This week’s Meet a Mom is Rebecca Shumaker, mom to Joanna (age 13) and Ryan (age 10), and founder of Monarch Vet Services! After moving to Riverside from Manhattan in 2010, Rebecca continued working as a veterinarian, but during the pandemic, decided to launch Monarch Vet Services to give clients a more personalized experience, and herself a more flexible schedule. We spoke to Rebecca about launching her business, her family life in Greenwich and more.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your family?
My husband Jon and I were college sweethearts. We met our junior year at Cornell and have been together ever since. We had our daughter Joanna in Manhattan and like most young couples decided to move to the suburbs when we started to run out of room (or basically when her toys started to take over our Upper West Side apartment). We choose Greenwich in 2010, specifically Riverside, because of the community, schools, proximity to the city, and of course, to get my husband’s Boston sports teams on TV! Our son Ryan was born at Greenwich Hospital in 2011 which further solidified our ties to the community. We have loved being able to walk into town, run/bike to Tod’s Point, see friends and friendly faces while out walking the dog, and being able to walk the kids to school.
Why did you decide to become a vet?
Gosh, I’ve wanted to be a vet for as long as I can remember. So many little kids dream about it but I was lucky enough to make it my reality! I do love medicine and the art of healing but I also take pride in being the voice of those that can’t speak for themselves. Every job/volunteer opportunity I’ve had since I was 13 has been animal related, be it at the local animal shelter, small animal veterinary hospital in my town outside New York City, the Philadelphia Zoo, or a dairy science lab at Cornell.
Can you please share a bit about your professional background and how Monarch Vet Services came to be?
I’ve been a small animal practitioner since 2003. I started out as an intern in a very large specialty practice outside Boston, moved to NYC to work in two different clinics there, and then worked in a local animal hospital in Greenwich. When the pandemic hit, I, like most people, started to do some soul searching. The world was a different place and I wanted to be able to meet the local pet owners’ needs as well as my own. I couldn’t have been the only one whose schedule changed and had different priorities than before. I feel as though I now can provide a service that’s more accommodating to the demands of our community. Monarch is able to provide a customized and personalized in home service that meets the needs of pet owners in 2022.
Who are some of your typical clients?
My services are perfect for really anyone in our community. It’s not just for the busy people that need to save time but also for those that have multiple animals and it’s hard to get them all in the car at the same time, those with mobility issues that can’t get to a brick and mortar vet clinic, and of course it has been great for those that are terrified of the vet. There will always be animals that know who I am and what I am all about right when I walk in the door, but they often are much more relaxed in their own homes and with their pet parents close by.
Do you take pet insurance?
Pet insurance works very differently than our health insurance does. It’s based upon reimbursements. I can print copies of invoices, doctor’s notes, or whatever else you might need for filing a claim. The only benefit it has for me is that you have some clients that are now able to pay for their animal’s care because they invested in the insurance early on. Otherwise it doesn’t really involve me.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Honestly…the people I get to meet. Yes we veterinarian all go into this because we love animals, but there are people attached to these animals. And I think if I could choose what type of people I’d prefer to surround myself with, they would be animal people hands down no matter how crazy we all are!
Ha! You have a golden retriever and two kids – do you have any advice on getting kids to help with pet care?
I think kids are more capable than we give them credit for. If you start when they are young I think it gives them a sense of pride that they not only can do things for themselves but that they can take part in the care of their furry siblings as well. For example, I wouldn’t send a 5-year-old out to walk a 100lb dog but they can definitely help with regular hair brushing or bathing. If you make it fun they will definitely want to join in. When my kids were smaller, we all used to put on bathing suits to give our golden a bath and we made it the entire afternoon. But now that they are older, my children are more involved in his mealtimes, administering his medications, and his regular walks. I think all new experiences with animals, whether you know the animal or not, should of course always be supervised at first but most kids really do rise to the occasion.
If a family is thinking of getting a dog, or other pet, what should they be considering?
I think that’s a really good question especially in light of the pandemic puppy boom we’ve had. The most important things in my mind are to choose the right species and the right breed, considering the daily life the pet will have in your home, and how you plan to take care of them emotionally and financially. For example, if you are a family that wants to be able to travel with their pet you might want to consider a smaller animal that can fit inside the main cabin on the airplane. If you aren’t home a lot during the day then you will have to figure in the cost of a dogwalker or someone to at least come in and check on your pet during the day. You can’t just be a pet parent on the weekends! If you are in any way mobility impaired, you might want to reconsider a dog breed that requires a ton of exercise as this just won’t be fair to either of you.
Anything else you’d like to share?
My family and I have been involved in school, sports, and other various activities in town and we really do feel as though this is our home. But I’m really looking forward to being even more of a part of the local community and helping out with pet families in any way that I can.
We love to support small businesses. Would you please share your favorite places to:
Go for date night: Artisan in Southport
Go for girl’s night out: COVID pretty much shifted all of those to back patios
Get a coffee: Sweet Pea’s
Go shopping for yourself: Fred in Old Greenwich
Go shopping for your kids: Athleta or Under Armour
Have fun as a family: Hiking in Mianus River Park
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