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I am an Animal Keeper at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. I work in the American Trail area, which will be opening this September. I work with a variety of North American species including wolves, sea lions, seals, bald eagles, beavers, brown pelicans and river otters.
Each day has its own highlights and rewarding moments, but probably one of my most memorable moments while working at the zoo involved one of our female California sea lions, Calli. We have trained our seals and sea lions to let us brush and scrape their teeth on a daily basis. This is done to not only demonstrate to the public how we care for the animals, but to also make sure the animal’s teeth and gums stay healthy. One afternoon Calli wasn’t eating very well and was keeping her mouth partially open. When I looked at her teeth I saw that a tab from a soda can was stuck around a couple of teeth in the back of her mouth. It looked to be very painful and uncomfortable for her. Because of the training and trust that I’ve developed with her, I was able to go into her mouth with a set of pliers and remove the tab. It’s little things like this that help to reinforce that I am here for a reason, and that I am helping to provide a good life for the animals in my care. I’ve also been filmed and photographed by local newspapers and news broadcasts—it’s always fun to share that type of media with friends and family.
Being a Girl Scout taught me about having integrity, courage, how to work as a team, and also how to be independent. I think these things were instrumental in building my confidence as a young woman. I moved to Washington, DC for my animal keeping job right after college. I didn’t know anyone in the city, and didn’t know anyone in the zoo field. That was a pretty scary moment for me, but I grew up knowing that I could set and accomplish difficult goals, and that I could feel empowered enough to do things on my own. Those were important life skills that I learned while being a Girl Scout.