Friday, April 18, 2014


There are countless “little” moments that happen that touch the heart and rarely get remembered, let alone recorded. Then there are the moments that keep people laughing for years to come.  All of these little things are about the people as much as they are about the animals.  I have been educating people about animals and conservation for just as long as I have been caring for the animals. I have always loved the expressions on children’s faces when they see and especially touch an animal for the first time.  But when I hear that I have really made an impact on a child; that touches the heart.  Years ago I was working in Florida and I was leading a group around an island and one parent came up to me.  She told me that she remembered me from the year before when she was there with her children. Her young son was later out on a boat and stopped the men fishing from throwing the discarded fishing line overboard. The mother said he specifically remembered my talking about the permanent damage it caused the pelicans and told these men all about it.  I still get tears in my eyes thinking about it to know the difference I made that day. 

There are always the people that make off the wall comments or questions that come from left field.  At one of our table set ups we had some earrings for sale to raise some money to support the animals.  These earrings were made of feathers that were shed by our birds. One day a woman had come up and had been talking to us for a while, she came across as a bit of know-it-all, but half way through the conversation she looks at the earrings and asks what we thought about people using feathers for jewelry, etc.  Glenda was with me and we looked at each other and then at her a bit puzzled and she went on to mention that “people were getting birds just for their feathers”. I explained to her that the birds just shed them naturally and that we pick ours up, clean them off and then our volunteers make things out of them.  The woman looked at me as if she didn’t believe me and was slightly horrified like we would pluck our birds for their feathers. I don’t think I ever convinced her that it was a natural occurance. You can’t win them all.

I have worked with thousands of individual animals but there are always a few that really touch your heart.  Some of the best moments are with the birds. When you work with animals that talk it opens up a whole different world that just adds a lot of comic relief to your life.  Especially when they catch you saying something you don’t want them to hear.  We had a very intelligent African Gray that seemed to have great timing with everything he said.  One day Nigel was coming into the house from the bird area (aka our garage) and he tripped up the stairs. Nigel ‘claims’ he tripped over shoes I left there, but I don’t know about that. ;-)  As he was catching himself while going into the house he yelled (picture it with an English accent) “for f*^k’s sake”. Not 15 minutes later I was in the kitchen and Nigel was on the front porch and we both hear very loudly from Garrett “for f*^k’s sake”.  We’ve had a great laugh over that for years now. Fortunately, Garrett decided not to repeat it more than a couple times. These are just a couple moments out of thousands that I have experienced they make you laugh and touch your heart.  

Friday, April 11, 2014


Working with animals is all that I have ever wanted to do. There was never any doubt about that. Even as a child one of the little make-believe games my brother, our friend and I played was about me being an animal trainer, and of course they were the viscious animals. In high school I spent a lot of time going to animal shows and talked to trainers afterwards. They all said to get a degree but equally important was to get experience volunteering with animals. To this day I find myself giving that same bit of advice to anyone that asks me.  In college I had a moment of doubt that I would be able to make it work and thought I should do the sensible thing. There was a recession at the time and it was extremely difficult for anyone to even find a job. I changed my major to Chemistry so that I had more options. The dream had never left my heart so when I moved from Connecticut to South Carolina and had an opportunity to work with animals I never looked back.  One of things that I love the most about having our own organization is that now I can provide those opportunities for people with their own dreams.

There was a down side. Every trainer also said to be prepared to have to have a second job just to get by. It was a job that was done out of passion and love for the animal world but that it did not pay well. This did not deter me and to my surprise, my parents never tried to talk me out of it. Keep in mind though that this does not mean they were always happy about it. ;)  I have always had to work very long hard hours.  There haven't been any 'extras' in my life because of it. I haven't traveled to exotic locations, I don't have fancy new clothes, my hair has even been the same long straight style for all of my adult life. I must say that although it would be nice to have some of those things I have never felt that I have missed out on anything. I have been doing everything that I have ever wanted to do.  I do know that this whole concept has frustrated and worried several of my family members. I can't say that I blame them for being worried but as my father had always told me "it's only money, your happiness is more important". This was often told to me when I made (or changed) plans that cost them money, such as cancelling a wedding. I don't think he meant it in the way I've been living my life but it does go both ways.  The money would certainly be an added bonus but it's nothing compared to the pride I have in how I've lived my life.

I lost one of my best friends just a couple of years ago. She was much too young to die but I know that Jennifer lived every day of her life the way she wanted to. She never wasted a minute and enjoyed life. Despite the fact that we were opposite in many ways. I am so grateful that this is one way in which we are (were) very much alike. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


When I started Safe Haven & Educational Adventures, Inc. with Nigel we had no idea where it would go or even how far we wanted to take it. All I knew was that it was something I had to do. There was a part of me that just knew it was what I was meant to do. When I look back at my past it was as if everything was in preparation and training for taking on just such an endeavour. As I set out I had a dream, even though the details were not entirely clear. Discovering those details has made the quest interesting. Despite the frustrations there was never any looking back. After all, we had nearly 250 animals in our care. Making it work was the only option.

I was raised to follow your dreams, work hard, stay determined, respect others and that happiness was most important in life.  To many people my life is extraordinary, to me it's just ordinary. I came from a middle class family where we were taught to work for what you want. I would make up my mind about something and make it work. I was never one to have a "plan B". If I had a goal I believed that I would get there and usually did.  This attitude has taken me on many adventures. I've had numerous people tell me that I should write a book because I had so many stories. I think I've started about 3 or 4 times but could never quite get into it. To me it was a bit intimidating because I've never been the literary type but there was more to it. A book is supposed to have a beginning, middle and an end. For me, I haven't gotten anywhere close to an end yet (even if it was just the first book). In fact, I still feel as though I'm still beginning. It was suggested to me to start a blog. After some thought, I realized that this was the best idea for me. I don't claim to be the best at anything, I just do the best I can at everything I'm passionate about.  Join me on my journey and you will learn some of stories of the past, discover what's going on today and experience the future together. This is a little Bit about me and the Bites, well there are plenty of those to go around, just wait and see.