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Volunteer: Christine M.

Christine found AFA through the internet and has been volunteering since March 2016. She’s a complete joy to have around! And while she thinks her main functions are cleaning cages and feeding and watering the animals, we think her main function is cuddling with the animals. She also helps on educational programs and enjoys them thoroughly! Christine’s favorite part about volunteering is being able to get hands-on experience with the animals. Her least favorite part is leaving the animals to go home. Christine says, “Basically, I could cuddle with these beauties all day! They’re just so adorable!”

 

We asked Christine if she had a memorable moment she’d like to share, and here’s what she said: “One of my many memorable moments took place on the day I started. Our director Kim asked me if there were animals that I was uncomfortable with. I proceeded (with goosebumps and shivers) to explain my fear of spiders.  By the end of my day I was holding Webster the beautiful and cuddly Mexican Red Knee tarantula……..and I didn’t faint!” Christine learned to like Webster, but her true favorites are Tallulah the kinkajou, Shelly and Shelby the sulcate tortoises, Cocoa the skunk and Koda the baby skunk. But she says it’s hard to pick even a few favorites, because she loves each and every one of them – even the monitor lizard that would rip her face off if she got too close!

 

This awesome stay-at-home mom (ex-nurse of 17 years) lives in Alsip and has her own family of pets, as well! One Siberian husky- Shayna; 3 cats – Sun, Moon and Star; 2 huge 6 year old goldfish; a 6 year old African dwarf frog named Candace; a juli cory catfish named Perry; 3 Tetras and 14 guppies (that started out as 3 from my daughter’s kindergarten class…..)

 

Christine enjoys reading and biking when she isn’t doting over animals and her family.

 

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Volunteer: Jen

Twenty-three year old Worth resident Jen found AFA while googling volunteer opportunities close to her. What good fortune for us! Jen has been with AFA since the beginning of May 2016, and she is a gem! When she isn’t cleaning animal habitats or feeding and watering the critters, she’s playing with them and handing out treats. Jen’s favorite part about volunteering is working with the variety of animals we have, and she enjoys how hands-on the work is. That’s what makes AFA different from the other places she’s volunteered for. But she admits the least favorite part is that she wants to take all of the animals home with her!!

 

We asked Jen if there was a memorable AFA moment she’d like to share, and she jumped right in! “One day I was cleaning the hedgehogs’ cage and was surprised to find newborn hedgehogs among the mix. It was really amazing to see how protective the mother was and how quickly they grow.” While the hedgehogs are pretty cool, Jen’s favorite is a walnut-loving Richardson’s ground squirrel named Dale. She is captivated by the way he loves to build nests. And Jen is not without her own pets! She is owned by a boxer/pitbull mix named Captain America and a guinea pig named Cheesecake (from AFA).

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Besides taking care of animals, Jen is an avid reader. From August to December 2016 she will be a sea lion intern at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. We will miss her during those months, but they will be so lucky to have her! She would like to someday be an animal trainer or zookeeper in a zoological facility. We wish her the best of luck!

 

Volunteers: Jeff Quagliano and Sarah Cane

Jeff has been assisting with the St Charles location for several years now. The amount of energy this guy has is astounding! Especially if it has to do with animals! Jeff has really been instrumental in our dog fostering program. He helps us in all aspects, from training to medicating foster dogs in our care. Not to say he limits himself! Jeff has worked with our foster horses and pigs too!  What more can we say? All it takes is a phone call and he is there-can’t ask for anybody better!!

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Above: Jeff and Sarah showing off mastiff Diesel and miniature horse Antonio, both recent rescues that came into our foster program. Both have found happy homes!!

 

Sarah has been working with the wildlife in our St Charles location for over 3 years now. Sarah is a vet technician at a local animal hospital and let me tell you how helpful THAT IS! She comes out on a regular basis, and emergency calls, to help with injured and orphaned wildlife. Sarah has been an invaluable part of our wildlife team! Not only does she have the love for any type of wildlife, she also has the knowledge and patience to work with new volunteers. Sarah, you are the best!

Volunteers: Noelle and Vince

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 Noelle and Vince have been with AFA since they were 17 years old – back when we were bending the age requirement for volunteers! Noelle’s mom turned her onto volunteering, and Vince got dragged along with. Lucky for us, because they’ve been great! Five years later they’re still with us. Despite their hectic college careers, they faithfully return on breaks and brief visits home to tend to the animals and catch up on the latest AFA goings-on. Both agree that the animals and interacting with them are their favorite part of volunteering. Noelle adds, “They are all such characters!” It’s true! Each one has his or her unique personality!

 

As is the case with most volunteers, cleaning is the #1 task for this dynamic duo. Vince’s least favorite chore is cleaning the outdoor fox enclosure, which can be a dirty job and a challenge, as well. Noelle would rather not clean outside in bad weather. Winter around here is………well, it’s hell! But there are good times too! Says Vince, “On my first day volunteering, we sprayed perfume in the raccoon/coati enclosure and the coatis buried the scent into their tails instantly. I thought that was really neat!” And Noelle recalls meeting and handling Ozzy the bearded dragon while volunteering at an event. “I now have two bearded dragons of my own. I absolutely love the species,” she beams. And Noelle loves the sulcata tortoises, too!! Since volunteering at AFA she has also rescued one of her own. Vince’s favorite, however, is Tallulah the kinkajou. But Noelle also cherishes her, as well. LOL.

 

Both Vince and Noelle agree that AFA is very, very friendly, fun and a laid back atmosphere. Says Noelle, “You’re welcome to volunteer at varying times or whenever your schedule permits, or you can create a ritual of coming at the same time each week.” That’s one of the things that makes AFA unique and different from other organizations.

 

New Lenox resident Vince shares his home with 3 dogs and a tortoise. When he isn’t working as a UPS driver, he enjoys jet skiing, biking, snowmobiling and working in the garage. He sees himself sticking around UPS for quite a while and hopefully advancing through the ranks there. Tinley Park resident Noelle’s home is a bit more crowded with 5 dogs, 2 bearded dragons and a sulcata tortoise. She’ll soon be graduating from UIUC with a BS in Animal Sciences in the summer of 2015 and moving onto graduate school. Noelle’s aspirations are to go into zoo research or work in animal husbandry, animal welfare or conservation in a zoo or aquarium setting! Awesome!

 

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Glenda’s Wisdom

In regards to this I wish that inexperienced people who decide to get a wild animal could be told a few things straight out. The reason for my list.
 
1. You have chosen to accept all of the problems and responsibilities that go along with the choice of keeping a wild animal in a captive setting.
 
2. Realize you may think that your new animal is the most wonderful thing since peanut butter was invented but law enforcement, neighbors, and the general public most likely will not.
 
3. Realize every action that you do will reflect upon every other person who cares for these animals.
 
4. It is your animal and you can choose to take the risk of interacting with it up close and personal, but it is unfair to others and puts them at risk to share your animal up close and personal with everybody you meet.
 
5. You do not train a wild animal; they train you. Although, with proper knowledge and experience you can get some conditioned safety responses.
 
6. Realize that we live in a human society and at any point in time your animal is a threat or even perceived as a possible threat to humans that you will be in a fight for the animals life.
 
7. If your animal eats your couch it is still your responsibility.
 
– If your animal bites you…
– craps on your bed…
– bites a hole in your waterbed…
– rips up your carpet…
– escapes…
– pees everywhere in the house…
– doesn’t play well with others…
– keeps you from going on vacation…
– doesn’t like your kids, spouse, relatives…
– dents your car…
– kills the neighbor’s chickens…
– kills the neighbor’s cat…
– kills the neighbor’s children…
– eats you out of house and home…
– gets sick and costs you lots of vet bills…
– doesn’t mind you…
– doesn’t like you…
– bites your private parts thinking it was a chicken neck…
– chews on a shot gun shell because you forgot to put it up…
– runs around the room screaming and shitting…
– is smarter than you…
 
IT’S STILL YOUR RESPONSIBILITY!
 
I am sure that all of you could add to this list as well. I think it would make an interesting list for all breeders to give to potential new owners. I don’t know how any of this will fit in with things but I think all of us adding to this list and giving it as a separate bit of info might be a good thing. I know that I never could have imagined all of the things that my animals have done over the years and a combined list like this would give folks a very real view into the wonderful world of owning wild critter. 🙂
 
Glenda L. Ulery, Executive Director
Noah’s Exotic Wildlife Shelter

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