By Gordon Magee, Internet Marketing and Media Manager
One of the things I discovered in working at Drs. Foster and Smith is that Race Foster and Marty Smith tend not to like to talk about themselves. After interviewing them on camera for our TV show Drs. Foster and Smith's Faithful Friends the camera turned off and Marty stood up and said, "I hate talking about ourselves! I hate it! I hate it!"
To the average observer that may sound more like stage fright than a serious comment, but it fits with who Marty and Race really are. They are much more concerned about "what's in it for the customer " than they are about telling their own story.
Now might be a good time, however, to tell you a little bit about who Race Foster and Marty Smith are and what they stand for. This will be short, as they really don't like to talk about themselves, but it may be helpful for you to know.
Dr. Race Foster
Race grew up in an agricultural family near Kalamazoo, Michigan. His family members were beekeepers. Early on his love of animals developed into an interest in being around them all the time, hence his choosing veterinary medicine as a profession. It must have been contagious because several of his boyhood pals and his brother also became veterinarians, but it would be hard to say who influenced who the most.
When he graduated from veterinary school he joined his brother Rory's practice, Rory and Marty Smith being partners at the time, and now there were three.
The practice grew from 1 office to 4 as they expanded, with Race taking a particular interest in cat healthcare and breeding. Out of that practice came what is now the catalog and online pet supply company Drs. Foster and Smith, with the focus in providing good pet healthcare information now having added to it, products for your pet and those who breed them, all selected by veterinarians.
Over the years while shunning the spot light as Race and Marty are prone to do, Race has kept his hand in agriculture, part hobby and part family. The hobby part is his annual trek to tap maple syrup trees here in northern Wisconsin in the "sugar bush" that he and his wife Lynne own. I've had some of that maple syrup. It is as good as it gets.
The family part is helping his sons who are involved with the family cattle ranch. All natural, registered Angus cattle are their specialty. Race helps the operation through his knowledge of nutrition and animal health and spends time helping on the ranch whenever he can get away from the office. In fact he's on the ranch as I type this, out at the cow-calf operation lending a hand once again.
Keeping his professional skills sharp and working to encourage the next generation of veterinarians, Race today serves on the Board of Directors of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Michigan State University.
From cats to cattle to caring about the future of animal health and agriculture, Race Foster hasn't strayed from his Michigan roots, although he'd be a bit shy about telling you that himself.
Dr. Marty Smith
Marty Smith grew up on a farm in southern Iowa. Being from Iowa farm country myself, I can tell you that southern Iowa is "no-nonsense" down-to-earth, real country. Early on a love for animals was part of Marty's life, as was taking responsibility for their care, particularly in his days as a boy after his father passed away unexpectedly.
That early exposure to caring for animals, like Race, moved Marty toward the veterinary profession where he could work with animals all the time. Taking his training at Iowa State, the University of Iowa and the University of Maryland, Marty had a chance to work with large animals, small animals and exotic animals. He even helped doctor a rhino and a King Cobra!
Dogs however were and are his love, particularly English Setters. Over the years Marty and his wife Kathy have owned many dogs, most of them Setters and for a time even entered his English Setters in the show ring. I would say that Marty presently owns eight English Setters but that wouldn't be correct. He just had a litter of puppies this week, so the number is now sixteen!
As a breeder himself, Marty supports ethical breeders and opposes legislation that would hinder ethical breeders from participating in their hobby and/or profession. Race feels exactly the same way.
Ever involved with animals, Marty has owned horses over the years, Warm-bloods, Arabians and Thoroughbreds. One of his daughters in particular loves horses and competed in the show ring for ten years, as did Race's daughter.
If you were to walk into Marty's office on any given day, you could find one, or even two dogs wagging their tails to greet you. Marty just loves dogs and knows that others do too, so over the years he has donated time to a local animal hospital and used his veterinary expertise to work with therapy dogs as a way to help people who need something to brighten their day.
Race and Marty
As a team, Race and Marty have been leaders in pet healthcare since the beginning. They've authored books, created a television show to teach people how to care for their pets, and maintain a non-commercial website PetEducation.com so that people can access quality pet care information for free. Early on they were the first veterinarians in the country to offer free spay and neuter services to their clients.
Here are just some examples of other things they have done as part of caring for animals over the years:
When a local animal shelter was unable to get started financially Marty and Race purchased land and donated it to them. During the terrible clean-up operation after 9/11 in New York they sent equipment to help the canine rescue teams. When Hurricane Katrina struck they sent well over $100,000 to aid animals that had been displaced from their owners. I'll stop there as I know they don't like blowing their own horn.
Their constant focus on taking care of animals and taking care of the customer first has allowed them to grow a business in the sticks of the northwoods of Wisconsin, that is the largest catalog and online seller of pet supplies in the country. Not bad for a couple of boys from the farm country of Michigan and Iowa. But they'll tell you that the secret of their success isn't them, but the people they have working for them. Always looking to remove the spotlight from themselves.
Rhinelander, Wisconsin isn't downtown Chicago, New York or LA. It's a lot like where both of these men grew up. So while the public may think of Drs. Foster and Smith as a big corporation, those of us walking around the office in blue jeans every day think of the company as simply Race and Marty, the same Race and Marty that they have always been: two guys who started loving animals as kids and who still do.
I thought you might like to know.