My first pet was a ladybug. I don't remember it but family lore is that I kept it in a baby food jar with a stick and some plants and one day it got misplaced. I was hysterical for days after losing it and kept asking where it was. As I grew older I had a habit of "helping" animals by bringing them home. An embarrassing treasure of a story is that one day I brought home a headless mole in my pocket and told no one it was there. My father found it when he was doing laundry. I wish I could have seen his face when he found it!
Looking back, my earliest memory of helping an animal was trying to save a drowning bee. We had a large kiddy pool in our yard in Crete, NE when I was 3 years old. My Dad would let it heat up during the day, and we'd get in our swimsuits in the evening and take our baths out there. One day I came across a bee in the pool and used my hand to get her out. She stung me. If it had gone as planned I don't think I would remember the event. After that day I fished bees/wasps out of water using a leaf or other such object to avoid the tail end of the insect.
Cassie (my sister) and I were exposed to a variety of animals/pets and the result was a deep desire to spend my life with as many as reasonably responsible. As a child I saw the problem with bad husbandry (we didn't know what we were doing a lot of the time) and learned a lot through trial and error. One big influence in my life was my YMCA Big Sister. She worked for Nebraska Game and Parks and she introduced me to birding, tracking, and enjoying wildlife. My love of outdoors, birding, studying field guides and keeping dogs came from her. She rounded out my animal experience, whether she knows it or not.