Life in Rescue is Weird: Ridiculous Stories from the Front-Lines of Animal Rescue
Have you ever attended a family dinner with a baby bird stuffed down your bra, or caught a tapeworm from sharing a bed with a chicken? Then you probably work or volunteer in animal rescue.
At times, it may feel like your life is very different from other people's, perhaps even a little bit weird. But don't despair - you are not alone. The Animalist has been collecting some of the most ridiculous, absurd and funny stories from animal rescuers around the world, in a new regular feature with the arguably lazy title, Life in Rescue is Weird.
Easy Mistake to Make
Driving late at night, I saw hedgehog curled up in a ball in the road. Turned car back, full beam lights on it. Talked to it in soft voice, gave it a little flick only to find it was a perfectly formed round mound of dog poo. I was horrified. Bleached my fingers when I got home...
I once did an emergency stop in my car, followed by a three-point turn, and raced in the opposite direction to reach a young hedgehog before it was flattened by oncoming traffic. It was just a pine cone...
I always have to double-check that I have entered the names correctly for rehoming emails, and that I have not mixed up the cat's and owner's names to say 'Dear Fluffy, thank you for contacting us about rehoming John...'
- Laura (Rehoming Coordinator for CatCuddles)
Not me personally, but the founder of where I work now once went out to a baby armadillo. The lady swore blind she had one in her kitchen. He got there and it was a... woodlouse.
I went out to rescue an ailing crow, seen flailing on the ground by a member of public... on approach, it was a badly discarded dog poo bag.
Five minutes before finishing work, I got a message from someone who said her elderly mother had seen a pigeon lying on the train tracks at a London train station. The second the clock hit 5.30pm, I raced out of the door and ran as fast as possible to the station, thinking that the pigeon was in danger of being crushed by a train. I got there, sweating and breathless, and couldn't find any pigeon on the tracks, so I asked a member of staff if he'd seen anything. The interaction went something like this;
"Have you seen an injured pigeon on the tracks at all today?"
"Yes, an old lady reported it to me, but it's a wig."
"I'm sorry, it's a what?"
He showed me. It was a wig.
"...Oh. Yes. I'll probably leave it then."
- Rae (author of The Animalist)
I had a call to go and rescue a rook. It was an easy rescue as it was only down the road from me. So off I go armed with my catch net and carrier...
It was a young chicken, not even black.
I let my ex-battery hen, Lola, sleep in bed with me for months. She wore little nappies for the house so that poop didn't get everywhere, but I still suspect that she was to blame when I went to the doctor with an itchy bum and was told that I had tapeworm. I still let her in the house sometimes but now she sleeps in the coop with the other rescue chickens.
- Anonymous (for obvious reasons)
Trapping Gone Awry
One evening we were trying to trap a stray cat in the city. Two of us were sitting in the car. We found it very odd that people kept giving us strange looks. Found out later that we were parked outside of a bordello.
I caught the same groundhog multiple times in a cat trap, because he figured he gets a meal and is released every freaking time. That TNR (trap, neuter & return) project was seriously delayed.
- Gina (U.S.)
I keep trapping ring-tailed cats...
- Robyn (U.S.)
I got to the clinic one day only only to find one of my traps in the car empty. I search the entire car and could not find a cat anywhere so I assumed it must’ve gotten loose the night before when I had the car doors open at the trapping site. A day or two passed and I was driving home from work, when all of the sudden I hear one very quiet 'meow.' I stopped, and again I searched the car. There was no cat. At this point I was certain that I was losing it. Not only was I hearing voices, but those voices were in cat!
When I got home from work I picked up one of our volunteers and we were patrolling the neighbourhood when I heard another meow. I looked at her and said, 'did you hear that?' I was ever so grateful when she said 'yes' since I knew it meant my sanity might actually be intact. Then we drove to my auto mechanic and explained the problem. His entire staff stopped the work they were doing on their customer's cars and came over to begin examining mine. Finally, somewhere behind the dashboard, the best part of a tail was spotted. I felt bad for the real customers at my auto mechanic’s shop that day because I don’t think anything got done on their cars. The entire state staff spent the afternoon disassembling my Prius and removing the kitten from behind the dashboard.
One TNR session, we loaded up 52 cats in the TNR van to go to a wonderful organisation that does mass spay/neuters - but we got 53 back.
- Mary (U.S.)
This was many years ago. I found a beautiful friendly cat and decided not to TNR but to keep “him”. My aunt looked “him” over and said he was a young neutered male that might be lost. I made an appointment with a veterinarian and posted flyers. When I got back home, I couldn’t find the cat. It turned out he was under my bed where he just gave birth to four kittens!
I was trying to trap two chihuahuas, Lady and the Tramp. I trapped Tramp easily the first day, but Lady refused to go near the trap. So the next morning I tried to use Tramp as bait. I put him in a carrier next to the trap. He made such a racket, that I decided it was a bad idea. I put him back in the van and drove down the street to take him for a walk. He slipped off the lead and I chased him and he ditched me. Flames were shooting out of my ears I was so mad. I thought, 'I'll never be able to trap him again!"
When I got back to the trap, both of the dogs were inside.
I was once trapping a litter of stray kittens for eight days in a row, in the winter, at a busy train station in East London. It had rained non-stop, and I was very dirty, tired and scruffy. I was monitoring the trap one evening, sat on a muddy bank, when an older lady walked by, stopped, and stared at me with a concerned look on her face, and said; "are you okay darling? Are you sleeping rough tonight?"
She thought I was a homeless person.
- Rae (Author of The Animalist, CatCuddles volunteer)
I was once trying to catch a pigeon with string wrapped round it's foot, I threw down seeds to attract it and a woman who was standing nearby told me off, saying that pigeons were rats with wings and I shouldn't encourage them. Before she even finished her sentence some pigeon shit landed right in her eye. I doubt she liked pigeons much more after that.
I got a call out to a seagull with a broken wing. I got out of the car and some cranky old man said to me (about the gulls) 'they're bloody horrible, they'll get you!' I walked over and picked up this baby gull while a massive group of gulls swooped at me, and I was fine. And then I turned round and the old guy was bleeding profusely from the head, with blood dripping down his face and everything. Karma.
- Kelly (RWR Wildlife Rescue)
My family aren't really that supportive of my rescue work and lots of them think it's weird, I was invited to a big family event and everyone got really pissy when I said I couldn't go because I was hand-rearing a starling and it had to be fed every twenty minutes. So I put him in my bra and went and ate dinner with his 'lil head poking out, and me feeding him rearing formula (liquidised bugs) when I had to. They never complained again.
Some Improvisation Required
After work I went to rescue a sick crow and had to climb over a locked gate. On the way back over, my skirt got caught on the gate and ripped in half. I had to tie the pieces together and go on the underground pretending I had started a new fashion. Sadly, it never caught on.
A couple of years ago I went to get the train to work, and up on the embankment I noticed two baby pigeons whose nest had fallen in the high winds we'd had over the weekend.
Abandoned my trip to work, dashed back to my car, and drove home for a step ladder, gloves and carrier. I used to park about a ten minute walk away from the station, so I struggled back to the platform with said step ladder and carrier. Bear in mind that this was peak commuter time. Shoved my way along the platform back to the birds, set up the ladder and proceeded to clamber up the embankment in my full suit and six inch heels. I think the hundreds of people at the station, who were all watching my every move, must have thought I was a mad woman. I probably flashed them my pants more than once.
Had a call about an attacked racing pigeon in Exmouth. I met the chap and he invited me up to his flat as the bird was on a windowsill. Looking professional with box, towels etc., I followed him. He had the window open and expected the bird to be sitting there but no. The bird was sitting at right angle to his window, with a 20 foot drop between me and it. Imagine the scene, no rear-access, no ladder, no flipping harnesses and no training in wall-climbing. Bird roughly six foot away, 20 foot drop, 5 foot 4 woman and a very scared bird. I bit the bullet. I leaned out over the guy's window, couldn't reach. So I asked him to hold onto my feet whilst I nabbed the bird. Box in my left hand, bird caught in my right hand, hanging over what was in my mind was the Exmouth equivalent of the Grand Canyon and rescued the little darling. Called her Lucky, called myself stupid.
I got a message about a seagull when I was out with nothing on me, only about £10 in cash. Even my phone had 5% battery. Luckily the seagull was a five minute's walk away from where I was, but my only option to get it home was to get a cab via a nearby cab firm. The problem was, the cab firm had a no-animals policy. So I had to shove the gull up my top and cross my arms, and try to act natural. Suddenly, in the car, the bird started to screech - all I could think to do was to start talking really, really loudly, basically shouting, to drown it out. But because every time the gull started to make noise, I had no time to think, so I was talking completely shit; 'LOOK AT ALL THE TREES AREN'T THEY LOVELY, I LOVE TREES DON'T YOU!?'. I was also sweating profusely. We eventually made it home, but the cabbie almost certainly thought I was drunk.
- Rae (author of The Animalist)
Me and a colleague spend a few weeks treating this evil dude. Once all meds complete he went to a sanctuary. He spent his days biting anyone and everyone, chasing and harassing staff and even bit another colleague on the lip as she restrained for an injection. His name - Damian the Devil.
Dealt with a really aggressive Jack Russell Terrier once, no-one could get near her to do a microchip check, police were eventually called in even they struggled! Eventually she was checked. Owner was called the next day and said "thank you for dealing with my feisty Fanny".
Do you have a silly, funny or absurd story about work in animal rescue? Comment below, or contact The Animalist directly to be featured in Volume Two of 'Life in Rescue is Weird!'