So who is the face behind Familiar Exotics? (Besides the photo above, which is my version of a self-portrait, taken several years ago in South Africa.) My name is Julie, and I currently live in mid-central Missouri. I was born in Seattle and spent much of my life in the Pacific Northwest. For as long as I can remember I have had a love for animals and the environment. I grew up with a cat and goldfish, added a dog and gerbils over the years, and fulfilled a lifetime dream when I received my first horse for Christmas in 1999. Since then my interests have only expanded, and I now own a multitude of tropical fish species, six species of geckos, tortoise, and two aquatic turtles, on top of the three cats, a dog, ten layer chickens, and now five horses! I find great satisfaction in researching and learning about new species and their care. I have a Bachelor's degree in Zoo Science and have spent many hours interning at my local zoo in the reptiles and amphibians and jungle bird departments. During this time I had many special, rare experiences and have come away with a unique understanding for care and conservation of a wide variety of animals.
I also have a passion for travel, and have been blessed to visit a variety of countries. In 2006 I spent almost 6 months overseas in New Zealand, South Africa, and Mozambique through Youth With A Mission, and in 2010 I took part in a medical mission to the Dominican Republic with Medical Ministry International. I find other cultures fascinating, and of course cannot get enough of the new and exciting wildlife in these places. Over the years I have gained a love for photography, and all these interests meshed quite nicely. To the left are some various wildlife photos from my travels. In late 2011, I married the love of my life who fully supports my animal hobbies and shares my love of travel and nature. He has enriched my life more than I could imagine and I look forward to our future - we have now fulfilled our dream of owning property where we can keep our animals and the 2015 year will be geared towards aquaponics and growing our own organic food.
When I am at home and not cleaning gecko or fish tanks, I like to spend time riding and playing with my horses. I do compete, but broke my back in a jumping fall in October of 2013 and then had surgery in July of 2014 so I'm making up a lot of training time currently. As for our herd - I still have my first horse, a 1995 Arabian mare, "D'Artaneya" (aka "Lady D") and you'd never know her age! I also bred her to a Quarter horse stallion, and in 2009 an absolutely wonderful little Quarab foal was welcomed into the world. I named him "D'Lightful Breeze" and he truly is a delight. He is now my husband's horse (funny how things work out)! I have been very blessed to have these horses - both are very intelligent and gentle, with friendly, curious personalities. Since we moved to Missouri we expanded our "equine plan" and added three more horses to our herd - my main eventer, a 2004 Swedish Warmblood known as "Leo", a 2013 Friesian stud colt named "Rijtzen of W.H.A". who will eventually be our breeding stallion and my dressage mount, and another dressage/eventing horse as well as broodmare - our 2000 American Warmblood "Midori".
The other loves of my life are Pippin, my cat, and Quinn - the newest addition to the family, a Bernese Mountain Dog. We got him at 4 months old in June 2012 and he's a gigantic fluffy ball of entertainment. He is very sensitive but also extremely intelligent. Having this breed has been a unique experience as they have special "quirks", but there are many benefits too! My other furkid, Pippin, is an absolute riot. He pretends to be your typical aloof independent cat, but he's really a big baby who is never far from "his girl" (me). He also thinks he's a dog - he grew up walking on a leash next to my previous dog (R.I.P. Calvin) and I still get wide-eyed stares when I walk him around the neighborhood.
I also have spent quite some time breeding fish, though my focus is now on reptiles. Over the years I bred and raised multiple species of tetra, danio, small cichlids, and livebearers, though my favorites have always been anabantoids ("air-breathers"). I love gouramis and bettas, and my passion lies with wild betta species. I have successfully kept around 10 species and bred half of those. I've also raised show-quality splendens. I hope to get back into breeding again someday when I have more time, as I found it very rewarding. Today I still keep quite a variety of community fish, some cichlids, a pet betta, and recently rehomed to a 120 gallon tank one large angry Midas cichlid. A few of my favorite fish:
So what about the reptiles? I started out with a leopard gecko a long time ago, but had to give him away when I took my stint overseas. Several years later a few of my friends on an online forum were getting into cresties, and I was intrigued. The fact that such a beautiful, variable species was so easy to care for definitely caught my attention. I got my first crested locally, and I was hooked. One followed the other, and after while I was interested in breeding. I was successful my first year breeding and sold all but two holdbacks. In that time I expanded to include gargoyle geckos as well, and in 2010 I had wonderful babies from both species! I've added other species now but my plans remain to progressively refine my lines in efforts to continue producing high quality, healthy, and affordable geckos.