So the chaos of the day starts. The quick-paced morning of cleaning before another field trip full of hyper-energetic children. The slight frustrations of their lack of attention or ability to keep voices hushed. But then the little surprises happen. The sun peeks through the clouds and you get to see the new baby kangaroo climb out of mom’s pouch for the first time. You stress the little ones to stay silent, and for the first time they do. In awe over the same moment you are witnessing. Everyone snaps back to reality as you gather them up for the last few presentations and activities of their fieldtrip, and before you know it, the day is almost over.
There are a few more chores to be finished, and a few more animals to have arguments with before it is time to start prepping everyone’s dinner. A fellow intern notices one of the Black and White Ruffed Lemur females is acting weird. She’s making a lot of noise and isn’t staying in the nest box with her 5-day old infant. The creak of the lid of the nest box mirrors the slight cringe on both of our faces as we fear for the worst. It’s happening. This little tiny baby is having trouble breathing. In those moments, nothing else in the world matters. Dinner can be postponed for a few moments. The discomfort from the hot day and hard labor is ignored. This little baby, who has only peeked out of the nestbox once, is now looking through the veil between life and death.
Calls to our Animal Care Director are made in a panic. The ranch owner is called down as well. All of your senses are on overdrive. You swear you can hear the irregular heartbeat from a foot away. You can hear the clock ticking in the barn across the pathway. Your heart is screaming on the inside for this delicate little baby, but your face shows only focus and concern. Few words are spoken. In an almost rapid-fire manner, the director gives us directions and walks us through what to do. Towels, heating pads, pedialyte, water, syringes, chest compressions if necessary. In comes the dextrose injections. Wait 20 minutes. See what happens.
I dont think the other intern and I ever looked each other in the eye for the whole process. We were staring down this baby, trying to telepathically send him some strength. 30 minutes later, the breathing evens out, and the heartbeat becomes more steady. Baby sleeps for another 10 minutes before opening it’s eyes. It’s gripping our fingers. It’s making noise. It’s trying to suckle on our fingers.
The first smiles in an hour start to crack the concentration on our faces. The director finally walks through the door after rushing home from an hour away. We take our first breath of relief. We saved this baby. This tiny little creature, who stared death in the face. Watching the director pack up this baby and take him home was like watching mom walk through the door after having a bad day as a child. An overwhelming sense of comfort seeps back into the barn as the director starts the long and tiring process of raising this baby lemur.
Finally, the familiar noises start to creep back into the barn. The lemurs call back and forth to each other. A horse whinnies. The starlings continue to fight over nesting materials. The steady chop. chop, chop of the knife on the cutting board, preparing the animal’s dinner.
Steady and strong, like this baby’s second chance.