I truly did not know if I would ever get to where I am right now. Animals, the environment, wildlife, and conservation have always been a passion of mine, and I have spent years trying to get up the resources, and quite honestly the courage, to "do something." I am not someone who does things half-way, so when I make my mind up and set my goal, I go forward 150%.
The majority of my life I have worked with animals in some aspect. Professionally, I worked in the veterinary field for about 18 years at various clinics.......general practice, emergency medicine, and specialty fields (oncology, internal medicine, etc.). In general practice, I learned so many valuable skills such as restraint techniques, animal behavior, communication, how to medicate (IV, SQ, IM, PO, etc.), how a "normal" animal should look and act, and a vast array of other things. In the specialty fields, I was able to be the go-to person for a specific area and hone my skills and knowledge to that specialty practice. For me, most of my specialty experience was in veterinary oncology, but I was able to help the other areas frequently as well when they needed an extra hand. While every aspect of veterinary medicine is important, emergency medicine is a passion of mine. It's in the ER that you learn to think quickly, make a decision and stick with it, adapt when necessary, and make a life or death difference to the family of your beloved patient. You can and should practice your skills all the time, but it isn't until an emergency arrives that you truly learn your skill level. Unfortunately, no matter your skill level and educational background, you learn the hard way that you cannot save everyone. You can try your best, but in the end, sometimes the kindest thing to do is take that pain and suffering away from that patient.
Emergency medicine is what I would best equate wildlife rescue and rehabilitation to. You never know when your next call, text, or email will come alerting you of someone in need, and even when you do get notified, you never "really" know what you will be dealing with until you see the animal. In the ER, we had a white board where all incoming animals would be documented.....kind of animal, what was wrong with it, and ETA. It was not uncommon to see on the white board something to the effect of: Dog, ADR, 5 mins. Let's break it down. Dog is vague....are we expecting a 3 pound chihuahua or a 200+ pound mastiff? Can I carry the patient or will I need the stretcher? ADR = Ain't Doin' Right. Yes, this is for real. So, so far based on the white board, we know we can expect a dog anywhere from a few ounces to the size of a human, that "ain't doin' right." And don't forget the ETA is 5 minutes. How do you prepare for this situation?
Now let's add in the wildlife aspect, and how difficult it is to find a veterinarian to treat the wildlife if it is injured. Rehabbers are trained on how to handle a large number of "general" medical situations, but most rehabbers aren't veterinarians and we won't pretend to be. You can often times do an animal far more harm by trying to doctor it up yourself rather than taking it to the professionals, however, it can be very difficult to get a wild animal into see a vet. Not only are wildlife vets few and far between, but sometimes simply transporting the animal can be difficult. The veterinary professionals definitely do their very best with what they have to work with, including staffing shortages seen in so many fields these days. Additionally, many of the veterinarians that will see wildlife, do so at no cost or a reduced cost, which is a HUGE help to those of us that are spending our own money or any money that is donated.
My personal experiences with animals have included owning a vast array of pets (dogs, cats, horses, fish, hamsters, rabbits, birds, and various amphibians). When I was younger and in 4-H, I would show horses, dogs, and cats. More recently, I have entered my previous German Shepherd in agility trials, and also had completed extensive training with a previous mastiff and eventually certified him as a therapy dog with Love on a Leash.
Although I have many years of working with animals, I will be continuing to learn the rest of my life. I will never know it all. However, I can pledge to always do my very best to take proper care of every single animal that comes into my care. I hope giving the community a little more of my background will ensure confidence that I will do right by the wildlife in the state of Indiana.