When my California family or I talk about my passion for animals and what I have been doing with my life the last eight years, many believe it is a fantasy. Perception leans towards the belief it is all fun and games working with baby animals, feeding cuddly darlings from bottles and growing them to a point to be safely released to live a life free from fear and want.
Contrary to that precious dream, I deal with very real, gut wrenching choices of life and death. Many people articulate their hope that I will return to the “real” world soon, chalking this experience to my youth. My dream has been with me for twenty years and I have seen disturbing and heart breaking situations. Not fun and games.
Gratefully there have been many sick animals nursed back to health. I have witnessed the dignity of a cheetah at death’s door, not able to walk or even pick up their head, yet gain power to fight the illness. I have felt the spirit of an antelope mangled by dogs, yet continues to have the desire to run free.
Sadly, this is not always the ending.
Several creatures I’ve rescued haven’t made it. For hours I sat and held a baby Blesbok (a type of antelope) and tried with every ounce of my strength to help. He fought for months to heal and get power back. His limp body in my arms was the outcome. Fighting so hard and failing was devastating.
A particularly difficult animal loss was putting down a baby Caracal because he was too sick and suffering. At a couple of months old, no one could figure out why he became so ill. We watched him deteriorate from lethargy to developing lock-jaw and starving. We had tried everything but we could see he was in pain, so there was no other choice.
Through all of this, I’ve never given up the hope that animal populations will one day thrive and that I will be a very miniscule part of this cycle. Yet I cannot give up.