Monday, June 30, 2014

Raising Bardou

So it’s about time for another update on raising Bardou, the coyote pup.  He’s 13 weeks old now (time flies!) and quite the explorer.  There are no bottles or cute little pups curling up in your lap. He is full of energy with very sharp nails and even sharper teeth.  For the first few weeks he was so small he could stay in the bath tub and not climb over the side. Those days are long gone and he now stays outside.  He stays in a small enclosure close to the house. When he has grown he will be moved into a much larger space.  It’s at this age that hand-raising a wild animal is the most difficult. All he wants to do is play, which can be quite rough. This is how pups learn from one another.  It is up to us to fill this role of other coyotes and let him know what the rules are, yet still let him have his fun as a young canine.

The baby picture, 3 weeks old.
Twice a day Nigel and I take him out for “playtime”. He gets to run around the yard and interact with us. What we do with this time is very important to his growth.  I love just sitting and watching him and Nigel. He is so in tune with his “dad” and they run and run around chasing each other. Sometimes I can’t tell who’s supposed to be chasing who.  I always see the biggest smiles on Nigel when he’s interacting with our animals.  I love when Bardou finds a bug. He jumps up with all four legs and pounces on it. Then there are the moments where he finds a clump of grass.  He spends a great deal of time tossing it in the air chasing it and pouncing on it.  He knows exactly where it has landed and always seems to go back to it until it has completely broken apart.  The most amazing thing to me is that we have 4 other canines, domesticated canines at that, and none of them fetch.  Bardou, the coyote, will fetch. He loves his tennis ball and actually does bring it back. Lately he’s chased after it and then gotten very easily sidetracked on all that’s going on in the yard.

10 weeks old
The wild coyote does come out in him. He’s often passed some blackberries and stopped to eat them on his way by, or even a grub or two, even after having had his dinner.  He plays rough with a lot of jumping and he can be mouthy. Not that he’s trying to bite but it’s the way he would have played with other pups. His teeth are a bit too sharp for human skin that isn’t covered in fur.  He is very different when other people in the yard with us. He does not like strangers and any of the volunteers that want to work with him has to keep up contact with him and get him used to him and the right way to act around him.  New people freak him out all-together even though he’s been hand-raised.  Which is why there are so many coyotes in the wild yet very few are actually seen.  They do their very best to avoid people.  At work the doctor and I were told a story where a man was walking his 2 small dogs down the street and a coyote came up and snatched one of the dogs off the leash and killed it.  I can tell you that if that story is true it either was a dog of some type or a rabid coyote. I have learned that even a healthy, hand-raised coyote does NOT like confrontation and does not like to go near strange people.  It’s been amusing to watch people’s reactions to him that really want him to act like a dog or puppy that just always loves people.

Me and my boy, 13 weeks old.

My favorite part about raising Bardou isn’t just about working with a coyote. Nigel and very rarely work on projects together. We just get so very busy with so much to do around here.  Training Bardou every night is a project that Nigel and I are working on together.  More formal training will come later, but for now we are just learning our “manners”. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Opening the House part 2

Another open house is done and this one had a very weird outcome.  It truly reminded me that success is measured in so many different ways.  This was perhaps the most organized we've ever been and everything went very smoothly. Not that the others weren't organized, it was just better this time.  Financially, it didn't break records but still brought in more money than most of our others. The people that came stayed for longer periods of time and truly seemed to have a good time. Now here’s the weird part; for all that, we had record low number of people.  This tells me that we have found a great formula for how to run our event; we just need to figure out a better way to get people there.  Marketing is definitely not my forte, but I’m learning all the time and already have ideas for the next one.

The one thing that made the event such a success is the volunteers.  I am truly fortunate to have some wonderful, very hard working people by my side. Having such great people that I can trust and that have been here long enough to understand what is going on made such a huge difference on my stress level. A friend of mine even commented on a picture that I was actually smiling on open house day.  There were a couple points during the day where I started talking about the work everyone was doing and I felt myself getting choked up. The gratitude I have is overwhelming.

Some of my favorite moments this year were The Cold Water Challenge with Jennifer and Glenda. They each raised money to have ice cold water dumped on them.  It was fun, especially in the heat. One of my youngest volunteers stepped up to the plate and offered to take an important couple around on a tour. He did a great job and I was very proud of him.  We were also able to get Dakota, the bobcat, to do a few of his trained behaviors in front of guests. He was reluctant and nervous but the fact that he did them at all was a great moment for everyone that got to watch.  At one point I went in to check on Ginger, the Fennec Fox, I was sitting down inside her enclosure trying to get her to come out of her house to see me. She would look at me and roll over but never came out. That is until her favorite volunteer came around. She bolted out of that house and rushed towards her.  I knew exactly where I stood in her mind (haha).  It was a wonderful moment though.  My other favorite thing was having guest vendors, since our first years were just us. Scaly Adventures has now joined us a few times but this year we had a musician (SaxMan Entertainment) and Kona Ice. I love that we can now offer such diversity to our guests.  

As tired as I am after the event is over I really enjoy the days afterwards.  Everything is clean at once, the yard is cleaned up, the animals are resting and I get a sense of pride over what we have done.  I really wish that we had the facilities to offer something far more often than twice a year.  Perhaps someday we will. The reality of it though is that I barely get a day of rest and it’s time to start thinking about the next event or fundraiser. In this business it never ends.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Opening the house

It’s that time of year where I get easily distracted, stressed and anxious. It’s time for our open house. In just a few days we will have a few hundred people at our home. This isn't like some big party; most of these people are total strangers. It is not a normal concept to open one’s property to pretty much anyone. Our first Adventure Day was in 2009.  We had been an official organization for two years by then.  In some ways it seems like it was a natural progression to start letting people in and in other ways it was not an easy decision.  There have always been a large number of animals that we can’t take out to programs and of course people were always curious about those. More and more often people were asking to come out to see all the animals. Of course that wasn't a problem when it was friends and family but when you start to get complete strangers requesting to come it’s another issue.  We decided that something had to be done to let people come visit. Then the hard part began. How do we let people come to our home to see the animals yet still have retained our privacy?  We got together with our volunteers and friends and started planning and brainstorming.  Rule number 1, no one but volunteers are allowed into the house. Rule number 2 was that we never publish our exact address.  This may have limited us over the years for the numbers of people that have come out but it’s the risk I’m willing to take. 

I wouldn't say that the first one was a giant financial success but the people that came had a great time. To me, that was the best measure of success and it was enough to take what we had learned to do more. I remember the morning of the event. It felt like such chaos. No one had done this before and it seemed like everything was running behind schedule. We managed to get it together though and no one probably noticed the “imperfections”. As somewhat of a control freak I had to learn to let go of the little things.  I would walk around and think that a sign wasn't quite where I would put it, that something was laid out in a random order or that games were played completely differently from how I created them. It was actually a bit of struggle to get myself to the point of not worrying about these little things. 

We are now at 12 events later and I still feel like I’m learning better ways to do things. I think that’s a good thing; we always want to be improving it and giving people new reasons to come out.  I would say that the most important things to me to have a successful event and one that’s as little stress as possible is 1) to be very organized, 2) to have great people behind me that know exactly how these things go and 3) to trust the people that are working so hard to help. I've been fortunate to have so many people over the years that fit this picture.  There is no doubt that this day exhausts every volunteer we have.  I am always humbled by the number of people that are willing to come out and work so hard for us.

As much as I sit here and talk about the stress and the amount of work; I must admit, I actually enjoy doing these events. When I stop and take a moment to look around I see kids having fun with the games, a line of people at the food, the deck full of people anxiously trying to get to touch the animals and many others checking out the animals or just hanging out having a good time, I fill with pride. This is something that Nigel and I have worked so hard to create and so many people are here to support us and our animals.  Then I quickly snap back to reality because someone needs to know where something is or what to do about something else.