A day in the life at Aspen Valley
Aspen Valley News
Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary is a winter wonderland this time of year.
Some say that first impressions are what count most. Others feel you have you have to give it time before getting to know someone. I’m not sure which I choose to believe, however I can tell you with a smile that within the first hour of my arrival Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary had made a great impression on my outlook on life.
I heard about the intriguing sanctuary from a friend a while back and it sat in my mind for weeks as something I would enjoy being part of. When a close friend passed away at the age of 23, it drove me to quickly realize that life is too short. I almost immediately made my decision. I made the decision to start doing volunteer work, with AVWS being my trial run. I got a month off work, rearranged schedules with both of my bands, informed family of my goal and went to work with planning. I planned my food situation and clothes quickly and off I went with a friend.
The work here is very rewarding. We do everything from feeding wolves, to bottle-feeding baby raccoons. The regular workday rarely feels like work and each time you seen one of the many animals here you quickly realize why you‘ve come here yourself. Each creature has its own personality and charisma, humans not exempt.
The rest of the crew here are incredibly helpful, caring, and respectful. During the day we work hard and at night we sit aside a warm fire to gaze at the stars with our ears contentedly soothed by the majestic wolves’ howl. This sanctuary may be intended for animals but I too have found a haven here. This incredible landscape is a postcard at every turn and you never know what new creatures you will see or hear. I’ve become very attached to the animals and volunteers that I would be happy to call my family. I’m happy to say that I am a volunteer at Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary and that I may have made one of the best decisions in my life thus far.
The experiences, every step of the way, are unique for a guy from the city.
This winter I had a grounding experience I’ll never forget.
A faint, uneven sheet of snow blew softly around my dim light as I calmly walked towards the barn for a late feeding of the animals. It seemed that with each step I unintentionally made the choice to sweep my flashlight and look around. What was I looking for? I’d walked this short path millions of times and knew this terrain inside out by now. Just under halfway to the barn I swept to my left as I heard a noise… nothing. I continued to walk with nothing but the light breeze to fill my ears. Then again I heard a noise. Keeping my cool I stopped walking and swept slowly to the left once again. The Sausage Party (Pigeons)… Clooney and Scotch (bunnies)… … …EYES! Six wide, glowing green eyes all staring deep. They could only be those of a small wild wolf pack I had seen the day before. Due to the short-range light, no bodies were present. The only noise in the air was that of tongues lapping the water of a tire rut.
I couldn’t help but freeze just as they saw me. What was most likely just as frightening for them seemed like a life or death situation for me.
Instantly, I argued with myself. “Should I run or pretend I didn’t see them? Should I observe them in awe or try to scare them away? Should I continue to the barn or retreat to the house?” Any sensible organism at this point instinctively sizes up its possible opponent and either tries to act larger and advance, or accept technical defeat and back away.
Though I know there’s a high possibility they are more afraid of me than I of them, I respectfully chose the latter. I am Jon Marleau.
(These weekly articles are contributed by staff at the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary rehabilitates orphaned and injured wildlife with a mandate to educate the public towards a better understanding of local fauna. This week’s column was contributed by Jon Marleau, a volunteer who spent 28 hectic summer days at Aspen, and returned to volunteer at the site for two months this winter.)