Like most young children, I fantasized that when I was older, my dreams would come true and I would be living my ideal life. However, unlike most young children, my dream was to keep and breed reptiles, and I followed through with it.
My Passion From an Early Age
While most little girls are obsessed with things such as hearing fairy tales and playing with dolls, I spent my toddler years fascinated by something much different: dinosaurs. I often spent hours comparing my plastic and rubber dinosaur toys to the pictures in the many dinosaur books that I frequently nagged my cooperative parents to read to me over and over again. My mother tells me that I seldom went anywhere without a stuffed dinosaur toy clutched to my chest.
As I grew older, my interest turned towards more modern reptiles. I would often spend hours researching various species of reptiles online in my parents’ office. When my mother took me into pet stores to purchase food for the family dogs and cat, I would stare into the reptile enclosures and beg to stay for “just a few more minutes”. I recall once looking into a bin of crickets at a local pet shop and wishing that I could purchase those smelly insects for my future pet reptiles one day.
Reptiles of My Own
When I was 9 years old, my sister received a leopard gecko hatchling as a Christmas present. As I quickly fell in love with the tiny lizard that my sister called Lizzy, I began to think that maybe my fantasy of keeping and breeding my own reptiles could be achieved much sooner than I had previous expected.
For my 10th birthday the following year, my parents purchased me my first pet reptiles: two leopard gecko hatchlings from Petco. I was ecstatic! I spent hours watching, talking about, researching, and caring for my spoiled pets. My gecko collection began to grow.
At age 12, my family and I moved out of the “middle of nowhere” (a small town in Northern Maine) and into a big town in Massachusetts. Living closer to big cities benefited my hobby of keeping reptiles greatly. I met a local veterinarian who specializes in treating herps when my first African fat-tailed gecko began to develop mild mouth rot. I was full of questions regarding health issues in herps that this wonderful lady was always willing to answer. Living closer to big cities also made it possible for me to attend reptile expos. My first reptile expo is surely a memory I will never forget. Prior to discovering reptile expos, the only herp species I had met in person were the few that the pet stores around my old home had in stock when I visited them. Meeting and buying from experienced gecko breeders inspired me. I wanted to be a gecko breeder one day.
Making My Dream a Reality
Two winters ago, having been keeping geckos for over 4 years, I decided that I wanted to begin breeding my small collection of leopard geckos. As tempting as it was to jump right into breeding my geckos in the quickly approaching 2010 breeding season, I knew that I still had more research to do and many supplies to save for and gather before I was ready. I spent hours and hours reading countless articles, book chapters, and online forum posts about breeding leopard geckos. I saved my money and gathered the supplies I would need to be successful. By the time the 2011 breeding season arrived, I was prepared to begin.
My name is Haley Phillips and I am now successfully breeding my leopard geckos at age 14. My first season is going well. I am starting off slow as to not end up with more hatchlings than I can care for and sell. I bred my female Mack snow and one of my female hypos each to a male of an appropriate morph. So far, the Mack snow has produced several fertile clutches and I have yet to get a fertile clutch from the hypo. In early June, my Mack snow’s first clutch hatched. Watching my first hatchlings poke their tiny noses out of their eggs was an amazing experience! I love being responsible for lives that exist because of me. Having the power to make these lives as wonderful as I can is great.
I am extremely grateful to my cooperative parents who have been very supportive of my obsession. I hope to expand my collection to work with new morphs, continue to improve my website, and earn more of a reputation as a gecko breeder after attending college. For now, I’m living my dream and couldn’t be happier.