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Archive for May, 2010

Mammalabilia

I started this week feeling like life might just be impossible after all. After five hours of sleep riddled with bad dreams and intermittently punctured with the insistent demands of spoiled cats, I got up long before the sun to start another week of internship. Driving an hour and a half sounded far from appealing, and in general I felt like everything would feel better if I could just climb back into bed and forget about the world for another day or two.
But, this wasn’t an option at 5:30am on Monday morning. So I begrudgingly made my way, making sure to stop at the nearest opportunity to fill up on gas station cappuchino.
Getting to WildCare that early, early morning, I was met with a few surprises. My first task of the week was to help feed five tiny fawns, four of which were brand new to the clinic. The new fawns were skinny and hungry, but still strikingly beautiful (as I have recently discovered that fawns have a tendency of being). I think that I could sit and stare at a single fawn for hours, so getting to feed and pet several within half an hour of starting my week was a joy, to say the least. Expressing their bowels and bladders was a considerably less joyful task, but a potentially useful skill that I have to say I’m happy to have under my belt now.
Almost immediately after loving on the fawns, I met Daisy. Daisy is a baby skunk who was unceremoniously placed into my unsuspecting hands that morning. As baby skunks are easily the absolute cutest of ALL baby animals (trust me on this one), it took me all of 0.0001 seconds to fall in love. Daisy was the biggest of the three new baby skunks at the center, but was still no larger than a two-week old kitten. And, I may dare to say, cuter than said kitten. Daisy climbed up to my shoulder, rooted around a bit near my ear, then settled down for a contented nap on my shoulder. When it came Daisy’s time for breakfast, I traded her in for a much tinier skunk who, eyes and ears still sealed, fit snugly into the palm of my rather small hand. Those sleek little black bodies tainted my hands with a faint baby skunk smell which lingered, but even that seemed to be merely a pleasant reminder of the tiny little beauties.
The rest of the week was a lot of routine mixed with a sprinkle of delightful surprises and some hearty experience. I learned that before attempting to open a cage full of raucous raccoon cubs, it’s best to throw a few animal crackers in through the back of the cage, and to be really, really fast about getting in and out of the cage with whatever it is you might be needing to do in there. Otherwise, baby raccoons everywhere.
I’ve also learned that a newborn turkey chick looks almost exactly like a chicken chick, except with bigger, almost comical feet, and some subtly brown-speckled wings. And that two turkey chicks are delighted to cuddle together under a heat lamp, even if they happen to be complete strangers to each other.
I’ve seen some pretty sad things this week, and that simply comes with the experience, but it has been completely balanced by the number of wonderful things I have seen. Earlier this week I warmed a baby opossum, not much bigger than a mouse, by carrying him around in my shirt for about an hour. At first he was too wet and cold to do any more than curl up and hope for the best. But as time passed he began to wiggle a bit, and by the time I had to replace him with his siblings he was lively enough to protest by climbing up into my armpit and refusing to be removed.
And just today I laughed when I discovered an older baby opossum, no more than a pound heavy, trucking along a hamster wheel at full speed in his cage. It is easily one of the most amusing things I have ever seen, this miniature opossum with head and tail held high, looking like he was having the time of his life..
I have adopted a mantra this summer which goes something like this: Do what scares you most. In other words, if you are nervous about whether or not you are able to do something and unsure of yourself, jump in and make it your hobby or your specialty. I used this motto this week to confront something which really scared me at WildCare….feeding the doves. I know, it doesn’t sound like something that anyone should be tentative about, but I really shied away from it in the first two weeks. Unlike the majority of the baby birds at the clinic, the baby doves cannot simply gape open their beaks and have food placed in their mouths and be done. No, they have to be caught first, and then the real fun begins. I’ve developed a method which involves wrapping each bird in a little towel burrito with only the delicate, blinking head exposed. Then the long, stubborn beak has to be pried open ever so gently with a fingernail, and a long feeding syringe pushed into the mouth and directly into the crop of these fragile little birds. If the tube goes, well, down the wrong tube, then the bird will aspirate (which I pray never happens!). Through the past few days of sucking it up and volunteering to feed the doves as often as I was able, I am proud to say that I can now actually handle it on my own, and that, thankfully, the doves don’t seem much worse for the wear.

And now it is back to the Real World for another four days until I begin another week at WildCare. Needless to say I’m looking forward to getting back to see what the new week has in store for me, and to see which little furry and feathered (or scaled) creatures get to steal my heart away.

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Although I was not successful in my attempt to curb my Facebook usage last month, April turned out to be pretty astounding in ways I hadn’t anticipated. I did manage to accomplish a few of the things on my list, but the real joy came in unexpected packages.

April started off with a wonderful surprise gift. Jeff gave me a very special Marie-sized guitar, which he had carefully restrung so that I can play left-handed. I consider this to be perhaps the most thoughtful and generous gift I have ever received, as it includes not only the physical object (which is quite beautiful), but comes complete with a committment of the time and effort and patience that will doubtless be needed to teach me to play. School and work and life in general has prevented me from having the time to do any more than learn a few chords, though I did manage to learn my first melody, which is the intro to Tom Petty’s “Honeybee.” Needless to say I am very much looking forward to spending the summer aqcuiring my new musical skill.

So, one thoughtful turn deserves another, right? I decided to forego my studies for a night (an ENTIRE night!) and give my creative muscles a good flexing. Early one morning I stopped by Jeff’s to leave a special message. That message started with a splash of hearts..

…which climbed up the furniture..

..swarmed the windows..

..passed the friendly paper squid..

..and finally rested in the doorway, ready to greet as cheerfully as possible.

Though quite exhausting for 12 solid hours’ worth of cutting and taping, I think the results were well worth the effort!

My other unplanned April adventure came with a pretty epic road trip. Angela, Theresa and I drove to San Francisco, California, making the trip in just two days, with another two days to spend sightseeing and helping Ang get settled as well as she could in her new apartment there. Though the photos taken were numerous, I will post just one here which I think does a pretty good job of summing up the grandeur and beauty and adventure contained in those four short days that we were lucky enough to get to spend together.

Even with the coming of May and the end of the spring semester, my life has not become any less eventful. This week has been my very first working as an intern for WildCare clinic in Bloomington. The experience has been both overwhelming and wonderful so far. I wouldn’t even be able to recount all the different species I have seen in the past few days alone. And throughout it all the staff at the clinic have been amazingly patient and eager to let each of the interns gain the fullest experience possible. Several times I have had a baby raccoon or an opossum joey suddenly placed in my unexpecting hands, much to my utter delight.

I’ve learned so much about wildlife in the past two weeks that I can’t believe I ever thought I knew anything before now! I feel extremely privileged to be soaking it all up firsthand. On Monday I learned that opossum joeys are very fond of climbing on my braided hair, and that they have tiny, alligator-like mouths too big for their bodies, that can clamp down relentlessly on said braid, rendering me quite helpless. I’ve also learned that baby raccoon urine has a very distinct smell, especially when it is dropping in copious amounts onto the top of my shoe. Just today I learned how to sex a turtle, and how to get a starving nuthatch fledgling to eat. (How? you ask. Simple. Take a waxworm, cut it in half, heat in the microwave for a couple of seconds, soak in warm water, and serve. Num num.)

Unless you know me well I don’t think I can adequately relate just how delightful it is for me to be able to recount the past week and remember all the animals: the noisy starling fledglings, the robin, the box turtle, the coyote pup, the baby opossums and baby skunk and baby raccoons, the beautiful fawn, the clever crows, the tiny helpless hummingbird, the countless baby bunnies and the owls and the crazy squirrels. –it is going to take me most of the summer just to get used to the novelty of it all, though I never expect to stop being delighted with each and every new patient I have the good fortune to encounter.

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