Tuesday, May 27, 2008

in the beginning...

the beginning of my texas adventure started about 2 weeks after i found out i got the internship position, which wasn't much time to pack up my life in nj/nyc. but i left bloch and the big city and drove the 1000+ miles to kendalia, narrowly avoiding hurricane katrina. unfortunately i never got to see new orleans in its old glory.

Week 1



9/1/2005

  • First day mostly involved paperwork, but we also got a tour of the whole place, including ‘below the gate’ where all of the exotics are and some herds of sheep and such. LOTS of monkeys of different varieties, many of them from local research facilities, including one university doing neural research. Most of the big cats were asleep (and thus hiding) because it was already midday, but we could spot at least one of each. These guys included bobcats, mountain lions, leopards and lions. One lion was castrated at a young age so he didn’t have a mane but he was still huge. Normally we aren’t allowed below the gate and if we go we have to stay at least 10 feet away from the cages. Things down there get loose every once in a while.

  • Some things also wander into the property, like a wild (male) pig who broke through the fence and impregnated all of our female pigs. There are about 40 piglets now that are slowly being caught and fixed and sent out to live on another nearby (friendly) neighbor. Pigs are the pests of Texas and most ranches shoot them but we have one set of people with something like 2,000 acres of land where we get to release a good deal of our animals.

  • My favorite thing about the tour was seeing the animals that were paired up, mostly voluntarily. There was one cage with about five ring-tailed lemurs and two domestic cats. They were both lounging in the heat – apparently they get along so well because they have very similar demeanors. Another (apparently inseparable) pair was the black goat and a whitetail deer. They both chased after our golf-cart, as did one of the goats. In fact, they wouldn’t move after we stopped to pet them.

  • Emus! And lots of vultures who hang out by the water with the turkeys and ducks and pelicans.

  • In the clinic we learned how to feed squirrels. There were a million of them and most need to be fed every 2 hours. They pretty much didn’t like me and either refused to eat or aspirated half of their formula.

9/2

  • Bright and early was our safety training, which included the usual things like put out fires and don’t eat bleach, but also what to do if you get bit by a macaque monkey (who carry Herpes B – very bad). I will just say, you better hope you don’t get any serious wounds because the emergency treatment involves scrubbing for 15 minutes with bleach and iodine. Unless one gets loose, the interns really don’t have much exposure to the macaques since we don’t deal with below the gate species.

  • We moved on to train in the songbird room. Luckily I knew most of the stuff already, I really just had to learn the things particular to this place. Also lucky that its pretty much end of baby bird season so there were only about a half a dozen cages.

  • There was a fuzzy yellow chick, with an amazing story: There is a place nearby that raises chickens, but they only want the females for egg-laying, so all of the males are picked out and gassed and we get them since they can be fed out to guys like the big cats. Well, unknown to us until this point, they fill up barrels with the chicks, but only gas half of the chicks and fill them on top of the other live chicks then seal up the barrels. Basically they are saving on gas by smothering the other half of the chicks. Horrible. Anyhow, when one of our guys went to unload the barrels there was one lonely chick sitting on top of one of the barrels who had apparently made his way out of the bottom of the barrel and through the other half of dead guys. He is set up in an incubator chirping away and doing very well now. We told the place we won’t be taking anymore chicks unless they gas them all.

  • We have three bears, two of which came from a nearby university whose mascot is a bear who thought it would be a good idea to have live ones. When they realized a live bear would be too much to handle, they gave him to us. But, they thought it was a good idea again and got another and then ended up giving her to us as well. Stupid people.

  • We were supposed to get a lot more training but Suki was called off to an emergency below the gate, something about a bobcat that came from some unknown location. Also Billy, the goat, came up to the clinic with the tip of his tail missing. They think he wandered too close to a mountain lion cage.

  • My favorite patient today was a little hummingbird that needs to be fed about every 20 minutes with dextrose (glucose) from a syringe. I tried setting up a syringe disguised as a flower (made with red and yellow vet wrap – the colorful almost sticky stuff they wrap you up in after you give blood), but I don’t think he fell for it.

  • Went down to the fawn enclosure, armed with 20 baby bottles of formula and some fish for the baby heron in one of the sheds next door. The heron was very small but snatched up all the fish we set out for him before we even closed the door. Then into the fawn yard where there was a huge herd of little ones, many who rushed us to get to the bottles first. We set up the bottles in the rack and in seconds there was a chorus of suckling.

9/3

  • Today we were finally trained to tube the doves and pigeons. They are not very intelligent birds, but they are easier to feed than squirrels, thankfully. Other than that it was pretty much helping out in the rooms we learned yesterday.

  • Helped out with the fawns again. This time we didn’t have the rack because a fawn broke her legs getting stuck in it. So we had to hand feed the twenty bottles, which was pretty much chaos. One of the axis deer (looks just like a whitetail but larger and with a darker stripe along their backbone) was jumping all over me, nudging me and eventually started chewing on my pants when I didn’t give him a bottle fast enough.

  • The little hummer started to fly some more today, but still can’t quite hover, he’s still my favorite. Other than the opossums, of course.

  • We have a caiman in one of the outdoor cages who apparently got loose last week and made its way to the water hole and was discovered because he was eating all the baby ducks.

  • Today starts open hunting season for doves. There goes all of our work!

9/4

  • I woke up this morning at 5am for my 6am shift, only to realize we had no water. Apparently this happens more often than most would like to admit. Luckily I don’t need to shower or anything before this job.

  • Walking outside at about 5:58am (its great living 50ft from your workplace sometimes) I finally got a good look at the sky and it was gorgeous. Since sunrise was still about an hour away, it was still pitch black and the biggest bright stars were visible, even their colors!

  • My first real day of work where the interns were entrusted with their own rooms! I was hoping not to get R1 (Rehabilitation [Room] 1), but I did. R1 has the baby squirrels, opossums, and cottontails. I love opossums, but squirrels HATE me. They refused to eat more than about 1cc and it took about 6 hours just to feed them all their first round. Thankfully a volunteer came in so I could go to lunch without a guilty conscience about missing two feedings for the babiest of the baby squirrels because I was so slow.

  • Theresa, the vet tech who runs the clinic along with Suki, was in today and taught me a little bit about the homeopaths they use. We use mostly natural remedies to avoid having to use lots of expensive meds, unless we need to use some antibiotics but we try to use those sparingly. Using the homeos also allows us to recycle animals that do die by feeding them out to the carnivores, which we wouldn’t be able to do if they were on lots of medications.

  • Theresa also taught me how to give subcutaneous fluids to the baby squirrels since they get dehydrated pretty easily being on heating pads all day. It’s a lot harder to give fluids to something the size of a mouse than it is a dog, so it took a few times before I got that one down.

9/5

  • I was stuck with the squirrels again. Things went a bit more smoothly but no faster, thus the day was rather uneventful. Luckily, a few cages were upgraded so that they should be ready to go outside within a week or so. However, just as I was leaving three more little squirrels were dropped off, two with head injuries. But these were the first animals I got to check in all by myself.

  • My favorite hummingbird died .

9/6

  • I got the bird rooms and the fawn yard today (yay for no squirrels!). Just about sunrise I headed down to feed the fawns (armed with 15 bottles of formula) and the heron. As I started feeding the herd I heard a loud bleating and found the smallest fawn lying down in the grass twitching and crying. I carried her up to the clinic (a long walk carrying a deer, even if she was little) but I was told she died shortly after. I continued feeding the fawns, which is a challenge being swarmed by hoofed animals who head butt you until they get a bottle. It’s nearly impossible to keep the big greedy ones out so the smaller ones can eat. The axis deer is particularly funny because he rubs his head all over me, licks me and butts me until he practically knocks me over and even follows me around when I’m getting the pellets and alfalfa. All of the fawns like to lick your skin because its salty and many of them think that your elbow is also a nipple, so you get jerked around a bit in the fawn yard at feeding time.

  • Some of the songbirds are nearly ready to go outside, in fact they spend most of their day outside under some trees next to the clinic in their cages since they haven’t all gotten the eating for themselves and flying thing down yet.

  • I got to check in a roadrunner that was dropped off today. He was caught by a dog and lost nearly all of his feathers, only a tiny portion of his wings was left. If he doesn’t die of shock or infection, he’s going to be a very naked bird and probably a permanent resident since he won’t be able to fly. I was surprised at how big he was and this clacking noise he made was actually kind of scary.

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