It’s time to look back on 2020! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2020 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.
So this will be my tenth year-end memory for the Wildlife Center’s website.
It’s a year-end memory of a most unusual year.
To get me started, I looked over my posts from earlier years – to figure out what made it to my year-end memory list in previous Decembers.
I often wrote about eagle releases. Ed once told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he’d released Bald Eagles “dozens of times, and every time it makes my heart stop.”
That’s my experience, too. Not the actual eagle-releasing part – I’ve never done that. The heart-stopping part. Watching it is an amazing experience.
This photo is from a 2014 eagle release. I think I'm somewhere in this photo. Maybe you can find me?
But, no eagle releases for me in 2020.
For 2012, I wrote about releasing bats. That WAS a good memory – a once-in-a-lifetime [thus far] experience. But no bat releases in 2020 – in fact, I wasn’t able to take part in any animal releases this year.
In my year-end memories, I’ve written about my broken leg [thankfully, NOT repeated this year] and an ice storm [again, no encore in 2020. And, thanks to the generosity of Center supporters, we have a back-up generator … just in case].
For 2013, I wrote about feeding bears, including making trips to Whole Foods and picking up surplus eggs from our neighbor, Farmer Pete, and the Bunny Brigade, a dedicated corps of volunteers from my wife Jackie’s Peaceful Hands Yoga studio who regularly harvested clover, dandelions, and other wild greens to feed to the Center’s bear and bunny patients. Yeah, that didn’t happen in 2020.
My 2015 blog post was … interesting. As I was reviewing my previous posts, I made a quick chart of the topics I covered – short phrases like “2011 eagle release” or “2017 broken leg”. For 2015, I wrote “mush”.
Ok, it’s not “mush”. It was a “day in the life” review.
I guess that spurred this year-end memory – how different a regular day has become for all of us at the Wildlife Center.
At the Wildlife Center, we’re taking preventing the COVID virus very seriously. We’re a small staff in a relatively small facility. We know that having a member of our health-care staff coming down with COVID could have a devastating ripple effect. We can’t just close down the Center for 14 days of recovery and quarantine. Sick, injured, and orphaned wild animals can’t wait that out.
We’ve tried to take every reasonable precaution. We have divided the health-care staff into two teams that never overlapped. That way, if we had a COVID case in Team #1, Team #2 could continue.
We’ve cancelled in-person outreach programs. We closed the Center to visitors and set up an elaborate system for people dropping off animals for care – to minimize human contact.
We wear masks and maintain social-distancing. We disinfect ... and disinfect again.
We check the websites of the CDC and the Virginia Department of Health; we reach out to our local health department.
And … we work from home. The veterinarians, rehabilitators, and the front-desk staff can’t work from home; the outreach team need to come in to feed and train our education ambassadors. Administration and development staff need to come in to compile payroll, deal with bills and the mail, and process orders for t-shirts and Caring for Critters sponsorships, and take care of all those little “behind the scenes” things that help keep the Center humming.
But, when we can, we work from home.
And I worked – almost exclusively – from home. I have had one in-person meeting with a Center colleague in the past nine months. Since mid-March, I have been to the Center one time – for a few hours. And, during that visit, I pretty much kept to myself. Like I said, we take this COVID thing seriously. I didn’t go back into the clinic; I didn’t wander around to catch up with colleagues. [Amanda happened to be at the Center when I was there; I left a note for her on her car.]
I’m able to do my main job responsibilities remotely, thanks to the internet, lots of Zoom meetings, and all of us staying flexible as we navigate new ways to stay connected and get things done while we’re apart.
I’m grateful for my colleagues who have helped make that possible. I’m grateful for the courage, commitment, and resiliency of my colleagues who have gone into the Center.
We’ve never missed a beat. We’ve kept to our regular schedule, and we’ve treated a record-smashing number of animals.
And, as I sit here typing this in my home office, I have a new appreciation for the support we receive from our donors, many of whom – just like me for much of 2020 – don’t get to come to the Center and see its work “live”.
I continue to be amazed and gratified by the financial support we receive from so many individuals. Despite the pandemic and so many other challenges people have faced this year, when we needed funds to help care for a record number of patients … to feed a record bunch of hungry bear cubs … and to buy critical new medical equipment … you responded with an amazing generosity. You sponsored an all-virtual Gala and you bid on auction items, sight unseen.
I’m so thankful to you. We all are.
So … here’s to a New Year! Thank you for your support during the challenges of 2020. May 2021 be a healthy, safe, and happy one. And, may there be a little bit of “normal” in all our futures.
P.S. OK, one other personal note. For me, 2020 was the year of mizuna. With significantly more time at home, I resurrected a couple of long-neglected gardens. The star of my COVID garden has definitely been mizuna – a form of Japanese mustard. It has a mild peppery flavor, it’s great raw or cooked, and it grows recklessly. There are two or three healthy rows out in the garden right now – and, yes, it’s the middle of December. If I can grow it … so can you.
-- Randy, Executive Vice President