2016 Year in Review: Pam Cairns, Front-Desk Substitute

It’s time to look back on 2016! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2016 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

I’ve been a treatment team volunteer for a couple of years, and if you watch the Critter Cam, the volunteers are often the ones holding the animals as the interns and students perform their treatments. Being up close to species like Red-tailed Hawks, Peregrine Falcons, vultures, snakes, Snapping Turtles, etc. is as amazing as you could imagine.

Working with these animals isn’t always glamorous. I’ve been puked on by vultures. Once, a Canada Goose managed to poop in my shoe. I’ve been smacked in the face by the wings of hawks, geese, and eagles. I’ve been hissed at by an Eastern Box Turtle (I had no clue these guys could do that!). There is nothing more humbling than when a Bald Eagle looks you in the eye and you know it wants to tear your face off, but you forgive them because they are feeling horrible and are terrified.

I wouldn’t trade these moments for anything.

I’ve enjoyed my time at the Wildlife Center so much that when an email went out to volunteers asking if anyone was interested in training to become backup support for the front desk I jumped at the chance. I quickly learned that the front-desk staffers are the unsung heroes of WCV, especially between the months of May-July when things get really hectic during “baby” season. This is when the volume of phone calls, admissions, and email inquiries become too much for one person to handle and the backup support staff comes in to provide some relief.

During the spring, a typical moment in the day and the life of the front-desk staffer might involve instructing a homeowner on how to re-nest hatchling robins whose nest was destroyed by a storm ... answering an email inquiry requesting a status update on a current patient ... arranging transport for a Bald Eagle being transferred from a rehabber out east .. .and admitting a box turtle that had an unfortunate encounter with a lawnmower. And all of this is happening AT THE SAME TIME!!

A moment from 2016 that stands out to me was from one of the first phone calls I ever answered at the front desk. It was from a woman who found an injured Mourning Dove near her home and needed help finding a way to bring it to the Center. She was an older woman that lives about 45 minutes from Waynesboro and didn’t feel comfortable driving that distance by herself. We have an amazing network of volunteer transporters that we can refer people to during these circumstances, but unfortunately, after several attempts that day, we were unsuccessful in finding anyone available to help. Eventually, the woman found a friend to accompany her on the drive to the Center so that the dove could receive care. Sadly, upon examination the prognosis was grave and the bird was humanely euthanized. The next day, when the woman called for a patient status update, I had to break the news to her that the dove was unable to be saved. She then explained to me that she knew before she even left her house that the dove was unlikely going to survive, but that she has a soft spot for this species because when she sees doves they remind her of her late husband.

I know this is not a story with a happy ending or an amazing tale of creature rarely seen in our state, but the reason I share it is because in my time at the Wildlife Center, it never ceases to amaze me the compassion shared by our staff and the citizens who bring the animals in for treatment. It doesn’t matter if it is a majestic eagle or common Mourning Dove, all creatures great and small are treated with compassion when they come through the doors.

--Pam C.

Keep checking the Wildlife Center's blog for more year-end posts this week!