Archive for Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Animal rescues prove rewarding for area woman

August 9, 2006

Judy Garrett has a passion for animals.

The Bonner Springs native has worked 10 years as a volunteer for the animal-rescue agency Operation Wildlife in Linwood.

The organization takes in injured animals and nurses them until the creatures can be safely returned to the wild.

"It's such a rewarding experience, because when you get to release the animals back into the wild, you know you've saved their life. It's such a wonderful feeling," Garrett said.

To successfully return an animal to the wild, volunteers must not allow themselves to grow attached to the animals -- and must not pet them. Doing so would wrongly imprint on them that humans aren't to be feared.

Garrett admitted that it was sometimes difficult to resist petting the animals, "because they're so cute."

But, she said, "if you want to release them," you can't touch the animals more than is absolutely necessary, and releasing the creatures back into the wild is the "whole idea for being there."

Garrett began volunteering at the agency after her husband saw a newspaper article about an open-house event for the Linwood facility. He suggested she go because she had grown up on a farm with animals. Garrett went, filled out an application, and was volunteering right away, she said.

In her duties for Operation Wildlife, Garrett does "a little bit of everything," she said.

She has worked as a transporter, taking the animals from a receiving center at 75th Street and Nieman Road in Shawnee to the group's headquarters at 23375 Guthrie Rd. in Linwood, which has a surgical suite, isolation, treatment and diagnostic areas and flight pens and other outdoor enclosures. She has also worked rescue detail, picking up animals where they were found.

On Mondays, Garrett does all the produce shopping for the organization.

"It takes a huge amount of food," she said, to feed all the animals.

Fawns that are taken in must be cared for until they're old enough to fend for themselves. The animals that the all-volunteer organization helps include red-tailed hawks, rabbits, raccoons, bald eagles and other birds.

The organization also offers educational visits to libraries and schools, Garrett said.

In her spare time Garrett makes stained glass, which was her career before she retired.

Garrett said that the most exotic animal she'd dealt with was a bald eagle and that the difficulty of each case depended on the severity of the animal's injury.

"A bunny with a broken leg can be as bad as a hawk with a broken wing," she said.

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