I have always had a passion for animals, but decided to make it my career when I visited the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for the first time. Seeing animal trainers interact with such beautiful creatures reminded me of when I was younger and dreamed of being a dolphin trainer. After hearing the animals' rescue stories and hardships I knew I wanted to be involved. I applied to become a volunteer the following day and looked into continuing my education.
After a few weeks of talking to the volunteer coordinators, filling out paperwork and attending orientation and training seminars I was able to start volunteering! I spent about half of my time observing the three dolphins, Winter, Hope and Nicholas, and two North American river otters, Cooper and Wallie. I loved being able to be so close to the animals and watching the training sessions and feedings. Occasionally I would have the opportunity to assist the trainers in husbandry tasks and training sessions, but most of the time I was taking observations and interacting with guests. The other half of the time I was draining and re-icing fish buckets and coolers, preparing fish, selecting animal environmental enrichment devices, cleaning and doing laundry. I reluctantly had to stop volunteering when I moved to Los Angeles May of 2017.
As soon as I arrived in Los Angeles, I started looking for new animal care volunteer opportunities. The Marine Mammal Care Center was the closest marine mammal rehabilitation facility. I went through a similar orientation, paperwork and training process and started volunteering again! This is where I currently volunteer. I love being surrounded by elephant seals, sea lions and harbor seals. Volunteering here is more hands on than my experience at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. There are a lot of patients at the Marine Mammal Center so there is a lot of work to do. I love being able to go into the animal habitats and feed the seals and sea lions or board for another volunteer. It is great to help so many animals and to see most of them being released back into the wild.
After looking into different degree programs and colleges for animal training I decided to apply to the Moorpark Community College Exotic Animal Training and Management Associates program. I hopefully will be attending fall of 2018. I am also currently looking for new opportunities to volunteer in animal care. I would love to some day work at a dolphin rehabilitation facility with room for permanent residents who are unreleasable. I think this would be a great way to combine my love for rehabilitating and training animals.