’ll tell you, the breed that scares me the most and this will probably shock a lot of people. I obviously spent time and treated every single breed you can think of it, especially being in a shelter. It’s a German shepherd. German shepherds, they make me a little yeah, a little nervous because I just have a hard time reading them.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Right. They’re smart. They are such smart dogs.
DR. KWANE STEWART: They read you and they’re stoic most of the time. You know when you’re getting too close to a dog, your [UNINTELLIGIBLE] their hind end or lifting their tail. Their ears go down. They let you know, but shepherds I’ve been tagged a couple of times pretty good by hepherds. Never, surprisingly, never buy a pit bull. So, people talk about pit bulls and the aggression. I was in a shelter that was 60% pit bulls. Never been bit. Never felt threatened by a pit bull. Surprisingly.
DR. MIKE MORENO: You know, my buddy that I was telling you about, who is at The Barking Lot, they have a ton of pit bulls and in fact, he has five dogs by himself and he loves these guys. He’s always like, yeah, there’s this one that came in, he’s tough because he’s not going to get a home, this, and that. I’m just going to watch him for a little while. Next thing you know, he’s got another dog. So, he’s like Cesar Millan. Like when he goes walking down the street he’s got all these dogs, but his pit bull is like the sweetest, kindest thing.
They always say that an animal’s behavior, disposition, whatever, is really a product of the environment in which they’re raised, and so are we quite honestly. If you raise your child in a harsh environment, a derogatory environment for that individual to come out that way, I don’t think is unreasonable. I think that’s probably the same with animals. Don’t you think?
DR. KWANE STEWART: I agree 100%. If you raise a dog to fight and train it to fight. Teach it aggression, mis treat it, then that’s the kind of dog you’re going to have. I’ll tell you, if you want, I don’t share this story very often, I can probably tell it in 45 seconds if you want to hear the scariest moment I ever had?
DR. MIKE MORENO: Let’s hear it. Now I’ve got to know.
DR. KWANE STEWART: Now we’re getting good. Yeah I don’t usually recall the story very often, but when we said pit bulls and it didn’t involve a pit bull, I was walking away from my son’s baseball game, I would say at the time he was probably nine. Leaving the baseball game, I was walking down an alley and I saw in someone’s backyard a dog that was strung up by a chain. There with a chain link kennel inside of a backyard, like a like an eight by four chain link, maybe four- or five-feet high kennel. It was a German shepherd in the kennel. He was somehow chained inside the kennel, which I thought was unusual. So, he was tethered by a chain inside of his chain link kennel. He somehow jumped out of it and he was on his tippy toes choking. He was about to go out. It must have just happened. I walk by, I caught it. So, I immediately jumped the fence to run to the German Shepherd to lift him up and do that and as I’m lifting him up and I get enough under me to keep him back into his kennel, his buddy comes around the corner around the house, it is one of the largest pit bulls I’ve ever seen. It was an all-white pit bull with a spike collar, and the first thing he said is, why are you in my backyard? Right. And he’s coming closer. Remember that moment of Ferris Bueller when the principal put his head through the doggy window and the Rottweilers like…he had that look. He’s walking towards me and I thought, hey, look, I’ve been around enough dog bites, dog injuries and dog bites, I knew I was in trouble. So, within ten seconds, I scanned the yard and said, can I make it to the fence? No. I started to undo my shirt from my pants. I was going to take it off and wrap it around my forearm to give up my forearm in the event he comes at me because I knew it was going to be a fight. You know, surviving a pit bull attack isn’t in my favor and I knew all this. I’ve been in the business too long. I kept my I kept my calm long enough to say there’s option three. Here’s option three, act like I know him. So, as he was coming closer to me I said, I don’t know where I got the name from, I said, Jasper, Jasper, where’s daddy? Show me where daddy is. Take me to daddy.
DR. MIKE MORENO: No way. You’re kidding me.
DR. KWANE STEWART: He had the Jedi mind trick look in his face. He looked confused. I walked to him like I knew him. I said, let’s go find daddy. We walk around to the front of the house and knock on the door. No one answered. I walked back to the backyard and I thought, Okay, now I need to get myself to the fence. So, I just talking to him, Jasper, Jasper. As I got close to the fence, he figured it out. It’s like the spell was lifted.
DR. MIKE MORENO: And so, you went running, jumping over the fence.
DR. KWANE STEWART: I hurdled that fence, and I was out. That was my life and death moment as of that right there.
DR. MIKE MORENO: I moved from a house that I used to be at, but our neighbor, who I was good friends with, the family, they were there, Russian. They were from Maldova and he had this German shepherd that only spoke Russian. It was the craziest, most unruly dog ever. The only person he listened to was my neighbor, the owner. You talk about a scary, intimidating dog. First of all, it was a German shepherd. They’re big. They have the cinderblock heads so powerful. Yet he only spoke Russian. I mean, talk about a scary thing. He’d be like why don’t you come over and have a beer and have some dinner, I’m like, no, no, I’m not coming over. Eventually I got to know the dog, but every time I go over, that dog was out of hand, I’ll tell you. I want to go back because I don’t want people to miss this, that the fact that when you started doing this, you’re paying out of your own pocket for all of this. I mean, I get it, you have a couple of vet friends that do some pro bono work and some help here and there and kick down some vaccines or whatever it is. But you’re spending a considerable amount of money, which finally you set up this Go Fund Me page, tell us a little bit about that, because this is really amazing as well.
DR. KWANE STEWART: Yeah, and about the show, you know, people think, oh, you have a show, you should have plenty of money coming in. I actually went out of pocket a little bit to produce the show and we’ve not made a return yet. So, no, I didn’t get rich off the show. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a fundraising platform, so I didn’t have any money coming in after the show had been airing in multiple places and I was still coming out of pocket. It was fine, because I’ll tell you this, I believe that we have an obligation, my responsibility as professionals to give back. If we can, in a way that we can. Now look, out of school, I’m buried in debt. You know, you’re starting a family or you’re finding your place if it’s not the right time, but 15, 20 years of my career, I knew it’s just how I was raised. I was going to find a way to give back and this was my way.
So, I don’t mind putting aside some of my salary for that. And look, you’re right, it sure is expensive. But I can do a lot with ten dollars. I mean, I’m giving my time for free. I can get med’s wholesale. You know, vaccines are pennies on the dollar. I know you pay with $25 for a vaccine. It costs me like 90 cents. So, there’s a little trade secret. I can do a lot with a little bit of money for the more expensive procedures, the surgery’s, the dental extractions, mass removals, that started building. So, it was my brother one day who said why don’t you start to Go Fund Me? You’ve been doing this like seven, eight years, man. Why don’t you just start a Go Fund Me? I was like, yeah, why don’t I? So back in September, we started the Go Fund Me, set a modest goal of ten thousand dollars. In the first four or five months, maybe raise four thousand and then I guess I hit the Go Fund Me’s radar because they called me up and said, we’re considering you for the Go Fund Me Hero of the month.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Yeah, that’s huge.
DR. KWANE STEWART: Yeah, I didn’t know that at the time. Okay, that’s, pretty cool. I did a lot more research. It turns out that Go Fund Me gets ten thousand new campaigns started every single day. Every day on average. Ten thousand people start a new Go Fund Me campaign around the world. So, when I heard that, I mean they literally have millions, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people to choose from, you know, for this honor of theirs. I feel very privileged to be asked. Then it got whittled down and I was selected the February. So, going back February 2020. The February Go Fund Me hero of the month. They’re based here in San Diego funny enough. It started by “dot-commers” about ten years ago. I’ve gotten to know the team pretty well.
DR. MIKE MORENO: This is the Go Fund Me guys?
DR. KWANE STEWART: Yeah, their company.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Right on! I didn’t know that.
DR. KWANE STEWART: Yeah, so they did a video story on me. They did a podcast. They launched it February 19th or 20th. Then my story just went viral for a little while. CNN, The Today Show, Ellen DeGeneres and Kelly Clarkson. Within a week, everybody reached out and said, hey, we love your story can we have you on?
DR. MIKE MORENO: Wow that’s so cool! That’s such a cool story, that’s amazing.
DR. KWANE STEWART: Now the Go Fund Me, I think in that short time it skyrocketed to over a hundred thousand dollars. So now I have a little bit of a war chest of resources. We decided to start an official nonprofit called “Project Street Vet”.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Yeah. Tell us a little bit about that. I mean, that’s again, it’s just like this story gets better and better and better. I mean, this is this is going to touch a lot of animals and a lot of human lives, quite honestly, because if the animal is well, the human is well as well. So how does it go to Project Street Vet?
DR. KWANE STEWART: You know, my brother and I got to thinking we have this money to spend now and my social media following climbed a little bit and people knew of me, they were reaching out, you know, direct messaging me and Facebooking and hey, I know someone who lives under a bridge. Can you help them? I have a dog. I’m homeless. Surprisingly, just about every homeless person has a cell phone. So, they’re reaching out to me directly saying can you help? So, my brother and I got to thinking we should just start our own nonprofit.
DR. MIKE MORENO: It makes perfect sense. Yeah, totally.
DR. KWANE STEWART: I have vets reaching out to me from across the country saying I was inspired by you; can I do the same thing in my community. So, it’s neat, man. I never dreamed of this. Obviously it was just my own little, you know, passion project, but now it’s taking off.
DR. MIKE MORENO: I mean, it goes back when you look at how animals are so near and dear to us. It is that unconditional love we’ve talked about. I mean, there were days when I would come home and be so down and out. Living by myself in this crazy house my ex-wife had left and I’m just like, what is my life? And I look down at these two little guys and you just forget the difficulties and you realize how sweet they are. You climb into bed and they climb in bed with you and they just sit there and look at you. There’s nothing that will replace that. That unconditional love, that statement, it gets said, but there is so much depth and truth to that statement. There really, really is. The fact that someone like you just stepped up and created a presence for this I mean, dude, really, really magical. Really a cool thing.
DR. KWANE STEWART: Thank you. Yeah, you’re right. I’ve been a pet lover, pet owner since I was a child. I know the power of the bond. I feel my blood pressure go down when I come home. After a long day, I feel my stress leave my body and all the benefit that we’re now realizing scientifically. We’re seeing the benefits of owning a pet, tangible benefits to our health and wellness that it’s amazing. That’s what these pets are providing these people. They should not be stripped of their pets. If anyone needs a pet, this is why anyone needs that. It’s someone who’s down and out living on the streets who doesn’t have much, they need it more than anybody.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Absolutely. I mean, we look in the medical world, we look at serotonin, we look at antidepressants. We look at all of these pleasure centers in the brain where we get release of neurotransmitters, and yeah, of course, you can do it chemically, but you can do it naturally. I think animals are a way where you get serotonin, where you get I mean, when you talk about the effects of depression and anxiety, these are real things, and this is more important, in my opinion, than any pill out there for depression or anxiety or whatever. People really benefit from these things.
And, you know, you’ve gotten the cred, the street credit and you’ve gotten all of the fame that you deserve, and I think it’s amazing, which leads us to what’s coming next. We have some movies. We have some books. So, like, what’s the next thing? I want some young Kwane to be watching your movie and have this recollection, just like you were watching the horse movie when you were seven years old. So, what’s next for you?
DR. KWANE STEWART: Yeah, wouldn’t that be neat? There’s been a few pinch me moments since all this time. I’ve had my little fifteen minutes. I’ve been contacted by a number of production companies and studios about doing a feature about my life. Yeah, it’s neat. We have a new show in development where I’m going to start getting care not just to homeless people, but to people who are just people who may have homes that are short on resources or just economically challenged right now during these times more than ever. Lost their job, need a surgery, in need of care. It could be a military war vet who’s on a fixed income or a single mom. Find ways to get to these people as much as I can. So, yeah, various projects, some on TV, some not, some still quiet and I’ll keep to myself, the little moments I have, but all are very neat. This process is a journey.
DR. MIKE MORENO: I mean, it’s magical. You know, you said this earlier, and I was thinking about it. We all have a story, and you know, our own minds, we’re privileged to our own story, but it’s true. I know all of us and everybody listening has thought to themselves, when you see a homeless person or someone who’s struggling, you know, you have a tendency to want to go to a negative place, but so many times over the years, I thought to myself, what’s that person’s story? You know that person was a five-year-old kid at some point, right? You know that person was like me when I was five. I had a loving family and friends and you just you know that that kid started out with an innocent, like sort of story. You don’t know what happened. You don’t know what led them to being down and out. You always hope for the best. We do what we can as humanitarians to help. You’re clearly doing what you can. But, you know, I try, and I think as you get older and more mature and you think about these things, you know, you can’t judge because you just don’t know.
I think when you’re younger, you’re immature and you have these ideations, but the bottom line is we all have a story and whether it’s yours Kwane or mine or anybody listening, you know, we’re privy to that story. When you see other people who perhaps aren’t in a situation that is ideal, you got to remember they have a story, and I don’t think anybody would choose to be in the situation that they are in. No one would, so be sensitive to that. You’re doing amazing work, man. I just I think it’s magical. I’ll tell you this, the last few years for me, pets have just…I could go on and on about how much I love my little guys and I’d do anything for them. My girlfriend always laughs because when my cats aren’t feeling good like I suddenly am not feeling good. She’s like you and those cats. I think there’s something to be said about when the animal doesn’t feel good that you sort of adopt the same symptoms. I’m a fan of you and everything you’re doing.
Listen, you’re doing God’s work. This is just amazing. I hope people continue to support you. I hope movies come. I hope books and I’m all about what you’re doing. I think it’s fantastic.
DR. KWANE STEWART: I appreciate that so much. Thank you. Yeah. Coming from another professional, it always feels good. I tell people, I get more from the folks on the streets I think, then I give to them. I mean the reward I get from helping and sitting with them and listening to them and sometimes sharing my own personal stories and tearing up it’s cathartic for me too.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Yeah it is. That’s true. Very true. So where do people find you? Because I will tell you right now, people are chomping at the bit trying to figure out how do we get to you? Tell us where to find you. Tell us about the website and the Go Fund Me. I mean, lay it on us.
DR. KWANE STEWART: Yeah. Website www.ProjectStreetVets.com, you can donate there. You can also go to my Instagram @Drkwane or @Thestreetvet. I have two handles on Instagram. Those are my most popular platforms as well as Facebook. There are links there if they want to donate or just, you know make a nice comment. Watch some of the story that will leave you feeling good. I try and post some of the more inspirational moments I’ve had on the streets with some of the people, make them uplifting and remind people that kindness these days is does everything and we all need to remember that and try and give back if we can. Try and remember that we’ve all been in a tough spot. We’ve all had those moments where we need help. Right. Sometimes people need a little help a little longer than others, but we don’t get through this world without a little help.
DR. MIKE MORENO: I think the Beatles said that best, right. We get by with a little help from our friends.
DR. KWANE STEWART: We do.
DR. MIKE MORENO: And our friends, our furry little animals and our friends are Dr. Kwane Stewart, who’s doing some amazing work. Hey, man, thanks so much. Seriously, really beautiful stuff. We’re going to look for more of this from you, I’m sure, and bigger and better things. I guarantee you there’s going to be a seven-year-old Kwane watching a movie in his mom’s lap and it’s going to be your movie and you’re going to it’s going to take you back to when you were that individual. Well done, my friend.
DR. KWANE STEWART: Thank you sir. Thank you very much.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Well, that’s going to wrap it up. Amazing stuff. Could talk to this guy forever. He lives in San Diego, so I think I’m going to pound down his door and find him.
So, don’t forget to subscribe, download, and listen to Wellness, Inc. with me, Dr. Mike Moreno. My guest will challenge the listener to learn more about the growing influence of wellness in our lives today. Stay in the know and don’t miss Wellness, Inc. Thanks, everybody. The Wellness, Inc. with Dr. Mike Moreno podcast is for informational and entertainment purposes only and is not intended as a replacement or substitution for any professional, medical, financial, legal, or other advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This podcast does not constitute the practice of medicine or any other professional service. The use of any information provided during this podcast is at the listeners own risk for medical or other advice appropriate to your specific situation, please consult a physician or other trained professional. Thank you.
About This Episode:
On this episode of Wellness, Inc. Dr Mike Moreno has a fascinating conversation with animal advocate and creator and star of Street Vet, Kwane Stewart.
The two have an emotional conversation about the 6th sense of vets and Kwane’s journey from shelter vet to movie set vet to the famous Street Vet. They talk openly about what they think about homeless people being pet owners and Dr. Mike shares his personal story of what his pets meant to him after a difficult divorce.
You won’t want to miss Kwane’s incredible story about how he escaped being attacked by a pit bull by using this Jedi mind trick!
About Dr. Kwane:
Dr. Kwane Stewart was already an experienced veterinarian when he decided to help the less fortunate in his community. After spending an afternoon offering medical care to the pets of people experiencing homelessness, he learned an important lesson: These animals provided more than companionship to their owners — they also offered love, hope, and security. What Dr. Kwane initially thought would be a one-off experience has since turned into a nine-year mission to help four-legged pets across Southern California and beyond.
Connect with Dr. Kwane: