UC Davis undergraduate, 4th year
Major: Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology
My journey to this position began when I was very young. Every year around Easter time, my family would make the journey to my grandparent's goat farm in Virginia. I would spend entire days in the field with the goats. One year, my grandmother woke me up at the crack of dawn to tell me that one of the pregnant females was in labor. I jumped up and followed her to the barn, where I watched the kids being born (a simultaneously gross and amazing sight). I named one of the kids Lily, and we became in separable. These annual trips shaped my love for animals.
I later volunteered at a therapeutic children’s horse ranch for six years where I helped groom, wash, feed, and exercise the horses as well as the cats, ducks, and chickens. This ranch was geared towards helping young people with disabilities be able to express themselves in a healthy and productive way through interaction with animals. Watching the kids connect with all of the animals on the ranch helped me learn about the benefits of animal interactions.
In high school, I volunteered at the Los Angeles Zoo, where after a vigorous training program during which I learned about the abundant flora and fauna the zoo displays I became an ambassador for conservation and animal education to the public. I then interned and worked with the zookeepers of both exotic (chimps) and domestic (goats, sheep, and pigs) animals. I distributed their medication, fed them, and cleaned their enclosures. At various points in my internship, I had incredible experiences with the animals, but one always seems to stand out: as I was pouring the daily concoction of medication and fruit smoothie into the mouth of my favorite baby chimp, Johari, he reached out and gently petted my head, as if to communicate his trust in me. It blew my mind. It was amazing to work so closely with the animals and to learn about their individual personalities and their relationships with their keepers. I have learned so much about animal behavior in my high school experience, my time at UC Davis, and my professional experience, and I hope to put all of these skills to use in training the piglets.
I hope to one day work in animal husbandry, animal rehabilitation, or animal behavior research. Working in such close proximity to the piglets and building a relationship with them will be incredibly rewarding. My hope is that this internship will offer an opportunity for me to turn my passion for animal care into real change and results, and eventually that these little piglets, named Romeo, Jelly Bean, and Care Bear, will be able to help people in need.
My first week with Romeo, Jelly Bean, and Care Bear was highly eventful, and I've already come to know their personalities well. They're much trickier to train than you’d expect. Yes, they are whip-smart, but they are also sneaky little things who are extremely food motivated and shaped like tiny rockets. This journey of bonding with the piglets is going to be exciting, difficult, and eye-opening, and I'm so happy to share the triumphs and challenges here.
I am so excited to be part of this project as one of your Piglet Whisperers. I look forward to updating this blog weekly with all things mini pig. Stay tuned!
Green Care Blog
Here you can find blog posts from each Green Care Lab intern. We'll be talking about our research process, the benefits of Green Care therapy, and sharing pictures of our work. Follow along with us!