Where were you during Charley? That is the question on everyone’s lips and minds this week in Punta Gorda, Florida. If you have to ask, “Charley Who?” you are obviously a newcomer and while we welcome you to our lovely little corner of paradise, please step aside while us old-timers reminisce. As you have heard ad nauseam lately, Hurricane Charley blew into Punta Gorda on Friday the 13th in August 2004. While the storm had initially been forecasted to hit this area—that is often the best place to be. The storms never hit where they are expected to. And as is usually the case, a few days before landfall, the destination of the category 2 hurricane was changed to Tampa. Of course, you all know how this story ends. Just as the storm was skirting the west coast of Florida, it ramped up into a cat 4, banked hard right, and hit Punta Gorda square in the kisser.
My family and I were in our home when the storm hit. We had placed our daughter’s twin mattress on the floor in our 1st floor, interior wall closet and closed her and all the animals in there. Roll call: 1 eight-year-old daughter, 3 dogs, and 9 cats. Thank heavens for roomy walk-in closets. In my defense, I was not the crazy cat lady at that time. We only had one cat of our own, but we were fostering a new mother cat and her 7 kittens for Suncoast Humane Society, where I worked back then.
My husband and I kept an eye on the storm’s progress as best we could after the power was knocked out. Listening to the battery powered radio about the storm’s progress was a lesson in futility. It carried the report from the TV meteorologist. He kept saying, “As you can see the storm is here (points). If you are here (points), you’re in trouble. This is what it looks like here (points)…” He was obviously pointing to things on his maps and screens, but without power, we couldn’t see the television screen to which he was referring. (Note to FEMA—can we get some radio announcers to do the weather during major storms accompanied by power outages?)
Standing at the aquarium window in our dining room we saw the neighbor’s roof blow past. We decided not to wait to see if the wicked witch would follow on her bike and immediately decided it was time to dive into the closet ourselves. A tense moment was lightened when we opened the closet door to find our daughter bound and gagged with a robe sash. Kate had amused herself (and the animals, no doubt) by pretending that they had kidnapped her and tied her up. We all huddled for what seemed like hours as the walls rocked and swayed. When it finally calmed down, we weren’t sure if we were in the eye of the hurricane, or if it had passed. The weather reporter was quite helpful. He announced that the eye of the storm was here (point, point).
Finally venturing out of the closet, we surveyed our house and the neighborhood. We were very fortunate. A couple of 100+-year-old oak trees took the brunt of the storm for us. The powerful winds uprooted the trees next to our house, but luckily they landed just next to the roof. The root balls exposed were almost as tall as the 2 story house. While I was sad to see the trees gone, I’m sure that is what deflected the winds around the house so that it sustained only minor cosmetic damage. Most of our neighbors were equally fortunate, except for the one across the street who lost a large section of her roof.
Our entire cul-de-sac worked together to clean up the storm damage. We fired up the grills and cooked all the food from the freezers that would soon spoil. Red Cross delivered ice and water routinely. A steady police presence kept us feeling safe. Our (now) favourite neighbor worked for FPL and got our area’s power restored after only a little more than a week.
Peace River Wildlife Center fared quite well also. The cages and habitats sustained little structural damage. Most of the permanent resident birds had been transferred to other facilities to the east and north. Other patients went home with rehabbers and volunteers to ride out the storm. Thanks to the fact that it was a fast moving storm, the predicted storm surge and flooding did not happen. That would have been devastating to such a low-lying area. It was soon after Charley that I started volunteering at PRWC. That is when the real trouble began there!
by– Robin Jenkins, DVM
A victim of the time spent hiding from Hurricane Charley.
My faithful readers and I have been on some wild rides together over the years. From troubleshooting computer problems (that one ended with the sage advice to consult an expert) to discussing the proper way to cook eagle (that one started with “don’t”), every week is an adventure. Heck, every day at Peace River Wildlife Center is an adventure. We never know what will walk, crawl, slither, fly, or be carried through the door next. But thanks to a recent experience I know what I hope to never see.
Some friends and I recently went to see Guardians of the Galaxy. Ok, maybe not so much “friends” as my family, who will deign to be seen with me in public periodically, and one poor girl from work who I can only assume feared for her job if she declined my invitation. I know I am no movie critic, but I feel imminently qualified to discuss this particular film because I am an expert on many aspects of it. The stars are a machine gun wielding raccoon and an awesome 70’s music soundtrack. There may have been one or two other characters in there as well, but they were pretty superfluous to the plot as I see it.
My husband and daughter generally spend two hours at an event like this pointing out that the hero’s cape is the wrong shade, the damsel’s hair is too short, and the villain’s voice is too manly. (Or was it that the cape was too short, the hair the wrong shade and there were too many villains in one episode?) Luckily for me I have never read a comic book—I always thought all those pictures got in the way of the story. Coming in unfettered by expectations, I am there to be entertained. And Guardians of the Galaxy did not fail me. I laughed, I cried, I danced in my seat. (Not necessarily in that order.)
Most of all, the movie serves as a warning to society. Do not arm your raccoons with automatic weapons. I might go so far as to say, don’t avail them of any fire power. These are highly resourceful creatures and they do not need our assistance in the inevitable overthrow that will put their species in power over our own. Or was that the apes? Sometimes I get movie plots a little jumbled. Planet of the Apes meets Guardians of the Galaxy meets The Smurfs. (Spoiler alert) They all have sentient animals brandishing weapons and blue people running amok.
One of my recent patients is the poster child for exactly why we do not want to give raccoons any more of an advantage. A newborn raccoon was kicked out or fell from her den in a tree. She was found to have an abdominal hernia that we attempted to repair via surgery with little hope of a positive outcome. This baby was dubbed Elle due to the L-shaped scar on her belly. Fast forward a few short weeks and Elle is thriving. She has been weaned from the bottle and is eating out of a dish. She and her adopted siblings have been moved to an outdoor habitat to get ready for release, and although she is a week younger than they are, she outweighs each of them.
If one tiny newly born member of this species can prove to be that resilient, I would hate to think what could happen if raccoons become proficient with firearms. My advice is for everyone to go see Guardians of the Galaxy so we can all agree how vital it is that we keep our weapons out of their reach. And to groove to some very catchy tunes.
by– Robin Jenkins, DVM
Elle 2 months after surgery
People are funny. Funny like a clown. And who isn’t terrified of clowns now? Stephen King did for clowns what Anne Rice did for vampires. Except that Stephen King took a fairly innocuous childhood staple and transformed it into the stuff of nightmares while Anne Rice took a monster and made it sexy. Writers are funny like that. Some people a little closer to home have been engaging in hijinks of a less literary variety.
I may have mentioned (a million times) that I like to walk the beaches on Manasota Key. I was lucky enough to have some time off over the 4th of July holiday and spent that time roaming the beach. It was there I saw one of the strangest things. No, not one of those hirsute Europeans in a speedo—that has gotten so common it is no longer noteworthy. About half way between Englewood Beach and Stump Pass Park there were four dining room chairs on the beach with a piece of string linking them, forming a rectangle approximately 6 by 8 feet. A couple pieces of notebook paper completed this architectural phenomenon with a hand-scrawled warning that the premises were property of the “Smith Party.” I can only suppose that the Smiths normally vacation on Coney Island or some equally crowded locale because other than the forlornly lonely furniture, the beach was pretty much vacant. I know later that evening folks were expected to gather on the beach to watch the fireworks, but seriously? It’s Englewood. It never gets so crowded you need to stake a claim. Leave the big city attitude at home, it is decidedly unsuited here. It looks like you are wearing your clown shoes instead of flip flops.
Peace River Wildlife Center has seen its share of people doing “funny” things lately too. We had a nestling mockingbird coated in canned dog food. The people who found it were trying to feed it, but got more food on the bird than in it. We also got a juvenile great horned owl that had apparently been raised by other rehabbers that were not careful enough to not habituate it. It was released but for two weeks kept flying down to people in the neighborhood begging to be fed. Someone captured it and brought it to us and now Callie, our Operations Manager, is working with this bird to train it to the glove and it will hopefully be a new exhibition bird for us.
This week we also got a few frantic calls about a crane that had hit a power line and knocked out the electricity from Port Charlotte to North Port. Everyone was concerned with the fate of the crane and whether it had been brought to us. Unfortunately, the crane was not brought to us, but there was probably not much we could have done for it anyway. The crane in question was construction equipment, and hence a little out of our league. We have heard it is recovering from the incident and mechanical engineers expect that it will be released soon. I would advise cautious attention when passing construction sites, though. If you see a vampire clown operating a crane, steer clear.
-by Robin Jenkins, DVM
Callie Stahl, Operations Manager, glove training a great horned owl.
Sometimes I get feedback from one of my many faithful readers when I write a particularly educational article. This past week’s article on baby raccoons seems to have hit upon a topic near and dear to all (both!) of my fans. Instead of appreciation for the amount of time it takes a rehabber to care for a neonatal raccoon, it seems that most of the comments called into question the veracity of the story. I can assure you that our meticulous editor, Lee Anderson, spends countless hours each week fact checking my musings. I happen to know he recently watched an entire documentary to ascertain the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow, but we’re still not sure if the bird was of African or European descent. Will have to do some follow-up with Drs. Chapman and Cleese.
The question on everyone’s’ minds was concerning the superficial hematoma I had suffered in the mid-region of the lateral aspect of my sternomastoideus. Okay, it’s called a hicky and no one believes that it is, as claimed, my first. Who do you all think I am, Mindy Bly, a high school friend of mine who was known to wear turtlenecks well into the summer? I want to assure everyone that I spent my formative high school years in a very religious area of Pennsylvania. This town was well north of the Bible belt and had little patience for those “new-fangled” religions. Belts have shiny buckles and these people do not believe in that sort of worldly nonsense. But while they might not believe in sex ed or being born again, the one thing I did learn there was frugality.
The Pennsylvania Dutch were doing farmers’ markets long before farmer markets were cool. There was Roots (pronounced rutz) and The Green Dragon (not to be confused with the tincture of cannabis green dragon—not a popular substance in Amish country.) And like all good farmers’ markets, a large portion of the kiosks held not only fresh fruits and vegetables, but assorted other crap (err, treasures). From étagères to elephant ears to espadrilles, you could furnish your home, stuff your face, and pick up an outfit for the disco later that night. If there were any discos in the area. Which there were not.
All of this brings me to the point—finally!—of this article. The Sun Flea Market at 18505 Paulson Drive, Port Charlotte, across the street from Target, has a Charity Thrift Store that they allow local non-profits to benefit from for six months at a time. Peace River Wildlife Center will be in residence there from July through December of this year. Sun Flea Market is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 9a.m. to 4p.m. All proceeds from our sales of the treasures(!) there will go towards food, housing, and medication for the injured and orphaned wildlife at PRWC. It takes us approximately $20,000 a month to take care of the patients and residents at PRWC and with no federal or state funding, we rely on the support of the local community to help us carry out our mission.
You can drop off items you would like to donate in the drop-off booth there or call PRWC if you would like to drop donations off at the Center. We could also use some help to set up and man the thrift store, so anyone with retail experience or just a strong will to help me neurotically rearrange the random inventory constantly flowing in and out, please call PRWC at 941-637-3830 to volunteer. Or maybe shopping is more your speed? Stop by PRWC’s Charity Thrift Store at Sun Flea Market and browse our selection of fine curios, used books, tools, electronics, clothing, and accessories. You might even find a vintage Monty Python video and you can do a little “research” of your own.
– By Robin Jenkins, DVM
Spotted Skunk Baby
Grab your coconut bras and grass skirts and head down to Peace River Wildlife Center to the Luau for Luna. Join us this Saturday, June 21st as we celebrate the summer solstice and welcome the official start of summer during our regular visiting hours of 11a.m. to 4p.m. We will have crafts for the kids, themed snacks, and fun, fun, fun! Luna, our albino screech owl, will be posing for photos at certain times throughout the day. Admission for the festivities is $5 for adults and $3 for children.
Ah, yes, the lazy days of summer are upon us. That is one adjective we do not have the privilege of using at PRWC. The rehabbers stay quite busy with all of the baby birds and mammals that need to be fed and cleaned all day long. The tour guides try to stay one step ahead of the random thunderstorms, taking in and putting back out all of the educational material we have on hand for our visitors. Our cleaners and maintenance crews are inundated with tree trimmings that we use to enrich the habitats of our residents. And believe it or not, I can usually find a chore or two to keep myself occupied.
One recent day I was working on two grant proposals, entering data for reports for our state and federal licensure, updating our Facebook page, proofreading our newsletter, and checking over our new website before it went live. Which, by the way, if you haven’t seen it yet, check that out! Thanks to Anne Marie, our resident computer guru and entomophobe (bugs bug her!), PRWC’s website is now easy to navigate and holds a lot of interesting info. We will be adding more content daily, so check back often.
But, back to my crazy day. While I am usually a master at multitasking (sarcasm), if they gave out awards for the most ridiculous action by a harried worker, I would be walking away with a statue. I needed to make a copy of our most recent fiscal report and the pages were stapled together. Talking on the phone, I left my computer keyboard, and walked over to the cupboard where my office supplies are kept. I absentmindedly grabbed the stapler and an eraser and went back to the counter where the report was that needed to have the staple removed so I could run the pages through the copier. There probably exists a realm where a stapler and an eraser would be up to the task at hand, but I do not reside there. Some days I’m not entirely sure if I’m completely present in this world.
We hope that you can find some time in your busy schedule this summer to come visit PRWC. Even if you can’t make it this Saturday, we are open to the public from 11a.m. to 4p.m. every day of the week. Remember that the animals that are being rehabilitated for release are not on display to the public, but if you let our talented tour guides show you around, you might just learn something new about one of our unique permanent residents.
– by Robin Jenkins