|Marlena was nominated for her tireless efforts in creating fun, educational and comforting enrichments for the critters and for being such a positive presence at the centre that makes others want to be around her.|
She goes out of her way for the animals at the centre. She puts a helping hand forward every chance she gets. Not only does she help look after the animals and the centre but also the staff and volunteers who help.
Q. How did you become involved with Procyon in the first place?
A. I discovered Procyon the first year I moved out to Belfountain/Caledon 6 years ago. I had my first genuine wildling encounter with a raccoon. Sadly the little being had distemper (an illness I had little knowledge about at the time) but & I witnessed a kind vet tech pull over to at least take him to be compassionately euthanized as opposed to suffering on the road. This experience of trying to find help led me to researching & locating local wildlife rescue centres. I continued to have more beautiful & sad encounters with all sorts of nature’s critters on the regular living here…..sharing a habitat of forest + grassland + Credit River watershed…..& my mind was set on learning more about them, how to co-exist better, how to help when needed, how to be a compassionate custodian. I started volunteering that following spring. 🙂
Q. What is your favourite kind of critter to work with?
A. Honestly I adore all the wildlings, they are all so different, & they are all individuals :). I seem to have a particular bond with squirrels & foster them often; red & eastern. Little guys, but also injury cases. I have a lot of patience & find helping these little guys so incredibly rewarding. They are very expressive, chatty, & have such different personalities. I enjoy seeing their development process of healing/ growing. Expanding their habitat needs to introduce them to different foods + branches + foliage + brush for foraging skills from the initial stages of a habitat of a cozy hammock at first, lol
Q. What do you find the most rewarding part of volunteering here?
A. Getting to interact with so many different kinds of wildlings. I have never even seen a fox, a coyote, a porcupine….before volunteering— but more importantly, the experience has aligned my spirituality of caring/ adoring/ protecting the natural world with being able to help these beings.
It is so rewarding to help raccoons to counter the ignorance/ lack of compassion these unique creatures face in general. Giving some of these guys a chance surviving being orphaned, or through brutal injuries, or illness.
It is so rewarding trapping a fox in a hoarder’s garage covered in mange & seeing him heal. Seeing his eyes get brighter when initially sealed shut with wounded skin. Aiding in his care with other individuals that CARE. Seeing him run into the trees healed, strong….with a glimpse of glowing happy eyes meeting mine where I like to imagine he said “thank you”. Honestly the best thank you is seeing a sentient being released into a healthy habitat where he can thrive being what he is, where he belongs. A beautiful fox in this case free of brutal mange.
It is so rewarding helping coyote, another extremely mistreated creature, get a chance to live their lives. Being part of the compassion + healing as opposed to the trauma these animals face. They still need to fear us yes & that compassion needs to be carefully given so they don’t trust people….but what I’m saying is I’m so happy to be a part of people that heal…not hurt.
Enriching enclosures with branches, foliage, digging/ nesting material, nooks for hiding/ exploring, various foods for stimuli, encourage foraging skills, making hammocks for warmth/ shelter is a rewarding essentially meditative experience for me to share with wildlings in our care too. Seeing them light up in activity or comfort….as opposed to being stressed/ bored/ feeling isolated. Seeing them be introduced to fragments of what their natural habitat is meant to be for their development & mental health.
Scoping out release sites & being part of releasing so much wildlife over the years has also been beautiful. Seeing an opossum, racoon, bunny, squirrel, fox take in their freedom in a habitat they can thrive in makes my heart smile. I hike a lot & follow up on the release sites often/ soft release too. Releasing in the West Credit River watershed is a favourite location because it is such an incredible habitat for wildlife. Releases have brought my connection to nature to another level I can’t even do justice with words.
I’ve even enjoyed driving however long it takes to get a wildling where they need to go. Being part of the web of so many efforts to help. Over the years there have been some tears…..many tears…..even in the instance of simply driving a critter somewhere & rooting for them to pull through in emergencies…..but it’s always worth it even without a happy outcome. With time helping to heal, and also through consequently learning how to deal with death through kindness.
I also appreciate feeling part of a community that allows me to learn, help, educate, practice compassion. I am & have always been a magnet for animals that need help (& in general) because that’s where my heart & eyes always are….being able to actively rescue + heal + release a being into nature….is one of the most defining & healing experiences I have in my life. It is a spiritual experience for me.
Q. What do you think is the most important thing you share with those not involved about helping/living in harmony with wildlife?
A. The example of practicing compassion actively* in life + the value of education/ how to co-exist with wildlife & how to help in a way that matters + how to mediate conflict with animals & appreciate them — they have a right to life, they are individuals, they are all part of healthy habitats, they feel fear + joy + experience life differently than us & matter.
Q What is something about you that other volunteers would be surprised if they knew?
A. I like animals more than people? lol — all jokes aside, my people are animal people….otherwise I have nothing in common with them. 🙂 but I do struggle with anxiety, & am working through trauma from my childhood that impacts my ability to enjoy interacting with people more. I am a bit of a lone wolf. I have met some beautiful compassionate healers doing this that make my heart smile knowing they exist, & that’s helped my healing after growing up seeing the cold opposite of indifference that suffocated me once. Thank you to those I have met over the years that remind me not all people suck. <3
Also, I’m a Graphic Designer + Illustrator. Work very different from animal care & anything to do with being outside in nature—but I do pursue creative projects + expression that ties in my love of nature whenever I can. I have worked on some creative over the years to help with Procyon’s initiatives as well. 🙂