From the Dream of a Pet Store, to the Dream of Rescue
By Tara Hurlin
I was a thirteen year old internet junkie who had a passion for animals of all kinds, specifically reptiles, parrots, and exotic mammals. As years passed I crammed my brain with information relating to all types of animals kept in captivity with a dream to one day own my own pet store. My passion for animals was and still is inexplicably strong.
Once moved out of my parent’s house at age 18, I began a breeding program for bearded dragons. I had my entire future pet store’s layout engraved into my brain, and even drawn out on paper. There would be an extravagant back room with large, nature-based enclosures to work as a display for my breeding pairs. I had plans for reptiles, birds, and exotic mammals alike— I loved them all. Customers would be able to view the back room as a museum, or zoo of sorts, and the front of the store would hold all of the displays for the babies for sale, along with the highest quality supplies and foods possible. Of course, every enclosure would be immaculate, detailed, and fit every one of the animal’s individual needs. To be able to support myself by working with animals that I love so dearly seemed like a great idea at the time.
After spending time finding homes for the baby lizards I realized how many were in rescues, not to mention the large amount of related animals such as iguanas. From there I gravitated towards rescuing reptiles, but for whatever reason decided to breed green cheek conures. At that time my brain didn’t connect the two, and I did not realize that there was an even stronger need for parrot rescue—something that I quickly discovered once it was time to find homes for the first babies. Upon searching through several different web pages to get an idea of the parrot market, I fell upon a countless number of people trying to re-home their birds due to behavioral problems, medical issues, or life changes. A few ads displayed parrots that appeared so hopeless and depressed, that my heart dropped to the floor. Something had changed in me; from there I researched parrot rescues and found many of them to be full, and at least three sanctuaries had well over 300 birds at that time with more coming in.
A pang of guilt overwhelmed me. What was I thinking; if I love these animals so much, how can I contribute to the problem of the thousands that are already homeless? To this day, it still brings a tear to my eye, but like several others, I was young and uneducated; and without guidance from family or friends, I had to learn everything on my own. I’m grateful that I was not breeding animals for very long, but do you know what? I wouldn’t take this life experience back, because it has brought me to the place that I belong; for all this time, animal rescue was my calling.
I erased my pet store plans from my mind, and burned whatever drawings I had made. I halted my breeding projects, taking away nest boxes. I was on a new mission, and this one just felt “right”. At the time I was working two jobs—for a few months I was working three—and taking in parrot rescues here and there as they came to me. I was not making myself public until I owned my own house and had one full time stable job that I knew would support my rescue missions. In a way, animal rescue was the gateway to my entire life’s success— it was my motivator.
A few years later, in July of 2013, my husband and I opened our home to parrots in need. Working in rescue is far more rewarding, seeing birds in a depressed state or in poor health and lifting them back up is the most magnificent feeling of accomplishment—I know that I’m doing something to give back to the world, and with my husband by my side we can accomplish anything. Because we are fortunate enough to have full time jobs to support the rescue, making a living off of the animals I love is no longer a concern. Thanks to my experience and research from when I was younger, and from my continued life experiences today; when I see an animal, I do not see dollar signs—I see a soul, a living creature that deserves love and respect.