More Forthcoming

Large sanctuary fundraiser on Friday.

Large flood at site holding fundraiser auction items.

Lady is one week into her heartworm treatment – some heavy breathing here and there and fingers crossed.

Roark is limping and not eating – blood work pending.

Daschund rescued from death row of shelter turned out to be a 40 lb Bassett Hound/Rotreiller mix.

It was 20 inches

I really wanted to work that into the title of a mass email I sent out today.


Please excuse the picture quality – it’s a print screen from the podcast we did for the sanctuary on my hair cut.  This is the closest I’ve come to admitting my real identity on this site.  Note the oh-so-high tech rectangle over the logo.

So, what did you do today?

Coming Down

This weekend will be our one year anniversary.  While I’m sure I can wax poetic about love, etc., all I can think is thank goodness it’s a reason to take the weekend off.

For the third time since I’ve started officially working for the sanctuary, GM has gone traveling for work. Rather surreal, I’m watching a history channel series with him on it right now – from his first travels.

I actually held off on writing anything a few days ago just because I didn’t want to jinx myself.  But I think it is safe to say…I’ve learned a lot in these few months.

With GM off property, my status as someone who runs the volunteer program has put me in the position of managing the day-to-day issues.  I’ll readily admit, it felt like quite a nightmare the first time.  I survived – but barely.  In part just because it’s not a position I feel comfortable in.  For almost 10 years, I looked to few people at the sanctuary for the answers.  Now I am one of those people.

I’m getting comfortable with that.  And dare I say, this time has been easier.  I have a better balance of what to take care of myself, what to request help with.  Who I can expect to help, who might need some help of their own.

It helps that we just happen to have a kick ass team of staff, interns, and volunteers.

But despite the pat on the back I’ll give myself…damn am I tired.

Chances are

Anyone who cares even the slightest about animals or has ever been wowed by the “lion tamer” (yes, I must put it quotes) at a circus thinks I must have a greatest job in the world.

A phone rep at who was confirming my billing address thought my life was the best.  I was sitting in 80+ degree weather because I get no cell reception at my desk, desperately trying to be heard over the sound of male peacocks (that everyone thinks is a cat calling out), in order for a piece of equipment to be sent that I wasn’t even sure we needed or if I was indeed authorized to purchase.

Without the backyard and the peacock, it probably sounds like your job.

The truth is, we (the volunteers) spend hours and hours a week, sometimes more than we spend at our real jobs, carrying for wild animals that can never be wild.  We decide when they eat, where their den is, how large their enclosure is, what toys they get, when their poop is removed.  And then they die.  It’s like a punchline but there is no joke.

Last week, we saw our Chance.

Florida has two native cats – cougars (or florida panthers) and bobcats.  We have received several bobcats, mostly kittens, and most with too much human contact to do anything but build another enclosure.

But last week, we said goodbye in a different way to a different sort of bobcat.

With only one eye, but fully recovered from surgery to place his stomach back inside where stomachs belong, he bounded into the forest.  He was our second true rehab and release.

Some volunteers worry about him.  Some wonder if he will hunt successfully.  Will he survive the year?  Will he survive the month?  The day?

I don’t worry or question.  I saw him have that one good run.  A run into the wild that all the cats we returned to at the sanctuary can never have.

The next day, we had to let another cat go.  This time, in the manner that we are accustomed to.  A black leopard, cursed to cry his whole life due to facial damage from being beaten to perform.  He was old, and arthritis had crippled him.  Some volunteers feel sad and angry that he had to leave.  He was the reason many fell in love with the sanctuary.

For me, I’m just sad and angry that he ever had to be here in the first place.  That he couldn’t get his one good run.


What’s to Tell

The past two weeks have been bad.  Crazy, overworked, understaffed.  I had a fuck up so huge that I still get a bit panicky and shakey during certain moments.

The problem with making an error that you’re aware should be life-changing is that sometimes life isn’t able to put up with your bullshit.  Sometimes you need to go in and put in your hours and act like nothing happened.  And I’ve been able to do that.  Tom made that that ever-so-common statement I’m sick of hearing from men in my life:

“You’re stronger than that.”

He even went as far as to say that I was stronger than he would be in the same situation.

And this time, I didn’t roll my eyes or pout or break up with him.  (OK, maybe I had a slight eye roll.)

Many times in my life, I’ve been upset because I felt that I’ve HAD to be strong.  That strong was my only option.  I wanted the ability to check off the give-up, sweep-in-and-save-me, run-away-to-Canada, or all-of-the-above options.

This time I knew.  I knew all those other times were stupid and insignificant.  This was the time that counted.  And thank goodness for all those other times.

So I’m still here.  And things are somewhat better.

In other news…the dog peed on my pages-n-ink journal – three years of my life gone.  Including both my relationship with TG and the start of my relationship with Tom.

I finally saw Avenue Q and loved it.

Tom and I are planning a Vegas/Grand Canyon vacation and I’m very excited.

My father’s in the hospital.  He had surgery for a collapsed lung and it hasn’t healed correctly yet.  It’s been a week.

Life goes on…

Take Two

So, I’m showered although my hair isn’t washed but give me a break because evidently there is a bet going on that my hair is the longest it has ever been right now which means it takes roughly 6.1 days to dry since I am against blow dryers.

I got home at a pretty decent hour (7?  I think?) and had time to cook a meal and have some sex and try to buy Avenue Q tickets several times while cursing the TBPAC online sales do-hickey.

I’ve managed to keep myself from checking work email (one of two emails I check for the sanctuary) and only sent one volunteer-related email and I remembered to put the clothes in the dryer which means I’ll have something to wear tomorrow which is pretty awesome since in spite of working 12 hour days I am somehow still managing to eat like a horse and not lose weight so it wouldn’t be pretty if I had to go to work naked.

I plan to start getting up between 5 and 5:30 so I have time to work out.  Any bets on how long that will last?  I thought so.

There have been three deaths in past two months at the sanctuary for which I felt like I was the one who noticed the change in the animal.  It’s starting to bug.  I don’t want any sort of death-intuition unless I can work it in an insurance-reaping manner.

This is my brain.  This is my brain on sanctuary 24/7.  It is hectic and crowded and sad and pathetic and overweight.

On the other hand, I spend my days with people who will go out for drinks at a moments notice.  Who buy me Littlest Pet Shop toys to put on my computer.  Who can get mad and me and I get mad at them and three minutes later we’re laughing because we’re friends and our lives are impossible but it just keeps going.

The Good Stuff

My mother-in-law sent me the cutest e-card this week.  I’d paste the link except then you could see her email address and I may not have learned much during my time on the Internet, but allowing strangers access to family that is allowed to hate you because you’re not blood related is a no-no.

Especially when she’s painfully aware you don’t plan on coughing up grandkids.

The card is a little animation of two…bunnies?  Cats?  Small, simplistic creatures with big eyes.  One green, one pink.  They chant and hooray for me.  And my favorite part is when they say, “You did some good stuff…we don’t know what it was, but it was good.  Do more.  More Good Stuff!  More Good Stuff!  More Good Stuff!”

What I love is that is pretty much sums up what the congratulations is for.  I got a new job.  How?  By doing some good stuff.  And the assumption of my new boss that I am capable of doing more of it.

Starting February, I will be working for the sanctuary.

Oh wait, I already do that.

I mean, I will be PAID by the sanctuary for doing MORE GOOD STUFF.  Specifically, administration/computer stuff.  We don’t have paid staff for animal care – that’s my volunteering position.  But we have a vast world on this here Internet and someone needs to corral parts of it.  And make spreadsheets of it.  And add to it.

I am very excited and frightened.  And of course, I don’t feel I can share any of that here.  Blogging credo # 1 – No blogging about work.

In fact, this is the second thing put in motion do to the idea that I can do MORE GOOD STUFF.  I have put off talking about because I wasn’t sure how.  But a month ago, I was asked to join the committee that runs the volunteer program.  (I guess I’d better do MORE GOOD STUFF, or else – as a committee member – I’m going to have to give myself a stern talking to.)

Some sanctuary people are aware that I blog.  One has even admitted to looking for the address.  For all I know, everyone from there reads because I haven’t looked at my site stats in months.  (Dear Sanctuary People, especially those not quite-so internet saavy, I can see your IP address.  Love, Jessica)

I don’t think I’m ready for this to be a public place where “In Progress” is replaced with my true last name.  While I always blog with the intention of being funny, or sweet, or nice, I would not say that I always blog with the idea that everyone in my real world is reading.  I’m not sure it would be any different, but I have too much other shit to figure out right now to give it deep thought or a test run or just let it fly and see what happens.

So, please bare with me as I get used to several new roles in my real life.  I may not be able to talk about all of it, but I promise I will try to be up to MORE GOOD STUFF.

Or at the very least, MORE EMBARRASSING SHIT.  Because that I can blog about. 

Fall Cleaning

The semester started last week.  My fears of disinterest in my classes were unfounded.  Both my botony-ish class and my seminar-type thingy on techniques of wildlife field ecology appear to be very relevant and have peaked my interest.  I am even tempted to ask the professor if my project for ecology could be worked into a published paper.

I’m leery however, since my plate?  Surprise!  It’s full!  You’re shocked, I know.

(Talking with a Ph.D. student at USF who volunteers with me, she mentioned she always felt like a slacker next to me.  I, in turn, envy people who seem satsified with pursuing one thing steady and true.  There’s a dedication there that somehow I believe I lack.  (Although if you consider my commitment and sacrifice for the sanctuary, maybe it’s there in some weird fashion.))

Along with classes, I am working part-time still, continuing the field research, and keeping up my volunteer hours.  Unfortunately(?), my schedule is packed to the point I won’t make it out during the AM hours over the week.  I will be feeding the cats 2+ days a week (evening), spending almost every Saturday out there, and just about every other Sunday.

I haven’t done a sanctuary update in a while, mostly because I haven’t had a chance to take any pictures recently and I like to pepper my nerdy cat facts with cute photos to hold your attention.  But rest assured, we’re all still going strong.  I had a pretty nice day today (yes, cat’s shit and eat even on Labor day!) in that I worked side-by-side with another long-term volunteer.  She’s one of my favorite to work with in that we get along great and manage to be social while also not slacking off.  I can’t stand to work with someone who seems bent on distracting me from the job.

I also got to teach a class to the newbie interns.  It included walking the grounds and discussing different topics to present to the public (we’re open for two tours during weekdays and four on Saturdays).  I liked getting the chance for them to feel like they got to know me right off the bat.  They need to rely on me for training for the next three months, and I’ll come to depend on them for prep work.

Tom (yes, ST.  I’ve wanted to come clean regarding his name for while.  When it slipped a few posts ago, he said he thought it was intentionally so I figured I’d make it permenent.) is very supportive of my work (ALL my work), and so I can’t begrudge him when he asks for a little time just for him.  Next weekend we’re heading hiking.  Look for pictures.

High is the new Low

I am now a high-level volunteer.  Again.
My first time round volunteering, this was my goal.  There is no level higher, barring appointment to committee or staff.
My first time round, I applied as soon as it was humanly possible, and was denied.
It hurt.  I even thought about quitting.
But I also couldn’t fault their reasoning.  Rather than focusing on the goal, the criteria, the requirements, I started to focus more on just helping the animals, the staff, the other volunteers.
I never re-applied.  The high level status was given to me as a surprise one volunteer meeting.  There was even cake and tears.
But being a high-level volunteer meant more responsibility.  Living on property meant more responsibility.  My job began to have more responsibility.  My body needed a break and I wasn’t giving it one and it started to break down.
Coming back, the memory of that was very fresh in my mind.  It haunts me.  How ineffective I became at everything because I couldn’t concentrate on anything.  It is a horrible blow to your ego to feel like you haven’t gotten one thing right all day.
I couldn’t tell you what is different this time.  More accurately, I couldn’t tell you which thing that is different is making the difference.  But for some reason, I’m able to hang on more.  Prioritize better.  Say no every once and a great while.

Therefore, I couldn’t say no to this.
Ever since the winter break, I’ve been doing some high-level jobs around the sanctuary without the title.  (That was the cause of the awkwardness – feeling like I was overstepping my bounds even though it was specifically asked of me.)  It was made clear that it would be a big help if I asked to be promoted.  So I did.
I felt a bit like a fake, receiving my new shirt.  I had told several people that I wasn’t interested in getting promoted up the ranks again.  And that was true.  But what is truer is that I’m there to help the animals, the staff, the volunteers.  And six years experience was being wasted if I didn’t.
In case you’re wondering, being a high-level* volunteer means that I can lead a feeding route, hand out medications, and work with the leopards, tigers, and lions.  I also will have more responsibility in training the low and middle-level volunteers.
*That’s not what we call it, but we have a distinct “low, middle, high” structure that makes it easy for me to write about in those terms.  And yes; I’m pretty sure that is improper hyphen use.  Thanks for asking.