Paws for Celebration: Adopting Exotic Pets and Sharing Their Stories

Paws for Celebration: Adopting Exotic Pets and Sharing Their Stories

A Journey of Love, Rescue, and Second Chances

Imagine a world where every abandoned, abused, or unwanted pet found a loving home. Where each unique creature, whether scaled, feathered, or furred, was celebrated for its individuality. This isn’t a far-fetched dream – it’s the mission that drives Traci Wilkerson Steckel, the powerhouse behind Traci’s Paws and Wilkerson Consulting.

From Reluctant Rescuer to Passionate Advocate

Traci’s journey into the world of exotic pet rescue began at a young age, growing up in a small Texas town. “From a very young age, my parents taught me about responsible pet ownership,” she recalls. “They would take these discarded pets to the vet, get them spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and we’d keep them or find permanent homes for some.”

“I guess throughout my adolescence and into adulthood, the word ‘SUCKER’ on my forehead grew with me. People knew that if they couldn’t keep a pet, they could call on me.”

This early exposure to the plight of abandoned animals would shape Traci’s future, but it wasn’t until she moved to San Diego and began teaching at a private school that she realized a new approach was needed. “I had 9 pets, 6 of which had been given to me, mostly by coworkers. This was a turning point, and I knew that if I wanted to make a difference in the pet overpopulation crisis, collecting everyone’s unwanted pets was not the answer.”

Founding Traci’s Paws: A Lifeline for Rescue Pets

It was in 2013 that Traci’s vision for change truly took shape. She started a Facebook page, simply sharing photos of rescue pets in need of homes. “Within hours, I had a foster and multiple adopters for them,” she says. “Then the most special thing happened – a senior Pomeranian I had posted from a high-kill shelter in California captured the hearts of one of our Facebook fans, and we facilitated our first rescue in San Diego County, only 1 hour before he was being put to sleep.”

Traci knew then that she had to do more. “These 2 foster and adoption assists were all the validation I needed to form a nonprofit.” And so, Traci’s Paws was born – the first 501(c)(3) nonprofit of its kind, raising tens of thousands of dollars for local rescues and saving countless pet lives.

Overcoming Obstacles and Inspiring Others

But the road to success wasn’t an easy one. “Lack of time and patience were my two major struggles,” Traci admits. “From the moment I wanted to do something to help solve the pet overpopulation crisis to the day I started Traci’s Paws, there was a huge gap in time. I shed a lot of tears and experienced a lot of frustration of not being able to do something sooner.”

Even her closest friends were skeptical. “I was even advised that if it wasn’t a successful first year, I should just consider running Traci’s Paws without the 501(c)(3), but this would mean that we would not be able to apply for grants, partner with other corporations, or receive many donations as they would not be tax-deductible.”

But Traci’s tenacity and determination knew no bounds. “Thankfully I did have more support than not, and with my tenacity, I didn’t skip a beat.” And her perseverance paid off – Traci’s Paws not only secured its 501(c)(3) status but has gone on to inspire others to follow in her footsteps.

“Little did those attorneys know, I am very tenacious. Since we received our 501(c)(3) status, we’ve actually seen a few other nonprofits similar to ours pop up, and even provided advice to them when asked.”

Wilkerson Consulting: Leveraging Expertise to Empower Small Businesses

Traci’s passion for education and innovation didn’t stop with Traci’s Paws. In 2017, she launched Wilkerson Consulting, a unique consulting agency that draws on her diverse background in automotive, education, and nonprofit work.

“Wilkerson Consulting is like a very nice set of training wheels,” Traci explains. “I service small-medium sized businesses with an array of needs, such as marketing, event production, fundraising, and honestly, just those little nagging tasks that need 100% attention that not all business owners have time to address.”

But Traci’s approach is anything but ordinary. “I make sure that not only am I just providing the service to complete this need, but I show them how to accomplish it and make sure they’re comfortable executing this on their own. Once they’re confident and ready, my work is done.”

Embracing the Future: Trends and Predictions

As Traci looks ahead, she sees both challenges and opportunities in the pet rescue and consulting industries. “The pet overpopulation crisis is still a huge problem we face all over the world,” she acknowledges. “Fortunately, we are already seeing our government passing laws like AB 485, which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, stating that dogs, cats, and rabbits can no longer be sold in pet stores in California.”

Yet, Traci remains optimistic. “There are millions of homeless pets that need to find homes, and Traci’s Paws will always be there to facilitate adoption events and to find new and creative ways to raise funds for these pet rescue organizations and save homeless pets’ lives.”

In the consulting world, Traci predicts that the industry will continue to evolve, with a greater emphasis on innovation and thinking outside the box. “Consulting is a very popular industry, and if you’re not helping a business with their marketing, you are constantly marketing your own business. It is imperative to think outside of the box and be a step ahead.”

A Celebration of Unconventional Love

As Traci reflects on her journey, she can’t help but feel a sense of pride and purpose. “I am proud to just exist,” she says. “Little did those attorneys know, I am very tenacious. Since we received our 501(c)(3) status, we’ve actually seen a few other nonprofits similar to ours pop up, and even provided advice to them when asked.”

For Traci, the true celebration lies in the faces of the rescued pets, the grateful rescues, and the communities she’s been able to touch. It’s a testament to the power of unconventional love, the kind that sees beyond fur and feathers and recognizes the unique spark in every living creature.

So, here’s to Traci and the countless others who dare to make a difference, one paw at a time. Let’s raise a paw to the extraordinary stories of exotic pets finding their forever homes, and the extraordinary people who make it all possible.

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