Most pet owners look for pets in search of companionship, motivation to get outside or entertainment in their free time. In addition, having a few animals provides health and mental benefits to the owner. Since dogs and cats have been good companions of humans for a long time by providing love and comfort, most people who want pets debate between dogs and cats. Sophomore, Kassidy Moninger, however, has a quite different experience with her pets than most people due to her foundational love for animals and nature. Unlike most pet owners who are only interested in owning limited kinds of animals, Moninger has a diverse collection of animals including two cats, three dogs, three salamanders, ten koi fish, four chickens, a snake and over a hundred turtles of a variety of species.
Moninger grew up developing her fascination for animals under the influence of her dad, who also grew up with unique animals and wanted to incorporate a distinct part of his life into his children’s life as well. Surrounded by a wide range of animals, Moninger naturally developed curiosity about different species. Her desire to learn about animals heightens, especially on running trails, where she can find numerous kinds of them. Her endless series of questions about animals always provides an entertaining topic for family discussions.
“I just love animals,” Moninger said. “I think it’s fascinating to learn about. Anytime I see a snake, I try to see what it is. If there is a species that I don’t recognize, I always try to look at it and go back to my dad because he is very good at [identifying] types of species.”
The Moninger family’s unusual pet selection lies beneath not only their interest in animals but also their love for the environment, which has motivated them to help threatened or endangered species grow in population. The family started collecting various kinds of turtles, in particular, as Moninger’s dad wanted to protect box turtles, a turtle species whose numbers are currently decreasing in the environment. In addition to helping animal species, the Moninger family also tries to take care of individual animals that are in danger. Just like one of Moninger’s turtles that was saved by the family on the side of a road after being hit by a car, all of the family’s animals are rescued animals.
“Our family is very big about trying to help with [the environment],” Moninger said. “He [my dad] likes to be able to implement new species into Florida’s environment. If there is a species that is of more rarity, he is trying to help it be implemented to the environment more and be more well-known.”
When it comes to taking care of the pets, the family usually separates and rotates with their job, giving each person a responsibility. Taking care of pets requires many time-consuming tasks such as training, cleaning and walking. In addition, feeding involves extra care to make sure that all animals are safe and healthy as each animal has different nutritional demands. By being involved in this detailed process since she was just a little kid, Moninger has learned how to remain responsible and manage her time effectively. Despite her busy schedule, she tries to spend as much time as possible with her pets and create many memories with them.
“When I got my first cat Paisley in first grade, it taught me a lot of responsibilities like cleaning the cat box and feeding,” Moninger said. “It was a lot [of responsibility], but it was a lot of learning. You never know how long you’re going to have your animals for, so you need to spend time with them when you can, take care of them and make sure they’re getting everything they need.”
From growing up with animals to seeing them pass away in the end, Moninger’s dynamic experience with animals has significantly shaped her character. Her intrinsic desire to learn about nature led to a deeper understanding of the world, and her longtime interactions with animals gave her the ability to empathize with all creatures, whether large or tiny.
“Kassidy has always loved animals as long as I have known her,” sophomore Riley Robinton said. “She is very companionate towards them. I feel like it just makes her more aware [of animals] and her caring personality really shows when she is with her animals.”
Animals have always been a special aspect of Moninger’s life. The memories and learning opportunities from her pets have had and will have a lasting influence on who she is as a person.