Mail at the Center around the holidays is fun. We get more mail than usual, especially this year because in addition to our annual year-end appeal we have launched our capital campaign as well. But it’s the holiday mail that is so exciting to open. Beautiful Christmas cards with wildlife pictures spill from envelopes. Former and current volunteers send letters updating us on their families’ activities in the past year. Many of our former volunteers have retired to warmer climates (if only I could follow!) and volunteer with other wildlife rehabilitation facilities so it’s interesting to hear their stories. We even get picture cards of families - and their pets! I’ve been here awhile so I remember many of these people and it’s always great to find out what they are up to now. It brings back memories from the past – remember that rescue when…, that bird that got loose on you in the clinic and then…, the phone call when the people said they had a kangaroo in the yard (it wasn’t a kangaroo, it was a wallaby). The stories when you mix people and animals are always interesting and often take some odd turns. The memories are wonderful to recall.
Some cards come with donations that are holiday gifts to family and friends. Some are memorials. Since 2003 we have gotten a memorial in December for Courtney, daughter and sister. I don’t know Courtney’s story, but each year I think of her and her family. One of our volunteers started her volunteer work here as a memorial to her daughter who had been an intern with WINC and passed away around the holidays several years ago. She says volunteering here makes her feel closer to her daughter. For several years in December we’ve received a donation from a kind woman who asks that we send our newsletter to her nephew who is incarcerated. I remember her initial letter. She didn’t make excuses for him but lamented his poor choices that led to his situation. She said he was someone who always has loved animals and now he can’t be around them and so she thought our newsletter would be of interest to him. As someone who has always had pets and works with wild animals to help them be free and wild again, I can’t imagine not being around animals and not being free myself. I wish her nephew rehabilitation and freedom in the future. These sad notes make me grateful for my life and the people in it. This is a good time of year to contemplate the many gifts we all have in our lives.
We get Christmas cards and notes from our members and from people who have brought us wildlife thanking us for caring for the animals. It’s what we do every day and so most of the time I don’t think of wildlife rehabilitation as something out of the ordinary. Doesn’t everyone drop bill paying to go rescue a Great Horned owl lying in the road? Don’t all of you discuss juvenile raccoon fecal results while eating lunch? Answering phones while wearing Slither the Educational Fox Snake isn’t out of the ordinary to me. Driving to the vet’s office with a screech owl, a painted turtle, a mallard and a red-tailed hawk isn’t the beginning of a joke but just ordinary car-pooling, isn’t it? Listening to the rustle within boxes as our UPS guy brings this weeks delivery of 80,000 live mini mealworms, 40,000 live medium mealworms and 2,000 live wax worms just reminds me that I need to order more frozen mice and chicks too. Visiting the restroom and sharing space with the Canada goose in the tub happens at your house too, right? But I really appreciate the kind words and thanks of people for the work we do. Staff and volunteers make a difference to animals every day here and it is a special privilege to do so. Sometimes I just have to stop and enjoy the sight of our wild patients or Dakota the educational great horn owl hooting hello as I go from the office to the clinic and be thankful. WINC is a special place filled with wonderful caring people and amazing animals. It is a gift to be here every day of the year.