Blessing or curse?

A long time ago in a land far away, I was cursed by an evil witch. My best friend, Karen, used to babysit the child of a family friend and offered me the job one night when she had a date. It was the first time I had ever met the lady, and I’m pretty sure she knew nothing about me.

A few weeks after watching her child (during which nothing memorable happened), I heard that she had told someone I would never stick with anything. That I would flit about from job to job and never amount to a hill of beans. At the time I thought nothing of it because we were practically strangers to each other.  I had no idea on what she based this prognostication and I was determined not to lose any sleep over her low opinion of me.

Through the years, as I flitted from job to job, I began to fear her words were more of a curse than a prediction. I began working at the tender age of five in a relative’s restaurant, washing dishes and peeling potatoes while I stood on a chair to reach the sink. Since then I have been a night auditor, a cashier, a bartender and a phlebotomist. I have cleaned bed pans in a nursing home, detailed automobiles for auction, sliced lunch meat in a deli, and waited tables (for which I proudly hold the title of World’s Worst Waitress!)

Labouring at each of these jobs, sometimes two or three at a time, often while putting myself through school and supporting my elderly mother, I worried that Brenda was right. It wasn’t that I was never happy with where I was, but that each position was a step toward a loftier goal.
Having volunteered at Peace River Wildlife Center for 9 years (and been on the payroll for more than four now), it seems my meandering path through life has stalled a bit.  But I still can’t seem to stick to doing just one job.

At PRWC, the only thing more varied than the number of different species we see every day is the reason they are here. A mourning dove with a broken wing from a cat attack. An osprey that has been shot because it was perching atop a sailboat.  Raccoons suffering from distemper and gopher tortoises with shells crushed by cars. For some of our patients, the only thing we can do is ease their suffering. Many others we are able to provide medication, support, and nutrition as we wait to see if their damaged bodies will heal.

Among this week’s admissions were two hawks that had wing fractures. X-rays showed that both had been shot. A red-shouldered hawk had a pellet lodged at the fracture site of her left humerus. With no other injuries, she appears to have been shot while on the ground. Her injuries were so old and debilitating that we had no choice but to humanely euthanize her to end her suffering.

The other bird, a red-tailed hawk had a scattering of bird shot in his right side. He was probably shot out of the air and fell on his left wing, fracturing the ulna in two places when he crash-landed. This injury was also fairly old, as evidenced by the healing of the bone already taking place on the x-ray. This bird was in much better shape than the poor red-shouldered, but it is unknown if he will ever be able to fly again.

According to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, it is a federal offense to “pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, or possess…any migratory bird…or any part, nest, or egg of any such bird.” This is not exactly a new rule. 1918, folks. That was one year after my mother was born, and I’m pretty sure she rode a dinosaur to work like Fred Flintstone. While I’m no lawyer, and sometimes have trouble discerning what all the gobbledygook means in those “lawyer-speak” rules and regulations, I’m pretty sure shooting a hawk is frowned upon. Is there anyone who doesn’t get that? Obviously there are at least two people.

I realize now that all of those seemingly unrelated jobs I have had in my lifetime so far were adding skills that make my current position as director of veterinary services at PRWC so rewarding. On any given day, I go from folding laundry to triaging incoming patients, from public relations appearances to performing surgery. I now merrily flit from one job to the next, and often don’t have to leave the room to do it.

So perhaps Brenda’s warning was more of a blessing than a curse. I suppose it all depends on making the best hand with the cards you are dealt. What may be a detriment in one field can be an asset in another. You just have to find the right place to be, and I think I have.

by- Robin Jenkins, DVM

Red-shouldered hawk x-ray
Red-shouldered hawk x-ray
Juvenile red-tailed hawk with a wing fracture.
Juvenile red-tailed hawk with a wing fracture.
Red-tailed hawk x-ray
Red-tailed hawk x-ray
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