A normal day in a crazy life

I love my life!  In an alternate reality I am sitting in a prison cell somewhere for doing the exact same things I get away with here.

A sandhill crane colt

For those of you who have never met me, I have a very short attention span and an even shorter temper.  On one hand I hate doing the same thing over and over—but on the other hand, the routine tasks I do perform are completed in exactly the same way each time.  I get impatient when I have to answer the same question again and again.  But I fold towels so that the folds and openings are pointed in the same direction, and no matter what size the towels are, their folded dimensions are all the same.  I prefer to have my supplies lined up in such a way as to be able to open any drawer or cabinet, reach in without even looking, and pull out the precise item I need.

This dichotomy serves me well here at Peace River Wildlife Center.  One minute I may be answering phones, “Yes, that is perfectly normal behavior for a red shouldered hawk to sit on a car hood and pick at the windshield wiper blades.”  “No, you cannot keep that adorable baby raccoon as a pet.  It will remain neither a baby nor adorable.”  “Believe it or not, oatmeal and cow’s milk is NOT an appropriate diet for a baby mockingbird.”

Then suddenly (luckily), I am called away to attend to an emergency in the hospital.  Or write an SOP for the BOD.  (Our board of directors is constantly endeavoring to update all of our standard operating procedures and other working documents.  Scintillating stuff!)  Or drive to Englewood to re-nest a great horned owlet.  My favourite part is that I never know what the day will bring.

I’m sitting in the office working on the computer when a gentleman walks in with a couple of fish dangling from a line.  Local fishermen often bring us unused bait or unwanted fish that they were unable to release.  The eagles and osprey love the change of pace from their usual diet of purchased thread herring, and we love the savings from not having to purchase so many fish.  I take the fish to the back and prep them for the freezer.  They must be frozen for 48 hours to ensure they do not have any parasites.

Back in the office, I get a few more entries logged into the rehab database before a lady and her young children walk in with a sandhill crane colt lying lifeless on a washcloth.  The receptionist, a veterinary technician in her former “life”, checks for a heartbeat and finds none.  The family claims the bird was making noises just moments ago on the ride here.

I take the bird to the back and start cardiac massage.  A faint heartbeat resumes and we go over to the surgical area so we can get access to the oxygen tank.  The baby is too small to intubate, so I start mouth-to-beak resuscitation.  Within minutes, the tiny bird is breathing on his own again and his heartbeat is strong and steady.

Chances are he will not survive, but we have given him every chance.  If he was inadvertently separated from his parents, he may be okay.  But it’s more likely he has some type of congenital problem that his parents were aware of, and nature will take its course.

Then I am back on the computer, answering emails and ordering supplies.  I am also reviewing veterinary forensics techniques.  Unfortunately, we see a fair number of animal abuse cases, and we work with Charlotte County Animal Control and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to find justice for those who cannot speak for themselves.  I have been taking courses to learn how to recognize and log the evidence and present it in a court of law to facilitate convictions of the perpetrators to reduce these incidents.  While I would like nothing better than to never get another case to scrutinize, I must admit I do enjoy the investigation.

Truth be told, I always wanted to be Sam, faithful assistant to Quincy, M.E.  I don’t know why I didn’t aspire to be Dr. Quincy, but I’ve always aimed a little low.  At least I channeled my propensity for poking dead things with a stick into a slightly more socially acceptable vocation.  That (and a whole lot of good luck) must be what has kept me out of the pokey.  So far.

This Friday, March 8 is PRWC’s final Sunset Celebration of the season.  From 5 to 7p.m. we will host an after-hours event for the public to get a glimpse of what happens as the sun goes down.  The diurnal birds settle in for the evening and the nocturnal ones get more active.  Make plans now to join us and see the birds in a whole new light.

by- Robin Jenkins, DVM

Dr Robin with previous resident,  Beryl the Girl Squirrel