Wild Heart Ranch is located in Claremore, Oklahoma. We provide medical or infant support to any indigenous wild animal in need of assistance and release it into suitable wild habitat once care is completed.
For weeks, life has been a series of hungry babies, endless loads of laundry, and a phone that never seems to rest. Fat healthy babies fill my outside cages and each day, one or two graduate out of the clinic for pre release or fly away to their second chance at life. Yesterday at eight in the evening, I realized my work was nearly finished for the day. I felt a moment of panic as I hadn’t left the clinic before midnight for several days, so I ran through my mind the animals that had moved out, the emergencies that had kept me there, the visitors and the reasons for my long days that didn’t occur this day, and was content to retire to an early evening once my very last baby was fed.
He is a four week old raccoon, brought in as a newborn in July. Late baby, no siblings and a healthy and uneventful rearing so far. Alone in the world but for me, my heart goes out to him as he has stuffies for siblings and not much time out of his nest with my demanding schedule, but at his young age, completely acceptable.
I pulled him from his tub. Another week and I will be setting his first cage up for him, ready to learn to climb and hide. For now he still needs the warmth of the tub, though he no longer needs his heat pad as his fat little body is maintaining all on its own.
After a savored bottle of formula and a bit of rice cereal to keep him satisfied through the night, we settled down in my favorite feeding chair for a burp. Little guy is just as beautiful as they come. His coloring is distinct; his feet are soft as silk, his fur beginning to thicken and his eyes brightening with wonder and the need to understand what they behold. His ears are opening up and now look more like horns than ears as they gently curl toward the top of his head. He can hear me clearly now and the sound of my voice rivets his curiosity as I speak to him. As I gently pat his back, his wide, infant head bobbing with the rhythm, those shiny dark eyes locked on my face. The realization hit me that I could afford some cuddle time with this lone kit. Being a loner, cuddle time is justified to an extent, and completely encouraged until a nest mate can be obtained. (not to mention, it feels pretty darn good to both of us!)
After a short series of tiny burps and one big belch to rival any beer drinking sailor, my kit sniggled against my chest and began his soft content purr as I rubbed his fat body and stroked his fur. I melted as his tiny hands patted me back, his bright eyes locked onto my face, he snuggled the only mother he knew. He reached his hand wide to my face, touching my nose. “What is that mommy?” I could almost hear him ask. “Pat, pat, pat” went his little hand on my nose and gingerly, his nose touched mine, “sniff, sniff” he explored the strange object on mommy’s face and with a content purr, closing his beautiful eyes with approval, he stretched his body one last time and snuggled up to my face to sleep. “I like your nose mommy” is what he said as he dozed off. “I like your nose too” I whispered to my sleeping kit and kissed his tiny nose.
In that moment, the wiry grind of orphan season seemed to melt away. My heart filled up again and all the phone calls and laundry and dishes and people and syringes and bottles and hoses and brooms and cages and flies and heartache and fatigue just seemed to leave my frontal lobe and automatically store in the part of my brain that protects my motivation. My Mother once told me that a woman’s brain was special. It is equipped to quickly store the trauma of childbirth so that we will continue to reproduce without fear. I believe my brain works that way with orphan season. Every fall I question whether or not I can go through it again, but yet when the winter snow melts and the first glorious hint of green starts to peek from beneath the frozen earth, I am an expectant mother readying my nest, preparing for my brood, my arms physically aching for the first to arrive into my care.
As I tucked my sleeping raccoon kit into his bed for the night, I looked around at my cages one last time to ensure that all had food and water for their nocturnal escapades, and shut off the lights and locked the door. This is where my heart lives. It is who I am. Give me a million, billion dollars and I will not travel, I will not wear jewels or drive expensive cars or live in a house with fine things. I would only find ways to make my babies more comfortable, their care more convenient and help greater numbers of needy faces and species, and you would forever find me where I was this night; In a chair, with a bottle, cuddling a kit, talking about noses.
(Though I would pay someone else to do the laundry and answer the phone!!!)
Annette King, Animal Rescuer
Wild Heart Ranch Wildlife Rescue