Most of us think of retirement as a time to relax and reward ourselves for the efforts of our working years.
For Nancy and Gunther Golina, retirement meant a return to Prince Rupert to care for the sick, wounded and orphaned wildlife in our area.
In the last twelve years (now +20yrs), this dedicated couple have rescued and released thousands of birds and animals.
Working twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, the Golinias always put the animals first.
At the Prince Rupert Wildlife Rehabilitation
Shelter, Gunther and Nancy recognize and respect the inherent wilderness of the animals they have chosen to help. To this end, they work diligently to nurture each animal with minimal human interference.
The rehab shelter is definitely not a petting zoo.
Although they house a variety of uniquely beautiful animals, these animals do not benefit from unknown visitors. Extra stress in the form of a stranger's voice or a child's excited banter may mean the difference between life and death for a fragile, wounded animal.
For this reason, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Shelter is only open to the public for visits one day a year during their open house.
The Shelter originally began as a means to provide medical nursing and supportive care to wild animals until they could be
returned healthy and strong to their natural habitat. Since its inception, the shelter has also taken in hundreds of unwanted, orphaned or injured domestic animals the the SPCA cannot care for. These animals include pet guinea pigs, rabbits, birds and turtles and
make up one third of the shelters inhabitants.
Taking in domestic animals has meant extra work for the duo. They have had to work out a way to maintain a definite separation between their wild and domestic guests - a neccessary step to ensure each animal's
continued health and safety.
Gunther explained that the mere sound of an eagle is enough to kill a rabbit. To keep the peace, the large property houses a variety of different shelters to accommodate the varying needs and habitats of its animals.
All shelters are secure against predators and offer insulated boxes and heat lamps. On any given day, Gunther and Nancy care for at least 70 different animals and birds. For these two "there is no such thing as a typical day".
Nancy explained that to help the
animals they must go non-stop and sleep when they can. As one animal leaves, another arrives to take its place. The return of a wild animal to its natural habitat is affected by a number of factors including the extent of its injury, healing time and the migratory and hibernation
patterns of that animal. Domestic animals are kept and cared for until a loving home can be found. With an eighty percent success rate, there are still some situations when Gunther and Nancy, with the help of veterinarian Dr. Kennedy, cannot help an animal.
If an animal can receive more specialized care down south, it is sent there. If the animal is unable to survive in the wild, it may be put down. In some instances, like in the case of a current young eagle alternative options are considered.
The eagle in their
care will no longer be able to fly but it is healthy and able to breed. The Golinias are looking to find it a home in and environment that will protect the eagle while allowing it to exist outside with other eagles in an natural a habitat as possible.
Protecting animals, wild and domestic, is important to Gunther and Nancy. They keep visitors away from the fragile, monitor the healing process closely and promote respect for animals among the community through literature and their website.
Gunther explained that the common denominator in the majority of their animals' illnesses or injuries is humans. Every day animals are poisoned, hit by cars, shot or left to starve when their natural environment or parent is destroyed or their food source removed.
Nancy explained that wildlife is dying all over the world. The Prince Rupert Wildlife Rehab Shelter is "just a little place among many worldwide trying to make a difference."
Making a difference does not come without a price.
While others choose to use
their retirement savings to take a trip, or buy a boat, the Golinias are using their pensions to bring hope and healing to dying and abandoned animals. They do not receive funding of any kind and rely on the generosity of the community and its members to continue.
In addition to the financial challenges of the Wildlife Rehab Shelter, the endless work is exhausting and Nancy admits they are not getting any younger (both are over sixty-five).
To ensure continuity of service, the Golinias recently established a board of sixteen
individuals that share their passion for rehabilitating wildlife. Since then, the help of board members has been invaluable, as has the help of the increased number of volunteers. Gunther is always touched when people give time or money to the shelter -
"in a me oriented society giving and caring is so important."
With my brief glimpse into the lives of Gunther and Nancy Golina, I could tell that giving and caring is what they are all about.