September 1971-July 1972
Animals. I loved animals. Dogs and horses were my favorites—wild, trained, large, small. I dressed my neighbor’s kittens in doll clothes and walked them in my girlfriend’s stroller. I walked the neighbors’ pets just to help. I was going to be a veterinarian from the moment I walked my pet pigeon on the Atlantic City Boardwalk at the age of three. The poor thing hurt its wing and my Zadie Pop helped me tape the wing and build a coop to keep it safe. I loved that pigeon. I devoted every morning and evening to its care. Until one day it flew away, breaking my heart. I was inconsolable. My grandfather patiently explained how I had saved this animal and I should be proud he was healed. “But if he loved me, he would stay,” I wailed. “If you truly love him, you should respect his need to be free.” My Zadie was my hero.
Bruce came and my mission to save animals changed to saving Bruce and children like him. That way, he could live a normal life with the family. I had found my voice. I was confident, jumping into every endeavor headfirst, eyes wide open without fear of a belly flop. I have since learned to give some thought prior to jumping. I’m confident, not stupid. I might waver a time or two, or even three, but once committed, I’m all in—no stuttering from the start. That is how I walk. I’m a strider. Head up, shoulders back. “She knows where she’s going” or “That’s a woman on a mission” were comments that whispered, carried on the breeze created as I passed. I did have a mission now, a very special mission: becoming the woman I was meant to be.
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