I have been reflecting on the animals that I have helped this year, the people I have met and the stories that tie us all together. Working with wildlife, I always have a story to tell.
I experience situations that in the moment can leave me speechless, but make for compelling anecdotes afterwards. I see heroic, selfless actions performed by compassionate people, heartbreaking injuries and suffering, sweet antics of infant creatures and miraculous recoveries.
My wildlife stories usually start with me at Wildwoods answering a phone or a knock at the door. This summer I received call from a young lady who needed guidance with a baby animal. A squirrel? I asked questions and suspected we were dealing with a smaller patient. Nonetheless, it needed assistance.
They were out on Madeline Island, so there wasn't much that could be done at the moment. I gave instructions on how to keep the baby warm for the night. The next morning a friend and I started off early with my orphan supplies packed up: pedialyte, syringes filled with fluid to hydrate, cotton swabs, flannel pouches and a nipple. We hit the road in the "squambulance" (squirrel ambulance), aka "my car." A substantial journey for an incredibly small patient!
We were anxious the whole way, unsure of what we would find. I wanted to be the hero to this girl who put her trust in me. When we arrived I found a tiny, pink and squirmy creature. A baby mouse. I warmed, fed and tucked him into a flannel pouch and we headed home. He was given the name Jack Danger. My responsibility for saving him grew.
Wildlife are not typically given names at Wildwoods. This helps to keep the staff from getting too attached and keeps the line in place between wildlife and pets. This mouse was given a name and entrusted to me by people I care for deeply. I always give my heart and soul to creatures in my care, but this was an investment for me on a deeper level. I was determined that I would use any means necessary to keep Jack alive and flourishing.
The odds were against us. Statistically, babies found orphaned his size do not usually survive. I devised his best treatment plan and kept every bit of my hope tied to this squirmy bean. I had to feed him every two hours. EVERY TWO HOURS, day and night. I brought Jack to work and brought him home. Day after day. My schedule revolved around his. My alarm clock never ceased its ringing!
I understand how completely crazy this must seem. This was one mouse in a huge complicated world. However, I can not express the joy of focusing completely on the beautiful minutia of a baby mouse. I was transfixed and enchanted. I watched in captivated wonder at the twitching and quivers of a tiny mouse dream. It solidifies my belief that no creature is different from us when it comes to needing care, comfort, a full belly, warm bed and having a dream or two. Jack found his way into my life and my heart. I was privileged to care for him and watch him grow. I can say it changed me for the better.
The purpose of this article was to not only share my story, but to ask for yours as well. If you have rescued an animal, brought one to us at Wildwoods or had one touch your life in some way, we would love to hear about it.
Please send your stories and we will share them with the community. I would love to have an endless supply of compassionate tales to tell.
Wildwoods is a 501(c)(3) wildlife rehabilitation organization in Duluth. For information on how you can help wildlife, including volunteer opportunities, visit wildwoodsrehab.org, call (218) 491-3604 or write to P.O. Box 3161, Duluth, MN 55803.
Tara Smith had spent 10 years as a pastry chef on the East Coast. She is now back in Minnesota working with wildlife, her lifelong passion, at Wildwoods of Duluth.