Dr. Danni Shemanski
It all started when I was born in San Marcos, California with a gray cat named Mosie under my arm.
My love for that animal was so much bigger than I was, I would get overwhelmed with joy. Mosie only lived until I was six, but even by that age I feel like he showed me how to appreciate the animals that share this planet with us. The house where I grew up was fairly secluded on a sage brush covered hill hatched with deer and coyote trails. Weekends were a time for me to take a break from school and ballet class and explore those trails, catch lizards, and watch the hawks and buzzards make lazy circles in the sky.
Becoming a Vet
I received my B.S. and M.A. in Biology at UCLA. My Master’s thesis was on neonate California Desert Tortoises, Gopherus agassizii, a threatened species. Though I spent a great deal of time in the laboratory, I had some really cool opportunities to study wildlife in the field: Gopher tortoises in the Mojave, bats in Costa Rica, Sand Dune lizards in Namibia, and Greek tortoises in Morocco. In this same time era, my father and I took a trip to the Galapagos Archipelago, but that wasn’t for research – we just wanted to see some really big tortoises!
Then September 11, 2001 hit and much of the funding for wildlife research disappeared along with related career opportunities. I couldn’t imagine spending my life in a job that didn’t involve helping animals in some way, so in 2004, I embarked on a new journey in veterinary medicine at The Ohio State University.
After graduating with my DVM (Degree in Veterinary Medicine) in 2008, I completed a one-year small animal internship in West LA before moving to Rochester, NY to practice veterinary medicine at Hilton Veterinary Hospital. Though I work with cats and dogs, I still carry a strong affection for the California Desert Tortoise, and I happen to have one, Norton, who lives with me. Norton is not a fan of the weather here in Rochester, NY so she hibernates during the cold months.
Here in Rochester I met my husband, Mike Yurcheshen. He is a neurologist who specializes in sleep medicine and he sides with my cat, Isaac, that naps are an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
Why I Started This
Treating cats and dogs throughout my work day is in itself highly rewarding, but over the years it became clear to me that my job isn’t just about helping animals, it’s about helping families. My relationships with the owners are just as rich as my relationships with my patients.
Over the years, I’ve seen some incredible connections between pets and their humans – not just kinships. The bond between people and their pets goes beyond our understanding. Not only do I often see pets and their owners share similar physical attributes and personalities, but on a regular basis I even see similar health profiles! Anxiety, Diabetes, and heart disease to name a few. There has to be something to that. Animals can make the most stoic people cry, the most hardened people feel, the most fearful people find bravery, and the most angry and depressed people laugh.
Animals bring out the humanity in people by helping us live in the moment. When we’re angry or depressed, we are usually focused either on the past or the future, but when we play with our animals, we forget all of that and we become present. It’s a privilege to catch glimpses of this in the families that I meet in the exam room. Being present is the only way to nurture any relationship with quality time.
Naughtiness and attention seeking behaviors are good indicators that we may not be spending enough quality time with our animals. I felt that I could do a better job of getting the message out about how just a few minutes a day could dramatically change the relationships we have our pets. These changes are not only beneficial for our pets, but also to their families. It is now my mission to show people how to deepen the bond with their animal companions through designated play time, creative and therapeutic activities, and environmental enrichment.