Spring and What It Brings

It’s come around again; the time of year to gear up for the influx of wildlife infants displaced by loss of habitat or loss of parents due to human interference. Excluding the occasional hurricane accompanied by flooding or an unnatural Carolina cold snap blessed with the more northern than southern white stuff called snow or what’s that clear, really slick stuff?, oh yeah . . . ice, Baby Season causes most rehabilitators to endure a sweet exhaustion from March through June. Straggler babies still show up beyond June, but in fewer numbers. Rehabilitators understand the need for high energy, patience and accept that days will start earlier and end later when they take on the tedious task of raising animal orphans. It’s important to get these little critters up and running (or flying) as soon and as wild as possible. I hate to point a finger, but sometimes the babies are truly kidnapped when brought to the shelter. Of course, the human “rescuer” doesn’t know that, but if my words manage to sink in during negotiations with the kidnapper(s) the clutch of plump eastern cottontails will be returned to the tall grassy area they were taken from. Usually, Momma rabbit is frantically looking for them. I always recommend putting a string around their nest area and checking back a few times to see if the string is mussed. If the babies still look plump and healthy, Mom is taking care of them, as it should be. In four weeks or less they’ll be out on their own. Wild baby bunnies become highly stressed in captivity and should remain with their Mom if at all possible. Baby season began for our shelter last week with the admit of three infant doves, two baby squirrels and two injured “with child(ren)” Virginia opossums. With the overuse of clear-cutting by developers we have seen our Baby Season admits grow steadily every year. Although infant wildlife, birds or mammals, would benefit from their bio-mom’s and dad’s care, we rehabbers step in with everything we know to give them the best second chance. After proper diet, cleanliness, safety, warmth and time to grow, we must find new wooded areas, conducive to the species, for relocation when release time comes. Uninjured, but homeless and parentless, infant squirrels are usually fairly hardy and take to a nippled syringe with formula readily until they want to chew solid food.

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I have a true fondness for those crazy and frantic little critters. In my opinion, they are the best and most enjoyable babies to rehab until one day when they’re not. Something clicks in their brain, and they let you know it’s over. “Get me to my outside enclosure, I have squirrel skills to perfect.” A slower mammal that gets a bad rap because it’s perceived as quite homely is the opossum. (Personally, I don’t know how anyone could view our only North American marsupial as anything but cute. We all lose a little of our cuteness as we age, even the opossum.) Baby opossums come into the shelter in much larger litters than the squirrels. Stories of how they get to the shelter are quite varied and sometimes bizarre. The one that warms my heart the most is when I hear someone say they stopped along the road to check the pouch of an opossum hit and run victim. Talk about a way above average human being! A young man showed up at the shelter last year with baby opossums in his shirt pockets, his hat and a glove. He brought us eleven. Since they don’t suckle, they have to be tubed (or some say gavaged). Special formula, made for their slower metabolism, is syringed and delivered through a tiny, flexible tube into their stomach for each feeding until they are ready to lap from a dish and on to solid food. Baby birds require totally different methods of care. They must be hand fed every thirty minutes and based upon the species, diets will vary . . . Ya da, Ya da, Ya da. It would take another posting to explain the uniqueness of baby birds and fledglings. So . . . from my opossums to yours, Have a happy Spring and watch out for our critters! They do good works.
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Linda Bergman-Althouse

author of Save Them All

www.owlsonline.org

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FEEDBACK; a B-12 Shot

 

Selling books is exciting. Knowing that your story is going home to who knows where, to be held and read by someone young or old in the morning or the late of night, in absolute quiet or over the chaos of three and four-year-olds dashing about the living room symbolically saving the world with innocent bravado and Ninja swords gives me a great feeling. Sometimes I wonder where my book finds a resting place; on a night stand, in someone’s purse, left on an airplane (accidentally or otherwise), in a cue stack (maybe the fifth one down), in the mail being sent to a reader’s Aunt Carol, or wrapped in a bow to be handed to a special someone. I’m always wondering, but what I wonder most is what the reader thinks about my story, my style, my philosophy and maybe, even the color choices of my cover. I continually mine the mail for feedback. A primary reinforcer for me, feedback opens the curtain between me and my readers. One of the first people to read my book was a columnist from the Jacksonville Daily News. She wrote a very positive article that contained “The animal stories from the Down East center are all there for us animal lovers, but there is so much more: drama, mystery, violence, romance, friendship. ‘Save Them All’ is pure Linda, a well-written book with a lot of depth and passion.” I appreciate reviews and critiques from fellow writers and those in the biz; however, candid reader feedback is the most energizing and grandest evaluation of all. I provide my email and address on my website for readers to contact me if the mood strikes and sometimes it does. Generally, if I receive an email or a note by snail mail, it’s from someone who really enjoyed my work, such as Shannon from Clinton, NC who wrote, “I loved your book! Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. It was so wonderful to read a book that captures the spirit of wildlife rehabilitation. You are a gifted writer, and I hope to read more books by you in the future.” This general but all encompassing comment was a hefty shot of B-12 that produced a surge of motivation, arousing me from complacency and willing me down the hall to the computer again. Tracy from Weldon, Illinois wrote “While reading “Save Them All”, I found myself jealous of the easy way in which Colbi told people just what she thought about them. I actually covered my mouth with my hand a few times! It made her character all the more intriguing to me. I can’t wait to read the sequel in order to find out what will happen with all of the characters that you weaved into charming Locus Point.” Tracy let me know there was something Colbi could teach her, maybe the value of becoming more assertive and going after what you want or standing up for what you believe. Pam, a home schoolteacher from Dallas, Texas, told me my book is appropriate for her social science class. “Your book is entertaining and surfaces social issues not contaminated by discussion (opportunity to encourage critical thinking and free thought). Ordering more copies for my home school class.” That was a comment to do cartwheels over for a few reasons! It’s interesting to hear what others garner from your story. Brenda from Jacksonville said “I really enjoyed your book, it was exciting, sad, and had some sexy parts in it too (lol), and some parts made me mad.” Sexy? Okay, I’ll take that. Sometimes I even have the pleasure of receiving feedback from someone I’ve met in person, like April from the western mountains of South Carolina, close to the North Carolina border.
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I stopped by her father’s produce market for some Strawberry Cider and Green Pepper Jelly. While cracking and bagging pecans for his customers, April’s Dad asked the leading question, “What brings ya’ll to these parts?” That opened the conversation of book distribution visits to a few specialty stores in Brevard. He became intrigued and generously offered a corner in his store to set up shop. Although it would have been fun to hang out for a while, my tight schedule demanded I pass on his hospitable gesture.
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April was so excited by my random stop at their store along that long stretch of winding road, she wanted a copy of my book on the spot, even though she was currently in the middle of a thick read. A few weeks later she sent an email that made me smile when I remembered meeting her. “Your book is amazing, it just sucked me right in, and I can’t wait until the next one comes out.” I consider my readers a blessing and without their feedback, I’d feel like I was on a hike in precarious and unfamiliar territory without my GPS. Reader feedback taps into my desire to continue doing what I do and inspires me to always raise the bar. My readers deserve that. How about you . . . does feedback do as much for you as it does for me?

Linda Bergman-Althouse

author of “Save Them All”

www.bergman-althouse.com