Volunteering

This morning, I went to my first volunteer shift at a place called Hands On Exotics.  They are a shelter/zoo of sorts, accredited by CAZA but not open to the public.  They take in mostly animals on the more exotic side of the spectrum, from rats, bunnies and ferrets, to parrots and other bird species, to a whack of reptiles and snakes, all the way to a lynx, various lemurs, a porcupine, kangaroos, a quokka, skunks, foxes…and the list goes on.  Many came from being either pets that were given up, or illegally owned, some from other zoos, but not matter where they come from, each individual critter has a story.  And the people who work at Hands On Exotics do their best to give each one of them the best quality of life possible.

They do a lot of outreach with many of the animals – birthday parties, presentations, fairs and other shows.  Some of the animals have appeared in film and television, and some are even capable therapy animals.  Any funds earned are funnelled back into the centre and the maintenance/improvement of the animals in their care.

A former co-worker and I once talked about possibly hiring them to do a birthday party for US, and we planned to only invite a handful of people so that we could mostly have the animals all to ourselves!

I actually haven’t ruled that out, if I could save enough for it and find a place we could do it outside.

Anyway, any doubts or concerns I’d had about volunteering there were laid to rest during the orientation session, but I really didn’t have a good sense of what it would be like until I worked my first shift.  That’s what I did today.

I did basically 3 tasks, and there were a couple on the board that I didn’t even get to, but already there’s a ton to remember, and to keep in mind.

I started off in the small rodents area, where I had to wash/change/refresh all the food and water dishes.  There were rats, ferrets, sugar gliders, a bunny, hedgehogs, and an opossum.  Or possum?  It was sleeping and I can’t remember what the sign said.  Anyway, most of them were pretty easy, even though I was slow at it.  I did each thing one at a time so that I wouldn’t forget anybody’s bowl.  The only real issue was the bitey ferrets.  Two of them were okay and mostly ignored me, but the other two (and I was warned) were not going to make it simple for me.  I locked them into one part of their cage so that they couldn’t get at me while I changed their bowls out.  But then I had to drop their ladder back down so they could get to their fresh food and water.  I put on some gloves to give me an extra layer of protection, and just as I managed to loosen the ladder, one of the little boogers nipped at me.  But…gloves, so no harm done.  They look at you so innocently and cute, too.  I considered it to be part of my initiation.

Up next was misting the reptiles.  Only 4 get misted on Sunday’s – a chameleon, an iguana (who loves it), and two different kinds of python.

Yeesh.

Luckily, it wasn’t as involved as I’d feared, and I was actually okay with it.  I kind of liked it, too, because it was refreshing after getting so sweaty earlier.  I didn’t finish that part, though, because I was up in the bird area changing papers in the small bird cages, and when I went to check on the misting situation, everything had already been put away.  I’ll try to be more on top of that next time.

The bird cages were interesting.  I was paranoid about any of them escaping, so that took me longer than it should have, too, but I’ll get better at all of it as I go.  I talked to the birds a bit as I worked, too, since I’m a stranger, and all.  There were two in the final two cages that weren’t impressed with me at all.  I think one just got tired of me taking so long.  The other was in a bad mood today to begin with, so her patience was only ever going to last so long, anyway.  I started going back and forth between the two until I got both done, so it took a while, but was a success overall, I think.

Plus, one of the bigger birds in a cage across from the ones I was working with started talking to me!  Naturally I talked back.  Well, responded – not talked back.

Anyway, there was a lot of “hello” back and forth, and then a few rounds of, “I’m a pretty bird!”

“You ARE a pretty bird!”

Made me laugh.

It was around the time that I was finishing up those last two bird cages when something completely random and never happens…happened.  I won’t go into details because they are not important.  What’s important is that I got to go into the lemur enclosure for a few minutes!!!

One my first day!!!

There were two occupants left in there because everyone else had gone out to a show our something, but the more outgoing of the two spent some time on my shoulder, and the timid one let me crouch next to him while he had a snack.

And I freaking love lemurs, so this was pretty ,Cush the greatest end to a shift I could have imagined.

I’ll go back next weekend, and see if I can get things done a little faster on my second go at it.

For now, my exhausted body hurts.  Time for beer.

On Cats & Dogs

My horoscope says I should spend a quiet night in with my beloved this evening.

I hope that doesn’t mean I can’t at least take him out for walks.

The Brody part of my beloved, at least. The cats are all good with staying inside.

It’s possible Miss Flynn is developing another urinary tract infection from the stress and anxiety caused by the construction outside. I’m hoping to head it off for her this time by closing the window and curtains in my bedroom and leaving the fan running to drown out some of the noise. They introduced a new machine to the mix this morning, which is I think what stressed her out today in particular. When I was leaving to come to work, she was under the bed cleaning herself, so hopefully the “safe room” I created for her will do the trick. My poor anxious girl. So much like me in that way.

Piper has a sensitive tummy, but it seems to be mostly diet related now. She threw up a lot while she was in the shelter, too, which delayed her being spayed and coming home with me for a good month or so, but since then it’s any change in diet, including eating stuff she’s just not supposed to. Jack Bear and Flynn both have bellies like a steel trap, really. They can eat pretty much anything, so long as it’s actual food. They almost never throw up. But where Flynn is emotionally sensitive, Jack is pretty chill. Except when he’s being a little jerk, but that’s usually just for attention, so it’s more likely my fault for not giving him enough in the moments when he’s just relaxed and hanging out.

And then there is Brody. The loud noises outside don’t seem to bother him, and now that he has his own couch from his first family, he is happier than ever. I keep hoping some of that confidence will rub off on the kitten girls, especially Flynn, but so far it’s not working very well. She and Brody do try to groom one another on occasion, but as far as relieving anxiety goes, the presence of a chill doggie is not really helping her out, from what I can tell.

The one issue I am having with young Mister Brodykins is his aggressive reactions to the attention of some dogs. At first, he loved saying hello to every dog and person he met, and even got just as excited 30 seconds later upon meeting them again on the sidewalk going the other way. He was always very patient with those smaller than him, and with the enthusiasm displayed by exuberant puppies. I loved how he was the always the calm one; the friendly one. Everyone else seemed to love him, too.

Well, except that one doggie, but apparently she set every dog in the neighbourhood off when she was on leash, so Brody reacted just the same as all the others. She was a rescue and no one knows her history, but she was giving off some vibe when on leash that other dogs picked up on and did not like. Cute and calm little Brody would lose his mind and strain to get at her even just seeing her down the street.

Now, however, he seems to be far less tolerant of attention from other dogs, and he unleashes the Hulk more often than he used to. He did it twice this morning, the first time at a dog he’d done it to before, but who didn’t even get close to us before Brody snarled and leaped at him. And the second time a few minutes later, with a puppy at whom he’s also snapped, but who managed to get a few sniffs in this time before Brody launched.

I can usually sense it coming now; he gets really still for a second or two before unleashing. I just don’t know how much of it is coming from him, and how much is from him sensing me tense up in anticipation. Both suck; I just don’t know how to resolve either one. I’m not even sure what specifically sets him off, nor whether or not he actually tries to bite the other dog, versus fire several warning shots off their bow. My gut tells me he doesn’t actually make contact, for the simple reason that not one single dog has retaliated yet. Which…thank goodness, because he’s liable to get himself killed one of these days as it is. If he was doing it before, it’s likely the reason why Sophie almost killed him a couple of times. No way would she put up with that behaviour, from him or anyone else.

As near as I can tell, he seems to take issue with any form of attempted domination, however remote it appears to me. He doesn’t like to be humped, nor stood over – which I can totally get. He hates being pawed at or stepped on, even in play, because that’s not how he plays. Totally get that, too. He doesn’t like when other dogs get all up in his face instead of giving him space while sniffing politely – I also totally get that. I don’t like those things, either, but I’m not the one lashing out at everyone who doesn’t behave the way I want them too. I mean, who has the time for that?

I am not sure why it seems to be happening more often lately, unless it’s because I’m worried about it and watching for it and he’s picking up on that and reacting in kind. He’s also possibly a bit more possessive of me recently, which doesn’t seem to really be a factor in encounters with other dogs, per se (it’s the people who might have treats, and therefore earn his greater interest, after all), but I kind of feel like…and this will come out wrong because I’ve never put words to it before…it’s almost like he’s concerned with saving face, or looking tough…for me. Not that he needs to protect me, but that he wants me to know he can, if it comes down to it. He doesn’t want to let any other dogs get the upper hand, so he snarks them down if he senses anyone trying to get the better of him.

Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t really know. I was just thinking about it more today because it happened twice this morning – and with really cute doggies I wanted to pet!

It’s usually okay because the dogs’ people seem to understand, for the most part. Some even let their dogs know that Brody has a right to warn them to back down, and help settle the situation so the dogs can just sniff one another and be on their ways. Some people I am always apologizing to, but without chastising Brody too much because, in the end, I want him to feel safe and like he has the right to defend himself from unwanted attention. Which he does. I would just prefer he choose a less violent warning before prematurely escalating to a snarling fit of rage!

The thing is, he’s one of the gentlest, sweetest souls I’ve ever met in this world, and it hurts my heart for anyone else to get the impression that he’s one of those schitzo, frothing little dogs that walk around with a chip on their wee shoulders simply because they are tiny and angry. Brody is so not that dog. He just gives off that impression sometimes, and while the dogs – I think – learn the difference, I don’t think most people do. They know what they see, and what they see is a tiny black and blond Tasmanian Devil taking shots at their sweet dogs.

It bothers me.

That being said, though, we have FAR more positive interactions than negative, so it’s not like this Hulk-ness has taken over his sweet personality. Far from it, in fact. He’s still one of the very best guys I know, and continues to far and away be the puppy I love most in the whole world.

Which he knows, because I tell him that several times a day. Usually whilst rubbing his belly.

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