Saturday, August 1, 2015

Riding the Storm

The good thing about storms is that they don’t last. Eventually the sun comes out but sometimes there is damage left in its wake.  To give an update on the previous post, Vlad is doing very well and will get his sutures removed later this week.  Unfortunately, the news about the goose is not so good.  Gertie did not make it.  She was such a fighter but her injuries were too severe.  We kept her as comfortable as we possibly could in her last few days.      

I’ve had a roller coaster ride of emotions over all these “little storms” this summer.  The open house was fantastic. Not only was it our highest attended and grossing event ever but the whole day really just could not have gone any better.  That same weekend our beloved pitbull Rigley got sick. He was simply lethargic and wouldn’t eat. It came on all of a sudden. Not only had he been fine but I even had him in for his yearly exam less than a week before.  It wasn’t so simple.  Rigley was crashing and was given only a few days to live unless we took drastic life saving measures. Nigel’s and my philosophy with every animal here is quality over quantity. While we hated to lose him we did not want him to suffer at all. The beginning of his life had been hard enough for him. We wanted the end to be with dignity.  For some reason, that dog touched me more than I ever realized. His death has been harder on me than I expected and I’m even fighting back the tears just writing this. 

Cesar, baby Chinchilla
Isela, baby Chinchilla
But I said this summer was a roller coaster so on to the good news. Baby Chinchillas!  We had been donated several chinchillas over the winter but despite having 4 of them, none of them were able to be used for our programs. They were not used to being handled that much and that would not be safe for anyone. Chinchillas are one of my favorite education animals for our programs so we decided to breed them specifically so that the offspring can be trained to be used in classrooms.  We had 3 little baby chinchillas born to Coco this summer. Unfortunately, chinchillas are not able to nurse any more than 2 babies at a time. The smallest one didn’t make it. We did our best to step in but it just wasn’t enough.  Coco was proving to be a great mom, until day number 3.  By then she got sore enough to bite both babies on the head. They became afraid of her and didn’t want to nurse after that. We left them together but supplemented the feeding as needed. Here’s the crazy part. This all happened a few days before my mom and I had to go to Florida for a graduation. Let’s just say that my skills are a little better suited for the nurturing of small mammals than Nigel’s so off to Florida we all went. They travelled well and bonded again with their mother. It took a few more weeks for their wounds to heal but they are doing great. The little boy has been named Cesar and the little girl has been named Isela. Recently, we moved the both of them and their mom into their big high-rise, multi-level cage.  The babies are so much fun to watch bouncing around. 

Most anyone that has ever been here has met my cat Sahara. She has taken over our kitchen table. We don’t actually eat there. She spends 90% of her time on the table. She has learned that it’s the best place to get fed first and to get all the scratches from the volunteers that come.  This cat, along with her sister (and litter mate) who is half her size, are nearly 17 years old.  A couple weeks ago she got very sick with vomiting, diarrhea and extremely lethargic.  I brought her to work with me fully expecting to have to euthanize another pet in just a few short weeks.  All of her tests though were inconclusive. Her bloodwork showed no real change. Her x-rays showed a few issues that were consistent with being sick but no obvious mass or answers. We put her on all sorts of medication and she is now doing very well, in fact it’s hard to believe anything was wrong.  At her age, I’m sure there’s more going on that we couldn’t find but I’d rather keep her happy on her table than put her through all sorts of tests.

Rabbits, rabbits and more rabbits!  We were donated rabbits. To be perfectly honest, they were all to be snake food but we had a small collection of them that Nigel decided to keep around. I take no credit for anything to do with the rabbits (at that point) because I am highly allergic to them. I am most grateful for all the volunteers that can look after them for me.  One of them had a litter of babies but the momma died when they were about a week old. Two of the babies survived so I took on the task of hand raising them.  It definitely tested my allergies but I think my body is finally getting used to having them around because it’s not as bad as it used to be. These little guys went everywhere with me, especially to work every day so that they could get their feedings.  The girls at work just loved them and you can imagine all the fuss 2 baby rabbits would get an animal clinic.  Last week they moved into their adult cage.  Then the next morning the rollercoaster headed downward again.  One of the rabbits was not using her back legs.  It’s heart breaking to see her drag herself around. I’m not giving up on her though. We had been given a bird that had paralyzed legs several months ago and he’s now moving both of them.  That’s what I’m hoping for this rabbit. I’m hoping that with time the use of legs will come back.  These are my babies. I have been up late at night and again very early in the morning to feed them. I’ve even had to sneak them into the store in my purse when I ran in so they didn’t get left in the heat.  I have fallen in love with these two little bunnies.

Baby Bunny
Baby Bunny
Today was bitter sweet for me. I said good-bye to my little baby bunnies. They have moved on to their new home. The sweet part is that it will be a great home for them. Not only will they be spoiled but I know that everything possible will be done to continue the nursing care the white one needs.  The other good news is that they have gone to live with some of our volunteers so we will definitely get to continue to see them.  For now, I’m ready for calm but our life is full of adventures and good or bad, I would not have it any other way.  

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Gauze and the Goose

It’s been way too long since I’ve added to this blog. I was recently encouraged and inspired to start writing again. Please keep in mind this is a personal blog so what is written is coming straight from my heart and my own personal feelings.  Running an animal sanctuary has extreme highs and extreme lows and this is me, dealing with some of the lows. Tomorrow is another day.

I have to be honest, writing about my hand and then following it up with Rosie’s death took a lot out of me. It is not easy for me to get to the emotional side of things.  Right now though, the emotions are raging so I figured I would sit down and see what comes out.  I work hard at really looking at the positive and not focusing on the bad days, bad moments, or anything all that negative. It’s a survival thing when you work in the animal business.  But today, was NOT a good day.  Back at the end of February we got a dog. Actually, he was given to us and supposedly a hybrid wolf but there’s not much wolf in him. He’s really just a VERY large puppy.  He was recently neutered (at the time) and fully vetted.

Fast forward to last week; Nigel noticed that there was blood dripping from him.  When I took him to work his scrotal sac (where he had been neutered) was infected. We tried antibiotics for a week but nothing changed so we had to go to surgery.  I really don’t mind being in on the surgery for my own pets. I was anxious for this one though. I’m not sure why. I guess it’s because there was an unknown. We had no idea what was causing this or what we’d find. The poor doctor got tired of me asking…”What is it?” He took the sac off and after Vlad was sutured back up and stable he started taking the pieces apart.  A piece of gauze! Whoever did the surgery back in February left gauze inside the dog.  You hear of this sort of thing happening and I knew he would be fine but it still brings out a lot of emotions when it’s your own pet. Probably even more so when you’re in the business and know how things are supposed to go and what could have happened if we didn’t catch this so early.  Vlad is home tonight and although he’s NOT happy about looking like a satellite dish in the front yard with his collar, he’s doing well and will recover fine.  My nerves however are taking longer to heal than his.

There were other little things throughout the day that added to frustration but nothing earthshattering. That is until later tonight.  We recently rebuilt the farmyard building because a Great Horned Owl had killed and terrorized our animals last fall. We really thought this new build was working well.  That is until Nigel called for me urgently tonight after being out there. Poor Gertie Goose was badly injured. It was gruesome for those that don’t have a stomach for blood. We cleaned her up well and treated all the injuries. The nursing care has started and all we can do is hope for the best.  It has left me feeling rather defeated. We are supposed to be protecting these animals. The pigs, dogs or even guinea fowl never made any noise.

These are just 2 things that happened in one day. Doing this job requires one to have a strong stomach and the ability to think and act in tense situations. But it also has a very high emotional cost.  I was telling someone the other day that Nigel never asks me how my day went when I come home. They were shocked but quite honestly, I prefer it that way. He knows I will tell him the things that are important or that I want to share. For the most part though, I do not want to relive a lot of the things that go on.  I deal with those things at work then come home and turn it off.  It’s the only way I can handle the emotional stress of it all.  That’s all well and good though for the vet clinic. Here at the rescue, that’s my home.  That’s a lot harder to shake off.  Perhaps, that’s why tonight I have turned to writing.  

Sunday, January 11, 2015

THE Bite, The Final Chapter

It’s with great sadness that I start adding to the blog again. I was recently inspired to write and had a whole different story started. That will have to come later. 

It’s any zookeeper’s (or barn or stable hand’s) worst nightmare.  An electrical fire started in a light fixture and spread through the ceiling of the primate barn at a nearby zoo.  Twenty-eight animals died of smoke inhalation.  The whole thing strikes so many different nerves in me.  As a zookeeper I feel the pain, as someone that worked in that very barn with some of those same animals (even if it was 20+ years ago) I feel a lot of the pain and also as someone with an organization with a separate building full of animals I feel the pain.  But there is one particular animal that has caused the greatest upset for me.

I was at work when one of my coworkers asked if I heard about the fire. I immediately went to get my phone to find about 6 messages. I opened the article and somewhere in the very first paragraph it stated that among the animals deceased were the chimps. I cried out “Oh, god, Rosie!”  I started shaking and crying so badly that I couldn’t see the rest to read it.  Her name was not listed specifically but I knew instantly. I immediately felt like part of me had just died.  It’s a very weird feeling that I could not begin to explain to anyone. Perhaps it’s as basic as the fact that she really did have part of me in her, after all she did swallow the finger. 

There was also an unspoken bond between Rosie and me. Nothing like the flirting she did with the guys.  She would watch me. I often would wonder what she was thinking when she did.  Nigel and I were there to help a bird last year and walked around some.  Nigel pointed out that a chimp had been watching me very intently for some time. I turned and of course it was her with her eyes locked on my every move. It was a very cool and creepy experience at the same time but that’s how she was with me.  Not only would I never forget but apparently she hadn't either. 

I have had to force myself to stay off Facebook.  Many comments are so hateful and that adds to my emotional overload.  I know that this particular zoo is not perfect (but nothing is) and some decisions had been made in the past that I would not do, but one thing I can tell you is that there are a lot of good people there working hard and doing the best they can with the limited resources they have.  No one deserves something like this and I would gladly do anything I can to help.  What’s best for the animals is and has always been my motivation. Why sit behind your computers and complain? People should get off their arses and do something to make things better.

They had a memorial this afternoon.  The names of each of the animals were called out as flowers were placed along the grave.  I caught myself off guard; when Rosie’s name was called out I started crying all over again.  I loved to hate that girl and hated to love her.  RIP Rosie and all of your friends.