Last spring, I gave a presentation to a sociology class at Notre Dame de Namur University. After class, a student asked if she could shadow me.
Shadow me? I tried to explain that my average week consists of writing, meetings with my staff and co-workers, phone calls, and, at that time of the year, budgeting. Still, she wanted to shadow. In the end, we couldn’t sync our schedules so it never happened.
Well, this past week, I could have out-shadowed (over-shadowed?) anyone.
On Monday, I walked into 13 pelicans – literally. I stood in a small room housing 13 pelicans, and it was like walking back in time; the prehistoric-looking, giant birds teetered around me, but never seemed interested. In my quest for uncovering our stories to share with the community, I was learning all I could from our Wildlife Care Center staff about our new visitors.
We actually in a two-week period - emaciated, hypothermic birds in need of urgent care. Those who study the big birds more closely believe the year-old fledgling Pelicans have been having trouble finding food.
Every year, a high percentage of the fledglings don’t make it, but this year has been off-the-charts.
So, we did what we do best in our trauma center for local wildlife at our new Center for Compassion. Staff provided space heaters, cage dryers and heat lamps to keep the birds warm, and gave them tube feedings and IV fluids. And, we went through many, many towels and blankets. If you want to experience a stinky mess, put 13 pelicans in a small room after they’ve been well-fed and crank the heat to about 80.
By the week’s end, our pelicans were the media darlings. They were getting bigger, stronger and eating on their own. Blood work confirmed their outward positive signs. Still, they remained every bit as stinky. We were so ready to sing Born Free and say goodbye. That will have to wait a few more days, though.
If I could deal only with pelicans, life would be easy. But, on Tuesday, the media called and wanted our reaction to a situation in Menlo Park in which a police officer shot a charging, stray pit bull.
When asked, I explained our officers would have had a different outcome; they don’t carry firearms and are rarely injured when pursuing stray dogs. I added that the police officer must have felt this was his or her only response; that they don’t won’t to harm animals any more than we do.
Animal advocates and police haters who were sure the dog did nothing wrong and that the police were itching to fire away called to say I was too easy on them in the media. I also heard from the other camp who argued we should have come down on the “clueless” owner with no sense of responsibility.
In addition to my media role, I oversee the operational areas for which we are best known - adoptions and field services. And, I fully supported our field staff who decided not to issue this citation. It didn’t feel right issuing the equivalent of a fix-it ticket to an owner whose dog was just shot in the face and rushed to the family vet for surgery.
There will be a time, soon, when we work with this dog owner. There are several ways to encourage compliance with things like the leash law, license requirements and our spay/neuter ordinance. Our approach will do far more to ensure public safety - and curb the dog’s desire to roam - than a fix-it ticket.
On Wednesday, I received more calls the minute our community learned of . Seems he got tired of the dog going on his property.
“He should be strung up -- and not by his ears,” said one 81-year-old caller. NBC-Bay Area visited for a short interview about pet rage.
I gave a few sound bites about what neighbors can do when the dog next door and his or her owner are causing problems.
Fortunately, Friday ended with me making new friends. Young friends.
We hosted an art exhibit at our Center for Compassion for students, ages 7-12, in the Art Attack summer program. The animal-related works will remain on display for two weeks.
Come visit, if the wind is blowing just right - no, forget that. You won’t experience the pelicans.
It's so nice that we have a center where we can host an event like this while pelicans and other wildlife can receive uncompromised, incredible care in state-of-the-art facilities and dogs and cats can meet their new families in a bright, cheery setting.