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The Life of an Animal Rescuer at Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital

So as many of you, or some of you know I used to volunteer at Tiggywinkles Wildlife Rescue Centre, until I found out I was pregnant and for safety reasons I was pulled off of the volunteer list, because trying to grow a baby and handling wild animals .. isn't recomended. Jamie a year later also trained up as a wildlife rescuer and we ended up doing the rescues together - it was a nice and unique way that we spent our time trying to work out together how to corner a deer into a corner so we could get hold of it.. its not for every young couple , but it was for us. So Jamie now continues doing Tiggywinkles rescues whilst I'm art home with Isabelle ( we appreciate the peace and quiet )

For those of you who may not know Tiggywinkles is the worlds busiest wildlife hospital taking in over 12,000 animals ever year! They're amazing - after setting up 40 years ago they have taken in over 300,000 patients all of a variety of species! Go check them out at

www.sttiggywinkles.org.uk

Now in this blog - I'm going to tell you about some of the rescues I've done, what it involves, and why its rewarding volunteering for a charity.

So about 5 years ago (ish) I decided I wanted to do something meaningful with my time, something to give back, something that made me feel alive ( not that making coffee everyday doesn't do that... but something else )

I have always had a love for animals, so this was an easy decision for me, Tiggywinkles was just down the road in Haddenham from where I worked, so that made that simple. I looked online and they were looking for volunteer ambulance drivers and rescuers. Ambulance drivers pick up the smaller animals like hedgehogs and small birds, and the rescuers deal with the big stuff. Therefore I applied, they called me in for an interview to make sure I had the right vehicle, attitude and probably the right morals to be helping their charity helping injured and sick animals. I think it was maybe a week or two and I had the phone call and I was given the go ahead that they would love me to be onboard - I was so excited! and nervous!

So I went in a few times and did my training until my trainer and myself was confident I was ready, once I was ready they gave me all the equipment I needed and off I went.

What I haven't explained is what animals I would be dealing with and how it works. So their volunteer system is when a member of the public calls up about an injured or sick animal, the team on-duty will call the closest volunteer to the location, and then the next closest, and its done in list form until someone is available or calls back. So I have been as close as 2 minutes away, I have also traveled up to 40 minutes if its a particular evening when people aren't available.

Now the animals - Tiggywinkles will pretty much take in any wild animal, which means that as a rescuer you can get called out for any wild animal, I've dealt with anything from frogs and baby blue tits, to roe deers and badgers.

This is why it was exciting, because every call was different, every animal was unique, sometimes it wasn't for the faint hearted but you knew that you were doing the best job for that animal and without you it could still be sat there injured.

So - lets talk about some of the rescues I have encountered, I've had a deer in someones living room, deers stuck in fences, a deer that bit me ( we'll come back to that ). Baby badgers who've lost their mum, a badger in a pet carrier, a swan covered in oil, an owl stuck in a cricket net, a squirrel who had fallen down a chimney and had trashed someones house, and one of my more comical ones was following 1 mummy duck and 9 ducklings along a footpath and road in Tring.

So.. where to start..

Lets start with a deer, unfortunately the ones you remember are the ones that touch you emotionally, so I apologise about that, what's to come may upset some.

This is a call I will never forget, I had had a call out for a deer in Chinnor, a member of the public walking his dog had noticed that from a distance something wasn't right with it, it had tried standing up and would stumble and fall back over, so keeping his distance (we recommend members of the public keeping their distance from wild animals as they are unpredictable) he called Tiggywinkles for a rescuer to be sent out to anaylse what was wrong and take the deer in for any required treatment. So I got the call, I was free, me and Jamie headed off. Now you might be wondering how you get a deer in your car? For larger deers we have a stretcher, which today we had needed. The gentleman had walked back to his house to put his dog inside and said he would walk with us to show us where the deer was, so we followed him into the woods, through the mud, a good 10 minute walk until we spotted her, lying on the floor with her head looking at us. As we tried to approach it it tried to get up and stumbled and laid back down, so we knew we had to act quickly so as not to stress the deer out, so we pulled the stretcher as close as we could and I quickly went to put the towel over her head as Jamie went to hold her on the body. We are trained to put a towel over deers heads because the dark and quiet helps to keep them calm. The gentleman very kindly brought the stretcher closer to us once the deer was calm so we could slide the deer onto it. So gentled with Jamie supporting the body ( the heavy bit ) and me supporting the deers head we slid the deer onto the stretcher, put the straps over the deers body and fastened it down. As we began our walk back to the car the movement of us walking had slowly slid the towel off the deers head, as we put the stretcher down to replace the towel it came to our attention just what was wrong with the deer, the deer had been shot in the head. Most rescues you go to are usually road incidents or inner species fighting or a disease the animal is prone to getting, but no, this one had purposefully been caused by someone.. this is why I won't forget this one, this is the exact reason I was doing the rescues, to do right what I could to help the animals, it made me so angry that someone had done this purposefully. So we quickly transported the deer back to the car, and took it straight into Tiggywinkles.

Another one of my rescues is a little less sensitive, a fox in a back garden. Same rules applies, I had the called, we got out overalls on, packed up the car and off we went. Now foxes are tricky, they're fast, they're crafty and they're a bugger to catch. You either use a gasper or a net, ALWAYS wear gloves and ALWAYS make sure the have security over them before you scruff them and that you scruff them in the right place - you do not want to scruff them in the wrong place and have a fox turn round and nibble on your wrist.

So this fox had been in and out of this persons backgarden and similar to the deer, the lady knew that something wasn't quite right with it, it looked a bit run down and a bit ragged and skinny. On arrival we were blessed with an enclosed garden, bar one hole in the fence it traveled through - it made our life much easier - we just needed to block off the hole which was easily done by our cage. there was a thinner part of the garden between the house and the fence so we decided to try and encorage the fox down the to that part of the garden where we could almost trap him in and then net him - which we successfully did netted scrubbed and placed into the cage - we noticed that he had severe mange. Mange is a parasitic mite that effects foxes and some other animals, it is easily treated in captivity, so once he had been taken in and treated he would have been released back into the wild providing their were no other more serious conditions with him.

Lets do one more, lets do a swan. Jamie had the call for this one, but I went with him to tell him what to do ( shh don't tell him I said that ) This one was a swan in Amersham rugby club car park, which already was weird as there certainly wasn't any water around a rugby club carpark for a swan, thats why the caller had dialled it in. So we arrived and looked round the car park, and there was no swan, we went and had a look round the rugby field - still no swan. So we were about to assume the swan had flown off when we decided to look on a little greenery area adjacent to the car park and pitch, and there he was. So we fetched our bread (to entice) and our swan bag ( a specially deigned bag to transport swans). I can explain this in no other way than it must of looked like a comedy sketch, the swan had managed to 'hide' behind the only sign board on this greenery and it was a triangular sign, and it didn't seem to matter where Jamie threw the bread and which way round Jamie went, the swan went the other. We had decided not to both get involved because it may have caused the swan to fly of however though I was in fits of laughter, it was going to be easier with 2 of us. So I went one way and led the swan to Jamie, Jamie took control of its neck, put one arm round the body and surprisingly for such a strong bird they give up really easily once under control, so we shimmied him into his swan bag and popped him in the boot and off we drove. Swans are the funniest things to transport because if anyone looks in your back window all they can see is a swan neck and head.

So there you have it 3 rescues, all different, some more emotionally touching than others. But all 154 ( yes I just counted through the book ) are all different, all challenging, and some are really hard work. But they're all rewarding, and thats 154+ animals that together me and Jamie have either saved, or have saved them from the pain they were in. The work Tiggywinkles does as a charity is amazing and I cannot say that enough, helping animals that have absolutely no idea that they're being helped, the other volunteers doing the same work we were doing, even the training that they give and the opportunities they give for animal lovers alike to help and give back something to the community and to nature.

You can raise money or donate as little or as much as you like, even donating items for the animals in their care is helpful. I went for the crazy option and did a skydive to raise money for Tiggywinkles and successfully raised over £3,000 with a colleague of mine, so I guess it worked!

Heres to helping more animals.

If you want to read more about other rescues we've done, please drop a comment below and I'll tell you about some of our other 154+ rescues :)

www.sianp-photography.com

**Please note, photographs not taken by me**

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