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Anonymous asked: How did you gather up the funds to start a farm of your own? Do you have any advice for someone looking to go down the same path?

This is a question that I get asked a lot! Probably more than any other question. This has been my best attempt at answering it yet- without it being tailored to any specific individual.

It’s very difficult to give specific advice, since everyone is so different. There are lot of reasons that people are drawn to working with animals. Some of those reasons sometimes don’t have the animals best interest in mind. Other times the reasons are unrealistic or inspired by a fantasy storybook notion of what animals even are.

A short answer would be that if you are truly passionate about anything, you won’t need to find a way to go down that path- one will naturally present itself ahead of you.

Without knowing you and what a farm means to you, I’ll try to go into a little more detail.

If you want to devote your life to caring for and working with a variety of different animals, you’re probably going to have to work up to it. Unless you are already wealthy, you’re probably not going to be able to suddenly own your own wildlife park. That wouldn’t be too fun anyway, because it can be good to start small. Getting experience with a range of different animals is important, but it’s better to keep your attention focused on one species or one specific animal at a time. The more spread out you are, the less likely you’re going to be able to really become in tune with that animal’s behavior and in turn the less you’ll end up taking away from it.

Animal husbandry is essentially being able to fully understand an animal’s specific needs and then meet them.

Understanding comes through research, talking with others, observation and direct contact with the animal. I believe that the most important factor in learning how to work with a certain species is by observation without involvement and then the ability to relate what you’ve observed into practical application. Anyone can memorize some facts on dietary requirements, proper handling, what a raised lip means or a lowered tail. But none of that is going to be useful to someone who isn’t able to really understand the motivation that drives the animal to behave a certain way in one situation and a different way in another.

I believe that some people are just naturals at understanding behaviorism and those are usually the people that are considered ‘good with animals’.

They can observe an animal and understand it, without the need for references or decoding. This makes it a lot easier then to predict what the animal is likely to do in response to a situation. And when you know what to expect, that means you can effortlessly work with the animal in a way that will make you both happy.

Animal trainers are often successful because they can read behavioral cues better than the average person. When someone brings their ill-mannered dog to a trainer, the trainer is going to instantly start picking up information that has gone previously missed. It was always there- it just wasn’t being understood, if it was recognized at all.

Can this skill be learned?

To some degree, yes. Even to a successful one. You can study and take courses and completely immerse yourself in learning all you can about animal behaviorism. Certainly, some facts cannot always be gathered through observation. But I think those who rely completely on practical methods and try to apply them to the animal, usually end up unintentionally humanizing them and their expectations. That can be a challenge to overcome, after all we are humans and we’re sort of used to thinking like one.

I realize you are probably looking for more of a structured answer, but I absolutely believe that the essential part of having a positive encounter with any animal is being able to understand what he’s thinking from his point of view- not yours.

That’s the best advice I can give you.

Obtaining money to support your own personal animals can be a challenge. Animal-anything is usually not especially lucrative and caring for animals is a bigger expense than most. You asked how I gathered the funds to care for the animals that I have and the answer is that I didn’t. Not being independently wealthy, there wasn’t a chance I would have ever suddenly had the start-up money to right away be where I am.

It’s taken my whole life to get this far and as I suggested to you, I started small and then slowly made progress. Eventually, I was able to get some land. Fences came even after and spread out over time whenever I could afford to do a new section. I worked as a ‘dog behaviorist’ at a kennel observing dogs and matching them to play together in groups to get exercise while their owners were busy to save. It’s likely you’ll have to work somewhere else to earn the money to keep hitting milestones. I don’t remember a time that I didn’t work with animals. Even as a child. It’s just a passion that you can’t ignore.

I also volunteered in wildlife rehabilitation for the state which let me get experience with a variety of different species and a good amount of medical knowledge. It may be a good idea to see what’s near you and inquire as to whether they accept volunteers. Do whatever you can to be around animals in as many different ways as possible. Make connections with people who share your interest. Offer to pet sit. Visit a farm and ask if they’d like some free help and pay attention to how the animals behave while you work.

Most importantly remember: Never make the mistake of thinking you're teaching an animal anything, rather instead train yourself to listen to what the animal is teaching you.

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Last Updated: May 8th, 2016

Copyright © 2015 Alex Komechak. All Original Material, All Rights Reserved.

Working with Lorne as a pup

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