2018 Year in Review: Dr. Ernesto Dominguez, Hospital Director

It’s time to look back on 2018! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2018 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

2018 has been a special, unique, and difficult year in my personal and professional life. There has been many ups and downs. This year my sister got married, WCV suffered from a big ice storm, new people joined the Center, but others left and we admitted way too many patients.

I want to focus this time on a group of animals that I always get excited to treat, but that, unfortunately, most people are not aware of their importance. I am talking about amphibians. During 2018, WCV admitted just eight amphibians, and of those, just one, was released back into the wild. It was an Eastern Spadefoot, patient #18-1614, who was attacked by a cat. Fortunately, this guy had really minor wounds, and we were able to treat and release the same day.

This case, and many other amphibian cases, make me wonder why we do not see that many amphibians? Why do only a few people bring them to the Center? If a frog or a toad is in your swimming pool, should it be treated? The answer is YES. If the amphibian was attacked by a dog or a cat, should it be treated? YES. If an amphibian is out during snowy days, should it be treated? Most of the time, YES!! Do I hear and see frogs and toads during the summer? YES. So, why do we get just a few amphibians per year? I don’t know the answer.

Amphibians are considered sentinels of the environmental health. Healthy habitats have healthy amphibian populations. Unfortunately, the amphibian population is decreasing tremendously due to infectious diseases (like Chytrid), contamination of water and soil, loss of habitat, and invasive species.  Amphibians are undervalued and underestimated.

Talking about undervalued and underestimation of things, my second highlight of the year was to be a keynote speaker at the Maryland Wildlife Rehabilitators Association. When I was asked to give a keynote speech, my first thought was, “Holy crap – what should I talk about?” I needed an inspirational speech that would influence peoples’ emotions and behaviors while benefiting wildlife rehabilitation. I decided to create a speech about how to better value the science behind wildlife rehabilitation while controlling and better understanding our emotions. I never realized that this task was going to be that difficult.

Here some fragments of my speech:

“We live in a world where there is a disconnection between what we feel, what we believe, what we understand, and the truth. Never before has humanity had access to so much information -- so quickly and so easily. This amount of information has created a gap between perception and reality. Every day we hear things like:

  • Fake news
  • Global warming
  • Crime and violence
  • Immigration
  • Feminism
  • White extremists
  • Racism and discrimination
  • Animal extinction
  • Socialism
  • Republicans, Democrats
  • The wall

“And the list keep going …

“But we can all agree that, regardless of the amount of information, some is true, some is false, and some depends on our perception.

“We can also all agree that people cannot fly just by flapping their arms, or that we cannot survive without breathing. If we can agree on certain truths, why can we not agree on others?

“We make decisions every day, every hour, every minute in our lives, and one of those decisions has been to do wildlife rehabilitation. Are the things we say, do, and know about wildlife rehabilitation: true, fair, good, and beneficial?

“Making good things is a selfish act …

“Probably most of you started in the rehabilitation world because you wanted to do something good. But, do you remember that I said that doing good is a selfish act? If you do good you will feel good, but what if what we are doing is not good? What if the things we think, say, and do are not: true, fair, good, and beneficial?

“I have a true belief, (and this is a belief, not a FACT) that there is a disconnection between wildlife rehabilitation emotions and wildlife rehabilitation science …

“… I believe that to reconnect we need to LOVE.

“There are two types of love. In the first one, we do things to make us feel good, and not for the animals. We come first, the animal comes second. We want to be really close to the animals, touch them if possible, because we are fascinated by them. Sometimes we love animals, like some parents love their children:

  • The parents overprotect their children;
  • Parents don’t leave any room for their children to explore;
  • They facilitate everything for their children;
  • They don’t want them to take any risks and make mistakes;
  • And parents don’t allow their kids to be independent and solve their own problems. 

“There is a second type of love, where the animal comes FIRST and we come second. It is a desire to want the best for that animal, regardless of how bad we may feel.

“After all, we ALL care for wildlife, and that is why we do it. Nevertheless, I used to be in the first category of love, and I learned that the things I think, I say and I do, need to be: true, fair, good, and beneficial.

“How can we come to an agreement to base wildlife rehabilitation in science (that is true and fair) and not just in experience and emotions (that is fake news) so we can do good, do better, and really benefit wildlife?

“I do not have all the answers of how, but I found that there are three easy steps to think, say, and do for true, fair, good, and beneficial things.

  1. Believe in truth, believe in science, even when you don’t like it or makes you uncomfortable.
  2. Dare yourself to understand better, not just to know more. Because sometimes we know more, but understand less. Try to understand more.
  3. BE HUMBLE!!! If you are humble, you will do good, feel good, and everyone will benefit from what you do.

‘In the end we will only protect what we love, we will love what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught is true.’”

As my speech says, 2018 helped me improving my connection with wildlife and the environment. My job gives me the opportunity to make better this country (U.S.), my country (Mexico), and the world, doing good, fair, beneficial, and true meaningful things for wildlife.

--Dr. Ernesto

Check out all of our year-in-review posts!

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