I grew up in Ohio with two brothers and a sister, all younger. I always loved animals but we never had any pets. I rode horses for several years and was always helping friends with their pets but never had any of my own. In college I acquired a fish tank and two goldfish, one of which is still with us and has a huge tank all to himself.
After I graduated from Wright State University in 2012, I moved to Baltimore, MD with my boyfriend, Neal. I started working at the Baltimore Humane Society and that is where my experience with animals really started. After a few months there, we started fostering a cantankerous, nine year old, tortoiseshell cat named Velvet. She quickly made herself at home and we knew that she wouldn't be leaving. We got our first dog, Miley (also from that shelter) several months after we brought Velvet home and there was never any question between them, Velvet was in charge. We were just fine with a cat and a dog it was the two of them for almost a year. We aren't sure exactly what happened but we had to say goodbye to Velvet 13 months after bringing her home. As hard as it was to be without her, working in a shelter, there were always others in need. Miley was an only child for two months before we adopted our second tortoiseshell cat, Kiki. She had been in the shelter for three years and had numerous health issues as well as behavioral issues. Kiki immediately chose my boyfriend as her person and so we decided we could make room for another cat that would be mine. Luckily, there was another at the shelter that I had been bonding with during her year-long stay. Alpha rounded out our group and we had no intention of getting any more pets. Life had other plans.
We moved into a new apartment and about a month later, discovered a cat and her kittens living in the parking lot. I was still working at the shelter so we had the opportunity to TNR the mom and try to socialize the kittens to be adopted out. With their feral upbringing, they never socialized to the point that they would've been easily adopted so we decided to keep them and named them Andy and Auggie. We adopted one more from the shelter, that year, another kitten who was just a few months younger than the boys. Autumn was the last of a litter of four and solid black so she had little interest. She and I bonded quickly after her litter mates went home and she liked to spend every break I had asleep in the hood or pocket of my sweatshirt. Autumn made five cats and a dog so we were definitely done adding animals to our family at that point, we thought.
Over the winter, we started seeing more cats in the apartment complex and I made it my goal to TNR them. It took me too long to get them all on a feeding schedule and each of the females had a litter the next spring before I could get to them. We trapped each litter too far past their socialization window to make adoptable but they were able to get used to us. That year we added Star Lord, Gamora, Nebula, Skye, and Lincoln to the family inside. I continued to feed their feral family outside and TNR the ones I was able to catch. That year we also added another dog to the family, a border collie mix named Rocky, who has severe behavioral issues that I'd been able to successfully work with at the shelter. We ended 2015 with two dogs, ten indoor cats, and a feral colony of five that I regularly fed outside.
In 2016 we bought a house in North Carolina and spent the summer moving and getting everything situated. I continued to work at the shelter through the summer and did my best not to fall for any more animals. There was one that I couldn't help but bring home. Her name was Virginia and she was old, sick, and pregnant. I intended to foster her just for a couple days until a long-term foster could take her, and that was how it started but she became much more difficult after she had the kittens. When the kittens were two-three weeks old, she and her four babies found themselves in need of a place again so we quickly cleared a room so they could stay. At this point, we should've known, no cat that comes through my door ends up leaving and sure enough, right before I moved out of Baltimore, we added Virginia and her four babies, Bucky, Scarlet, Yo-yo, and Squirrel, to the family. We also couldn't leave the feral colony so they were all trapped and moved to the house with us. We built a large enclosure in our yard to house the colony of six. Virginia passed away only weeks after making the move with us.
My first job in Raleigh was with a large, local, non-profit shelter. I was there for six months and in that time, we adopted one cat, Bert. Before Bert, we acquired another kitten. Drax showed up on our doorstep one cold night and never left. We added a puppy, Daisy, to the family to help keep Rocky worn out. We were also adopted by another feral cat who roamed our neighborhood but stuck with us most of the time. After my time with that shelter, I started with Unleashed in April of 2017 and have been at the AniMall location since September of 2017. I started at the Crabtree Valley Mall kiosk and moved to to the Lake Boone Trail location after a few months. Through a co-worker, I ended up with another cat, an 11 year old, fractious, skinny guy named Casey. We intended to fix him up and adopt him out but his illness was too much and after nine months with us, he passed away. A few months before losing Casey, Bucky became ill and never recovered. We said goodbye to him in December of 2017. Neal and I currently share our home with 23 cats (ferals included) and three dogs, as well as several aquariums' worth of fish, shrimp, and snails. I am working on expanding our "zoo" to include a rabbit and maybe an axolotl as well!