My passion has always been animals, nature, the environment. Someone said “to be an environmentalist is to be depressed”. This is a fact. Environmentalists know it is a losing battle we fight. Every victory, every step forward always leads to two, or ten back. So since early childhood I have regarded the human race as destroyers. In grade school I was known for pronouncing “I hate the white man” based on studies of pre-European North America. By age 10 I knew the earth was too crowded and would never have children. By the time I earned my degree in Wildlife Biology, my disdain for humans was absolute. I was always aware of mans’ ecological impact, but throw in murder, terrorism, child molestation and the various other crimes broadcast daily and I was convinced. People were decidedly bad. Thus began a search for employment that involved little personal contact, so that my glumness and anger and I could stew alone.
Fast forward through a decade of melancholy to acceptance of a position running a busy wildlife rehabilitation center. A large part of the job was working with volunteers, but I figured I could endure that chore for the reward of working with wildlife. Two years later, what started out the bane of the job has turned out to be its greatest joy, and the task from which I draw the most fulfillment.
Beside me, the center is run entirely by volunteers. The work? It’s dirty, difficult, sometimes dangerous, often heartbreaking and always challenging. But the volunteers keep coming. Every morning by 7am, through every night until 9:30, and often later, they are there. They care for each animal with incredible compassion. I’ve witnessed a grown man cry while holding a dying baby bird in his hands, students darting through traffic to rescue a turtle, a retiree setting her alarm 3 times a night to feed an orphaned squirrel. Come driving rain, tornado warnings, floods, snow and $4 gas – they are there. They battle blood thirsty mosquitoes, swarms of flies and questionable electrical power. They work with no air conditioning, no heat and a sink that is held up by bricks. But they don’t complain. Often I wake up warm in my bed, look at the clock and realize my volunteers have been at the center for an hour or two already. Last year several volunteers paid their own way to fly to the national wildlife conference. Seven people shared one room, with one bathroom, for four nights. And they were so happy to be there.
And not only do volunteers take care of animals. Shoveling gravel, baking, fundraising, building pens, planting trees…whatever the request they without exception answer the call. These remarkable people – high school and college students, businessmen and women, stay at home moms and retirees. White, black, Asian and Hispanic. You see what they don’t know, is they not only rehabilitate robins and hummingbirds, fox, turtles, great blue herons and great horned owls. They have rehabilitated me.
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