Originally from Southern California, Julie Bunker, a Puerto Vallarta resident since 1994, reminisces: “Somehow I think I was called to Mexico.” Fresh out of college and eager to begin her professional life as a schoolteacher, there were 13 choices in her district, out of which she would have been pleased to teach at 12. As it turned out, she was offered a position in the one she did not want. “It had Mexican children, and I didn’t know how to handle them,” she whispers as if it were forbidden to acknowledge. Ironically, working at that school and being invited into the homes, lives and families of Mexican immigrants changed her life forever. “They opened my doors and my eyes.”
Caring for animals has been a central theme in Bunker’s life, rescuing them from the moment she arrived in Puerto Vallarta and keeping them at home, first in Los Tules and now, several homes later, in Coapinole, where she shares her home with her husband and a handful of cats and dogs, birds “and a rooster.” In the process, she has been involved with several animal-related organizations in town, joining Pet Heaven (now The Purr Project), a non-profit shelter that provides homeless cats and kittens an option to recover and be adopted, in late 2009 when asked to “just stop by and pay the bills.” It quickly became her full-time passion, however. “I’d been looking for something like this,” she affirms, “something where I can feel useful making a difference in the lives of animals out there.”
Thanks to Facebook, Bunker has been able to come full circle, reconnecting with some of her San Juan Elementary School students, now in their late 30s, and thanking them for pointing her in the right direction.