Renaissance Man

If there was ever a Renaissance man in this day and age, Dr. Kevin Shimel (DVM ’96) would be that individual.

Before even beginning veterinary school at Iowa State, Shimel worked as an analytical research and development chemist in agriculture chemicals and human pharmaceuticals.

While he prefers cats as patients, he not only shows dogs but is an AKC approved judge and has judged all over the United States and Europe. He has bred Borzoi for over 40 years, including many international show champions, lure coursing and open field hunting titlists, and obedience and rally champions – even a dock diving champion.

Several of his dogs have also become certified therapy dogs and beloved family pets.

He loves to travel and has visited over two-thirds of the globe. Shimel has seen all of the world’s major art museums, rivers and mountains. He has met with Indigenous Peoples who are living tribal lives as they always have and enjoyed the night life of urban hot spots.

Photography is a passion. His works have appeared in gallery exhibits in SOHO and his own gallery in Vermont. He’s currently working on a coffee table photo book.

He worked in restaurants for 16 years, developed another passion for cooking and even trained employees for new Applebee’s Restaurants as a corporate trainer while a vet student.

Kevin Shimel is definitely a Renaissance man.

“I have always felt the world is an experience waiting to be yours,” Shimel said. “As a kid I read encyclopedias, not novels.

“I was always interested in veterinary medicine and animals and the natural world.”

The New York City (Queens) native had almost completed his undergraduate animal science degree at Iowa State when family circumstances called for him to work closer to home.

His desire to become a veterinarian was still strong however.

“After seven years, I decided I would only be happy if I pursued my original goal of attending vet school. So, I packed up and went back to Iowa to finish my animal science degree and attend vet school,” he said.

Once he entered the veterinary workforce, Shimel has concentrated his interest on cats, first at The Cat Practice in New York City, the country’s first cat only practice, then later as an emergency veterinarian, and now at a New York City clinic in upper Manhattan.

“Cats are a bit more complicated medically than dogs it seems,” he said, “and the owners are a bit more interesting.”

Shimel’s interest in cats has extended into being a show vet at Madison Square Garden and giving lectures on integrative medicine at numerous cat shows.

But he has been involved with Purebred dogs since his high school days. He attended a special high school in New York City which provided city kids farm experience opportunities. It was through this opportunity that he connected with a dog show person.

“I fell in love with showing Borzoi and over the years I have shown and bred many Borzoi,” he said. “My professional partner and I have bred over 60 champions and exported dogs to Europe and Latin America.”

His dogs have become champions in countless countries, along with a Euro Cup winner and several international champions. Shimel recalls a series of international shows in Mexico City in 2007 that featured thousands of competitive dogs.

“We won every day with our Borzoi,” he said, “Best of Breed with our adult dog and junior titles with our puppy. We came home with several impressive champion titles including World Champion Winner and Champion of the Americas. It really was an exhilarating show experience, but also an acknowledgement of our breeding program.”

Dog show breeders like Shimel are dedicated to the preservation of pure breeds.

“We take it very seriously,” he said, “and most of us try to do all we can to breed healthy, happy dogs. The dogs are cared for and pampered as members of our families.

“The breed standards are there not only to keep the breed uniformly identifiable but also to keep the health safeguards that are built into standards.”

When he isn’t showing or breeding dogs, Shimel serves as a dog show judge. He currently serves as a judge for Borzoi, Saluki, Afghan and Dachshund dogs.

“These days, judging is way easier than running around the ring with a large Borzoi, but I enjoy the competition and winning,” he said. “It’s a very competitive sport.”

Showing and judging at dog and cat shows has taken Shimel around the world. When he travels for pleasure, he seeks unique destinations. He has swan with jellyfish in Palau, with sharks and rays in French Polynesia, and with giant whale sharks in The Sea of Cortes.

He has traveled to the Galapagos and Easter Islands, waited for the sun to rise to see condors soar, and has felt the wind in Patagonia. Not to mention going on African safaris, to the Australian Outback and to Norway to see the Northern Lights. Or following the ancient trade routes of The Silk Road through Central Asia. He has visited too many places to mention.

On all these excursions he has his trusted camera by his side.

“When I began traveling, I started to photograph what I experienced,” he said. “It was mostly animals and plants at first, but then the human aspect started to grab my lens. My photos are a picture of reality, not of the artistic imagery type. I’m looking at the overall picture that is presented.

“My travels have led to speaking engagements and presentations at universities and cultural events. But when all is said and done, it’s being a veterinarian that makes me happy.”