Kirstin McMillan was raised in the circus, spending the first eight years of her life as the littlest clown in Ringling Brothers.
Her father worked with big cats, dominating them with his own ferocity and force of will.
His 'training' methods involved clubs, whips and starvation, and Kirstin and her mother once watched, horrified, as he single-handedly beat a nine-foot Bengal tiger to death.
Her father's brutal dominance didn't stop with animals and his family felt his methods first-hand too. Starved of affection and believing that strength and mastery were the key to relationships, Kirstin grew up damaged.
But it was her relationship with an animal - a basset hound rescued from a dog pound before it was due to be put down - that showed her the meaning of unconditional love and trust and healed the traumas of her childhood.