By: Dr. Jack Stephens
As you can see from the photo of my wife and me with our dogs, we are indeed pet lovers, especially our dogs! We also have photos with our cats which I will be sharing, but on this particular day they made the collective decision of not cooperating, as only cats can, despite the fact that they interact and play with the dogs daily. It must have been my mood that day. In addition to our household family pets my wife also has miniature horses and a miniature donkey. Since early childhood I have had pets and critters. Everything from tarantulas, bats, fish, ants, pigeons, chickens, owls, birds, lizards and almost anything you can imagine, even a raccoon. I did not live on a farm, but a small town in southwest Oklahoma. Their care, housing and feeding were totally my responsibility. Today it is my dogs in particular that I am most fond. In fact Torrey my tea cup Chihuahua and Skeeter, my fourteen year old miniature pincher go to work with me most every day. It is rare to see me without them. They are my constant shadows. I love nature and its diversity and feel compelled to protect not only individual pets as a Veterinarian, but nature and ecosystems in general that provide for wild animals.
In my ensuing discussions of “Pet Vet -Talks” on the Pets Best Community web site I will share with you a host of diverse subjects about pets and how PETS ARE GOOD FOR US EMOTIONALLY AND PHYSICALLY. I will talk as a Veterinarian, a business owner, as a pet dad and as one who demands logic. I will share the logic I discover behind why we humans love our pets. And why some of us are “over the top” when it comes to pets. I will also bring you the perspective from one who has had a successful career as a no nonsense business person, a successful entrepreneur and as America’s first insurance executive for pets. Mostly I will share my journey of discovery on “Why we are so nuts about our pets,” a personal journey to understand myself and other pet owners. It will surprise you that the benefits of pet interaction is more than emotional, it did me. There is now scientific evidence that helps us better understand the relationship of humans and animals that can be demonstrated even to the pet skeptic. As you will hear from me many times, the relationship with animals is “Rooted in our Biology.”
I was asked to share all my many stories and experiences with others because of my diverse experience, credentials and my genuine love for animals. But as we journey along in the ensuing Pet Vet- Talks you will judge for yourself the value of taking your time to hear me out. I am human and like all complex humans have sides of me that you may not agree with at times, but, being direct, honest and constantly searching will not be one of my faults. Time is a precious gift and I will try not to waste yours.
Being the founder of Pet Insurance in the U.S. way back in 1980 and now starting, Pets Best in 2005, I will obviously have some insight that I will share with you about pet insurance. Providing pet owners with a reliable method to budget for a pet’s health and to always be able to accept needed care, without worrying about how to pay for that care has been my passion since 1979, when I first started exploring the concept of pet health insurance. After 24 years as the founding CEO of the first pet health insurance company and building it to over $100 million in annual sales I left in 2004 and soon realized I wanted to re-invent pet insurance to better address changing pet care and pet owner’s expectations of pet insurance. I developed the business plan for Pets Best and began a search for an Insurance Company to underwrite the plan. Fortuitously, after I moved to Idaho from California I met Greg McDonald and Dan Crandall, the Chairman and CEO, respectively of General Fire & Casualty Company. After several meetings and after reading my business plan, they asked me to join them. They were in the agribusiness of insurance and always wanted to provide pet insurance, but lacked the expertise. It was a perfect match that enabled me to do it over again and with their help and ideas improve upon the concept of pet insurance. I was able to utilize new ideas, apply what I had learned and of course benefit from my mistakes. It is very gratifying both personally and professionally to be able to take what one has learned and make it better. One thing about an inventor or an entrepreneur, you love the chance to do something again and hopefully better. With my zeal to help pets, Dan and Greg’s confidence and support, Pets Best insurance was born.