Distress call goes out: Small animal sanctuary needs cash to convert old stable into shelter, Ottawa

By EARL MCRAE, Ottawa Sun

May 18, 2008

Her name is Linda Laurus and you can call this crisis: The call of the wild.

Linda May 18 2008A call so important, so necessary, and if you care about helping others in genuine need of help, if you have a heart of compassion for small, wild animals that are orphaned, sick, injured; animals that have a right to live, animals that are integral to our ecology, you can rise to the cause, you can save the Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary from the threatening death that would be so wrong.

You who might be a carpenter. A plumber. A drywaller. A floorer. A septic system expert. A supplier of lumber and building materials. You who might be willing and able to volunteer your services to the Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary for free, or at discount, so as to save from abandonment the small, wild animals in the loving custody of Linda Laurus.

You who might simply want to do whatever you can to help. Because it’s the right thing to do. Because, at such moments in life, it’s what we, as members of the human family, should do.

It’s noon when I drive up to the Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary near North Gower. The sanctuary is the 135-year-old farmhouse of Linda Laurus, 44, single, with a life-time love of animals and, since 2005, those that are small, of the wild, afflicted, and in need of rehabilitation.

VOLUNTEER HELPERS
The RVWS is a volunteer-based, non-profit, registered charity, the only one of its mandate in the Ottawa area, and founder Linda Laurus is a licensed, authorized, small animals custodian. She has a small group of unpaid volunteers — caring citizens who share her caring and concern for the animals — along with some veterinary students delighted to help and learn.

Since the RVWS opened, it has taken in hundreds of small, wild animals.

Skunks. Rabbits, Chipmunks. Squirrels. Raccoons. Weasels. Foxes. Groundhogs.Fishers. And others, mostly babies, that without Linda Laurus and her sanctuary where they are rehabilitated and then released back into the wild, would face almost certain death.

When not caring around the clock for the little animals, Linda Laurus tries to find time to work from her farmhouse as an environmental consultant for the government. Her income is not large. If money was her heart for the animals, she’d be a millionaire.

The animals are her priority. And, ironically, the very success of the RVWS is why she is in debt, needing to borrow from the bank, and why the RVWS finds itself clinging to survive, desperate for help from those of you can help, want to help, who care.

The animals, in their cages, are all throughout her house in a noisy organized clutter, taking up almost all the space, with the scurrying Linda and volunteers preparing medications, formulas to be given to small mouths by syringe, food to be gobbled up.

In a cage near the door is a baby groundhog. Next to a cage with two tiny squirrels that could fit in your hand. Down from a cage with five, little, squawking, clambering squirrels from one litter beside several cages with baby raccoons. “At morning feeding time,” says Laurus, “you need ear plugs. There’s ‘I’m hungry’ and ‘I’m really hungry.’ ”

The distressed animals are usually found by ordinary citizens who wrap them in towels or blankets, and, often not knowing of the RVWS, phone the Ottawa Humane Society or veterinarians, who then refer them to the sanctuary.

“The animals can be found anywhere. We’ve had baby squirrels and raccoons found nesting under the hoods of old cars destined for the wreckers. One little squirrel brought in, all his front paws were burned from the hot engine of a car.”

She nods towards a raccoon in a cage. “That’s Miss Muffet. She was found in a garbage bag in a garbage can. She was about six weeks old and in bad shape. She’s now 11 months old and healthy. We’ll be releasing her into a rural drop-off spot this week.” Laurus’ eyes sadden: “Yesterday, a baby squirrel came in close to death, and there was nothing I could do to help it. It succumbed.”

VISIBILITY PROBLEM
The RVWS, as vital as it is, suffers from a lack of public awareness proportionate to the big registered charities with their professionals, their abilities to suck in the huge charity bucks. Smaller charities, such as the RVWS, get trampled in the stampede of the behemoths. And, as is the case with the RVWS, their government/foundations donor streams are debilitatingly limited, or non-existent. They rely on word-of-mouth and benevolent individuals.

It breaks Linda Laurus’ heart that, increasingly, she is having to say no to taking in animals for lack of space. But there is an answer. The old, abandoned stable back of the farmhouse that can be converted into a shelter.

But the RVWS needs the money it doesn’t have. The estimated renovation cost: $35,000. A start has been made through a few beneficent volunteers, but much more is needed, more expertise.

Are you such a person? Can you offer your skills? Will you step up for the special Linda Laurus, the non-profit charity Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, the small animals, to not let this service of tender mercy die?

Linda, and the RVWS, can be reached by phoning 613-258-9480. You can leave a message, Linda will return your call. You can e-mail: info@rideauwildlife.org. If you wish to donate, you can do so online: canadahelps.org. You can write: Linda Laurus, Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, P.O. Box 266, North Gower, Ont. KOA 2TO.

The call of the wild. The orphaned, the sick, the injured. A mercy call for you.