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Critters & Conservation's Story

Critters & Conservation was created by Melissa Kowalski, an animal lover since very early childhood. In addition to growing up in a home with cats, dogs, and parakeets, Melissa started out talking to bees, ladybugs, butterflies, and earthworms as a child. As she got older, she frequently brought home injured wildlife, stray dogs, interesting insects, and once a cat. Other pets she had as a child were anoles, hermit crabs, and fish.

As a young adult and without pets of her own, Melissa started house-sitting and caring for others' pets. She had so many clients, particularly with dogs, that she spent almost one whole summer at other people's houses. She thought of starting a dog daycare business, but could not take the financial leap at that time. Though she has a pet dog today, she discovered that she is allergic to dogs. Needless to say, she is a firm believer in allergy shots!

When her son Ryan was turning six years old, he asked her and his dad for a pet. He wanted a pet he could handle, was docile, and moved around a bit, but not so much as to escape from him. Due to household allergies, Melissa asked that he get a pet without fur or feathers. Much to everyone's delight, a Ball Python was chosen by committee. She was Mr. Snake, until a vet informed us that Mr. is, indeed, a Mrs.

So Mrs. Snake, our Ball Python, started it all, opening the door up to more snakes, then the gecko needing a foster to permanent home. From there, Melissa's love for all creatures blossomed once again, filling the house with wonderful pets from all different backgrounds, needs, diets, and husbandry requirements.

One at a time, three of the snakes made visits to her youngest son's, Felix, nursery school and the Shepherdstown Public Library for educational presentations. Then Melissa took the four snakes, the gecko, and a visiting toad to the Shepherdstown Train Station, along with another herp lover, for the Shepherdstown Public Library's “Summer of Science” program. There were over 100 people in attendance.

Children, animals, and a passion for conservation drove Melissa to create Critters & Conservation. Now she can share her love of nature and her fascination for all living things.


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