I was thankful, in a way, that 2013 had not given me much to work on with wildlife rehabilitation. Most of my work, surprisingly, is taking calls from folks around the state who benefit from assistance and guidance I can provide over the phone. Often, people can handle a wildlife rehabilitation situation themselves by providing just a bit of respite for an animal or bird, and just need a little advice and encouragement in order to proceed on their own. Occasionally, my assistance merely involves giving game warden information for a caller’s area, or providing phone numbers in order to direct the rescuer to another private rehabilitator or wildlife facility nearer them.
But there are also times when what the rescuer describes to me indicates a situation I am simply not prepared to handle. For example, this September FD discovered an injured female Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in the middle of the highway that leads into our hometown. At first, she seemed maybe to just have her “bell rung”, perhaps from a glancing blow off a car’s windshield. Based on this initial assessment, FD and I felt that a little rest and restricted movement was all she needed. After a day here though, it was apparent her injuries were beyond our capabilities to heal her. So, as we often do with injured birds or raptors that I am not capable of working with, we took this young lady to WildCare of Oklahoma. WildCare is just an hour drive away, and they are, hands down, the experts on bird rehabilitation in our area. With a very knowledgeable staff and lots of volunteer workers, they have the means and resources to handle what we do not.
Back in August, I came home to find a wildlife-related message on our answering machine, but this was a different kind of request regarding wildlife rehabilitation. A young art student from a nearby university was offering to assist me with rehabilitation. She hoped to help with any kind of chores or ranch work in exchange for time observing wildlife, hoping for the opportunity to draw, sketch, and paint whatever animals we might have. At the time, I thought little of her request, other than wishing I could help this girl. But we had no chores we needed help with and I had nothing to offer except Daisy deer and her fawn Spirit to observe. And even with that, we never knew when to expect those two to show up. They might be here for ten minutes or an hour, and then we may not see them again for a day or two!
I returned the call with the bleak news that we had little to offer. It had been a slack year with no visits from the game warden, and no incoming orphans or injured from the public. I told her about Daisy and Spirit, and mentioned that on walks in the woods I usually saw various species of wildlife. But this young lady was not subdued by my dismal report at all. In fact, Dominique seemed intrigued that she might have the opportunity to see wildlife in a natural environment, and foxes and deer were her favorite species to draw. She said her professor wanted her to observe wildlife in motion and learn to express that in her sketches and paintings. Again, I reminded her we had no idea when to expect to see wildlife on this place, and even though Daisy and Spirit were regular visitors, there was no pinning down just when they would arrive. Undaunted, she asked what might be a good time to get acquainted.
Admittedly, I was not so sure about this venture. Being my sometimes “Eeyore” self, I predicted this to be another disappointing meeting with a young person. I grew up differently than most kids today, and generally have some tough expectations about how young people should behave. I often find these expectations cause me grief in the end. The young people I bonded with in my life, were few and far between. Those that I did strike up a relationship with, have been most cherished and loved – but they are unique and exceptional. For the most part, however, I avoid developing relationships with most young people anymore. I just expect it will not go well… because it usually has not. When I told FD my thoughts, he smiled his usual smile and told me to wait and see. Why was he always so positive? He had his own disappointments with young people. Why was his perspective always welcoming and willing to try again?
My guarded anticipation and worry about being disappointed quickly melted upon meeting “Dom”, as she prefers to be called. She was very personable, respectful, interested, and she listened well. She was assertive, but not overbearing or pushy. When conversing, she made eye contact, she smiled, and she was polite. We talked, getting to know each other, as we strolled through the woods. She remarked on the beauty of the woodland bottom. She noticed many of the things I always marveled at… and maybe more. She commented about little things, small details that most people would miss. I soon realized I really liked this girl. Perhaps her observations were just common of an artist, but I found her thinking was also not so unlike mine.
And of course, the ultimate test presented itself that very evening when Daisy and Spirit arrived to eat a bite at the feeders. While Dom stood quietly nearby, Daisy stepped up to take a sniff of this unfamiliar person. Dom got approval via a couple of licks from Daisy before she turned her attention to the corn feeder. FD and I were flabbergasted! Evidently, Dom exuded the presence of a friendly human, and Daisy sensed this. What more could a deer mother ask for? When someone befriends and adores your child and grandchild… well, that is a good friend indeed!
As the weeks went on, our walks took us out north to the pecan orchard and beyond, a mile west to the river. To assist with carrying our “tools”, we often drove the Bad Boy Buggy, venturing out with my camera and zoom and her sketch book and painting materials. During these outings, Dom produced landscape images and observed wildlife. Who knew someone could really draw or paint out in the wild like they do in the movies?
Sometimes, Dom left the drawing and painting tools at the house, and she and I just walked around with cameras. She asked me questions, I shared what I knew. I asked her questions about what she was photographing and why. When we got back to the house we would look at our photographs on the computer. I marveled at her perspective – many things she found interesting were very different from mine.
On the days Dom visited, I found myself wanting to break loose of my busy daily schedule, to spend time relaxing and exploring. Whatever the weather brought, we adjusted. Some days, we just bundled up and sat out on the back porch, watching for activity below. On beautiful, sunny days, we hiked or drove the buggy out west of the property. Other times, we went out for a drive, taking in the landscape of the country, and observing the change of season.
On inclement days, we stayed indoors. Dom sketched or painted while I kept busy with indoor projects, or simply watched her work and asked questions about what it took to draw… technique, media, and the desire to create. We talked about life. We shared thoughts about the world, personal issues, and concerns. No topic was off limits, and even though we might not always agree, we were respectful and thoughtful of each other’s opinion.
Dom’s schedule sometimes allowed for overnight stays which ultimately saved her gas going back and forth from school to home (another 45 minutes down the road from us). During these extended stays, we cooked meals together and baked cookies. We watched TV. We laughed. We visited. We played with the dogs. And always, we kept an eye out for wildlife. Creativity and fun seemed to abound with Dom. Even our shy and socially inept Mr. T (our big-boy Japanese Chin) seemed to flourish with Dom around.
Finals this week mark the end of this semester for Dom. We probably will not see her again until January – the start of the last semester of her senior year. I look forward to hiking and buggy rides again, watching the seasons change, and noting the perspective from her artist’s eyes. It will be wonderful to take time with her to relax and explore before the rigors of summer arrive. And life will change for both of us then. Dom will graduate and seek work as an illustrator, while I will be back to my usual activities of mowing, gardening just a little, blogging, and writing my book. Life moves on… and we each must continue on our life’s journey.
I cannot help but be thankful for this unexpected visitor who came to assist me in animal rehabilitation, yet wound up assisting me with so much more. My inner Eeyore had me thinking I had nothing to offer this young person, and I thought there was nothing she could offer me either. Little did I know, my time with Dom would help me in ways I never dreamed of.
If you would like to learn more about Dominique and her work, visit Dominique Midgett’s Art.
© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…