by Stacey Kuhns
Ever since I can remember, I wanted to work with animals. I never had dreams of being famous, a ballerina, or anything kids my age at that time dreamed about. My goal was to be an exotic animal veterinarian for a zoo. I was always around animals. I had a horned lizard, mice, rats, a bullfrog, rabbits, guinea pigs, tortoises, dogs, cats, and a snake at home.
I began volunteering at a local veterinarian's office at the age of 15. Every day after school, my mom would drive me to the vet's office so I could volunteer.
I also signed up for the 4-H Club and did demonstrations on animal care.
I eventually began getting paid as an animal technician at the vet's office. When I graduated high school, I entered Pre-Veterinary Medicine at San Diego State University. (I was accepted to the University of Pennsylvania also, for their veterinary program, but decided to stay close to home).
I took classes Zoology, Primates, and of course all the requisite classes. While in college, I got a fantastic opportunity to volunteer at the San Diego Zoo. I worked in Research and Pathology. I assisted in autopsies of animals that had died at the Zoo and ran electrophoresis studies (DNA) on Prezwalski horses.
I was already into photography then and was asked to go to the Wild Animal Park to photograph a rhino calf that had just been born. They drove me out onto the plains area where he was and I was able to take some photos. It was all very cool. I would walk around the zoo before it opened to the public and study the animals, who are very active at that time.
Unfortunately, math has always been my downfall, even in grade school. I figured if I wanted to be a vet badly enough, it would happen. But between Organic Chemistry and Biological Calculus, I realized I was not going to be able to meet the math requirements to be a veterinarian.
I was devastated, but continued on with college under a different major. I eventually left State and moved back to Los Angeles County to get married. I worked for veterinarians prior to my first child being born. I continued to have cats and dogs at home.
When my son was in fourth grade (about 21 years ago), we purchased an iguana. That turned into iguana rescue and I had six iguanas in our living room at one time. I would take my large, tamer iguanas to schools and institutions, Girl Scout groups, and other places to share about their history and care.
I began working in law enforcement around 1991 (don't ask me how I went from animals to law enforcement. It just happened). While working as a probation officer, I volunteered to foster feral kittens through the County of San Diego Animal Services Tweenies Program. I fostered three kittens and wound up being a foster failure because I kept two of the sisters.
While working as an officer, I also took some time to visit a wolf sanctuary in the Palm Springs area. I was not happy with what I found there and made calls and wrote letters which had a positive impact on changes made there.
I retired from the County of San Diego almost three years ago. I wanted to return to working with animals so I searched the internet for places to volunteer in my area. I got involved volunteering with a rescue organization called Animal Rescuers without Borders . I have been there ever since and volunteer two to three days a week in the Cat Adoption Center at inside the Oceanside Petsmart. We also have a Cat Adoption Center in the Petsmart in Clairemont Mesa. We have many dogs for adoption or fostering also and hold a large number of adoption events at various locations.
I volunteered to foster an adult cat and kitten (who were bonded) at my house. Once again, a foster failure as I adopted them.
I have helped a number of animals find their forever home and that wonderful feeling never gets old. I love seeing our animals get a second chance at life and I hope to keep volunteering with animals for a long time. It does the heart good.