I’ve always loved animals. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by them. When I was little, my mom used to take me to the library where I would sit and read about animals for hours. My favorite kinds were snow animals and the ones that dwell in our oceans. I would even check out books that taught me how to draw them. I wasn’t the best animal artist, but I did draw a pretty good wolf or horse at five years old.
I decided early on that I would become a Marine Biologist. So, I studied sea creatures and ocean life for the longest time. I’ve always been a lover of the ocean, really. So much so that I find it hard to live farther than an hour from it. It seems that New York City is a pretty good fit for me.
When I was 11, my family and I went on vacation to Cozumel, Mexico. As I went snorkeling, I had a traumatic experience with a school of fish. One moment I’m floating in an aqua oasis. Then, out of the blue, literally, a school of what seemed like hundreds of fish the size of basketballs rushed at me. It was absolutely terrifying. I remember being surrounded by these fish and struggling to reach the surface for air.
My desire to become a Marine Biologist died that day. I’ve been terrified of fish since. Nonetheless, I knew I still loved animals. Unfortunately, I was traumatized so I strayed after that experience.
A few years later, everything changed. I met the man that is my Husband today. He loves and admires animals just as much as I do. As we began to be around each other, my passion for animals started to flare up again.
Five years later, on our first wedding anniversary, my mother wanted to get us a gift that we still love and cherish. That gift was a skinny little pit bull who was roaming the streets of Brooklyn until a shelter found her.
As we began our journey as a married couple with a pit bull for a daughter, many unusual things started to happen. People would harshly stare at us as we walked our dog, some mumbled nasty comments under their breath, one even screamed and ran for dear life. I immediately felt like a mama bear needing to protect her cub from harm.
As I became immensely protective over Amber, I started to think about other animals that are abused and exploited. Still, I continued with my silence.
Then, in 2016, my Husband and I went to Miami for a week-long vacation. We didn’t know what to see first, so I looked up the most popular attractions. I noticed an animal attraction which conveniently allowed visitors to take pictures with baby tigers. I thought this was strange as it seemed, I don’t know, too easy. I looked at pictures previous visitors posted on Yelp.
Many of them showcased these baby tigers tied up in chains as park visitors coddled them.
This was an immediate red flag to me as animals, let alone baby animals, shouldn’t be tied up in chains while people pay to see and/or touch them.
It turned out that the park, of which I can’t find online anymore (weird), was owned and ran by the Miami-based cocaine kingpin, Mario Tabraue Sr., co-founder and president of the Zoological Wildlife Foundation (ZWF), who was infamous for smuggling exotic animals.
After I learned this, I felt such sadness. Most importantly, I felt powerless. I’ve hated that feeling since, and because of this, I’ve used my voice to speak up for the voiceless. I’ve also been pursuing my passion for wildlife conservation, as well as animal liberation and welfare.
People judge me all the time. Some think my love for animals is comical. The thing is, as long as pit bulls are used in dog fighting rings or baby tigers are exploited for human entertainment, my energy is saved for them.
Moral of the story: Find your passion and stick to it. The world will thank you later.