If there was anything I was certain about, even as a kid, it was that I wanted to work with animals when I grew up. Perhaps I would be a veterinarian or a marine biologist. After many visits to my favorite places (the zoos and aquariums I would later gain experience in), I decided that I wanted to be an animal trainer.
I volunteered at the local humane society and spent most of my weekends cleaning kennels my senior year of high school in order to gain some hands-on experience. In my time there, I learned about the hard, dirty, and sometimes unpleasant work that comes with taking care of animals. I also gained a larger perspective and personal mission. I didn't just want to work with animals; I wanted to make a difference somehow.
I was accepted into the Exotic Animal Training and Management program at Moorpark College. In the next two years, I learned about animal training, zoo keeping and wildlife education. I also learned how vast the field of "working with animals" was. I had the opportunity to intern at the LA Zoo, the Santa Barbara Zoo, Sea World, and the San Diego Zoo. After graduation, it was time to look for my first zoo-keeping job.
The Living Desert offered me my first position as a zoo keeper. I worked with a variety of animals including warthogs, hyenas, leopards, ostrich, and giraffes. I’ll give you 10 points if you can guess which of these found a special place in my heart. Speaking of heart, this is also about the time I married my best friend and high school sweetheart. He has been by my side ever since.
In the nine years I spent at the Living Desert, I had the opportunity to work with every animal there. I worked in all areas of animal care including the commissary, quarantine, wildlife rehabilitation, the hospital, and wildlife programs (where I took part in animal presentations and outreach programs).
Somewhere amongst those nine years, I accepted a position as a hospital keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. My experience there was amazing, but brief. By this time, I was a mom and our family was getting ready to grow some more. We returned to the desert, where I discovered that regardless of which area of animal care I was in, education was vital to making a difference.
Meanwhile, my children were quickly taking after me in their love and fascination of animals. We spent my days off walking around work. I loved sharing everything I knew about the animals, and they loved learning about them. As writing has always been one of my hobbies, I also began to write in my spare time. During a random web-surfing session, I came across an ad for a sports blogger. Football just happens to be another love of mine, so I submitted an article. I wrote for this syndicated blog for about a year. I enjoyed it immensely, but there was a lot of research involved and it was very time consuming. It occurred to me that writers write what they know. I might love to watch football, but what I "know" is animals.
One cross country move and a few more adventures later, Noah Zarkadinkydoo was published. I write to share as much as I can about the wild world with the next generation, as well as those of us entrusted with their care. As for continuing my work with animals, I'm on a whole new adventure!