Note: Kathy Saunders is one of The Young Defenders’ and The Fur-Bearers’ volunteer writers. In this article, Kathy introduces herself. We’re looking forward to more!
As a kid growing up in Northern Ontario, I was lucky enough to spend the majority of my summers camping and being close to nature. We never travelled abroad, but instead parked our camper trailer at our regular campground or used it to explore Ontario. We caught and released tadpoles and bullfrogs and spotted rabbits and other small mammals around the campsites. While I was in middle school, my family moved to the country to a house with almost 100 acres. We had dogs, cats and horses — almost all of them adopted. My mother has a big heart and when she saw that someone wasn’t taking care of their dog, she’d offer to take it. When we found a litter of kittens lost and making their way out of the woods, we found the mother cat, tracked down the owners and told them we’d take two kittens. Our property was rich with wildlife and it wasn’t odd to see coyotes come up our driveway. I spent summers working on strawberry farms and rode to work on my bike, one time even passing a bear cub on the side of the road. I’m sure mama bear wasn’t far away!
When you become a leader for young people, you begin to become more aware of the values you hold strongly.Kathy Saunders
When I was a teenager and we moved back to the city, I started working for Parks and Recreation programs after school and during the summer. When you become a leader for young people, you begin to become more aware of the values you hold strongly. I became more conscientious of the way young people interacted with our natural environment and non-human animals and I was determined to instill the same respect for nature in them that was instilled in me.
I am now an elementary school teacher and have the opportunity every day to try to connect kids to nature while living in Toronto. I love to further educate myself on environmental issues by taking workshops and courses all the time. I’m working towards my Environmental Education Specialist qualification for teaching. Last year I became a National Geographic Certified Educator. I have run the Eco Club at our school for years and in 2018, we became a Platinum Certified Eco School — the highest achievement a school can obtain. We engage non-stop environmental initiatives throughout the school. In 2018, I launched an Animal Rights Club and the students really took off with it, researching, preparing and presenting an assembly in front of the whole school on the many ways animals are exploited. We also had vegan hot chocolate sales and raised money that we donated to Just Paws Animal Rescue in Toronto. They even named a dog after our school!
Aside from my role in teaching young people to care about Planet Earth and all her inhabitants, I am an avid traveller. I love photographing all things nature and wildlife. I would love to go to the Yukon to photograph the elusive wolverine. In the meantime, a favourite fur-bearing animal I’ve photographed is a pine marten. In my spare time, I volunteer with a cat rescue in Toronto feeding two feral cat colonies. I enjoy yoga and bicycling, watching the Raptors, cooking and baking all the delicious plant-based foods, reading almost every genre and writing. At home, my partner and I live with two of our own adopted cats whose opposite personalities definitely keep us on our toes.