I was born into a southern military family in Portsmouth, Virginia, in 1951. Both sides of my family come from the tidewater area of southern Virginia, right near the border with North Carolina. My mom’s dad was a longtime guide for hunters and fishermen in Back Bay, just south of Chesapeake Bay; her mother taught piano and kept house for the seasonal hunters. My other grandfather was a boatbuilder, and my grandmother ran a rooming house for young Navy couples in Norfolk, Virginia. My roots are rural and maritime, but because my dad was a career Air Force officer, I lived all over the place as a kid, mostly in the Midwest and Spain before my family moved to the Washington, D.C., area in the early sixties. I think that some of my allegiance to nature comes from always being the new kid on the block, seeking companionship with critters and wild places instead of relying on longlasting human friendships.
In the winter of 1969, I quit the University of Virginia after just a semester of “higher learning” to learn to be a “tree doctor,” now known as an arborist. I climbed trees for a living for over twenty-five years, setting up my own company in Northern Virginia. The company specialized in saving trees affected by construction damage. It was quite successful: pioneering new ways to rescue root damaged trees. After running the company for eighteen years, I sold it to my employees, and dedicated myself full time to animal protection. Well, not quite full time. In 1991 I separated from my wife and obtained sole custody of my two children. They have lived with me ever since. My