We half joke that Mamma, a non-releasable adult Great-Horned Owl who acts as a surrogate mother to orphaned baby owls at the SPCA’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, is our hardest working volunteer. After all, she mothers babies ‘round the clock and has raised more than 50 owl chicks since arriving years ago with a significant, untreatable wing injury preventing her release.
SPCA Volunteer Jeff Weill may have knocked Mamma off her perch. Figuratively-speaking, of course.
Jeff joined the SPCA as a volunteer in June 2016, when he was looking to enrich his lighter schedule after wrapping-up a career as a Department of Defense project manager. He was familiar with the SPCA, having adopted a Shepherd/Lab mix (a “Schlab,” one of our specialities!) from us when he was 19 years old, and that sweet companion was with him the next 14 years.
Two weeks ago, SPCA Facebook followers met Pecan and Chocolate, two miniature donkeys available for adoption. Soon thereafter, so did the rest of the world. Well, not exactly, but a whole mess of them did. The donkey post reached 435,000 people, it was shared 2,400 times and received 2,000+ comments. In our world, that’s viral. It’s bigger than learning the name of Kim Kardashian and Kayne’s baby or the “This is Us” spoiler alert.
Years ago, when I was new to this field, I sat in on a pet loss grief support group session. I wanted to experience all our programs in action and I was amazed this one existed.
I specifically remember a young couple. They were in tears, talking about their loss, how it hurt so much, how they were depressed and losing sleep and how their home felt empty. Then, the kicker. “And we don’t know if we’ll ever be able to get another bird” A bird!? I assumed they were talking about a dog or cat and never imagined people could connect as deeply with a bird.
Of course, I now know these bonds exist with all kinds of pets and that losing an iguana can be every bit as difficult as losing a cat or dog. I see co-workers and volunteers, friends and family struggle with loss. I’m careful not to say “I know how you feel.” I don’t, really. We all process loss differently.
The last time I lost a pet was 10 years ago. My dog came from backyard breeder, before I knew better. I was a Twin Peaks fanatic, so
I entered a new world this week: my Nextdoor community. For those unfamiliar, Nextdoor is a private social network for your neighborhood. As their homepage states, it’s “the best way to stay informed about what’s going on in your neighborhood—whether it’s finding a last-minute babysitter, planning a local event, or sharing safety tips.”
You can also use Nextdoor to “catch” a porch pirate. I know, because my wife did it. We were driving to San Diego just before New Year’s and my wife received a message on her phone alerting her to activity at our front door. She immediately accessed the app that goes with our Ring system, then spoke with our unwanted visitor through the monitor on our door as he was ripping through packages left on our porch. “Hey, what are you doing…I’m calling the police. Right now!” Too bad for him, the packages contained New Year’s decorations and he apparently didn’t see himself using the cheap sunglasses in the shape of “2018.” Still, we felt violated.
Before contacting the police, we contacted our neighbor down the street, which was better. She hopped in her car, found the schmuck walking down the street, rolled up next him, then accosted him. She’s tough! She got great photos of him, asked for his name (which he gave!) and told him to stay out of our ‘hood. We took that photo plus the footage from our Ring monitor and handed it to the Sheriff’s Department, and posted the video footage of him from our porch to our Nextdoor site. An avalanche of messages followed, including some from people who confirmed his identity.
It’s a sleepy, rainy Wednesday. I finished packing up holiday decorations at home last night, officially ending the time of year I love and beginning what often feels like a “sloggy” time. I’m writing a year-end board report, reviewing financials, my cough is lingering and pitchers and catchers don’t report to Spring Training for another 47 days.
One visitor changed the day’s tone. Tiny Tim, aka The Nugget, bounded into my office, with his foster mom right behind. Just what I needed!
The Nugget just reached 10-weeks. Five weeks ago when he arrived, the runt of his litter who was rejected by his mom, reaching 10 weeks was no guarantee. Thankfully, he came into the SPCA’s care. He was weak and malnourished, weighing just a few ounces. Worse, he was suffering from a