Nancy and Gunther Golina have always been comfortable working with animals and age has not been a deterrent.
The couple own and run the Prince Rupert Wildlife and Rehab Centre, a non-profit organization, dedicated to taking care of injured wild animals and birds.
“There was a demand for it and we filled it. We had always worked with animals before and we gave our entire life – every waking hour is around animals and birds,” said Nancy, who is the primary caretaker at the shelter.
Nancy always loved animals, even when she was a child.
Where Nancy grew up, they had to make an appointment to have a bath because there were always ducks or something in the bath tub,” Gunther said.
At one point, Nancy as a child, had a ramp up to the bath tub for her ducks and she would put cages of snakes and mice in different cupboard doors.
“When you opened the cupboard door, you didn’t know what was behind it because I would put cages where there was room, you know. Put the dishes to the other side and use that. My poor mother. It was snakes or mice or something else. She never knew when she opened the cupboard door, so she would very gently open it from afar and look,” said Nancy, humoured by her past.
The Golina’s are celebrating 30 years of taking care of animals in and around the Prince Rupert area. The couple have always had animals on their property and it reached a point where other people in the area were getting injured animals to them for their analysis.
“We had no choice. We did have a bedroom in the first year, and then we had the deer come in, we had eagles come in, we had seals come in,” Nancy said. The couple now sleep in their living room to make more space for wildlife.
In terms of community support, Gunther said, people looking to help can donate and the City of Prince Rupert gives them official tax receipts. “We prefer getting cheques or money, because then we can buy things we need, instead of leasing it. We know the kind of food we need to buy for these animals versus people donating food, and us not being able to use all of it,” he said.
The couple have an agreement with Shoppers Drug Mart, Home Hardware and the veterinary doctor for people to make donations in the city itself. Once people make a donation there, they will receive an official tax receipt on their address.
Meanwhile, good volunteers that stay for a longer duration have been difficult to find, Gunther said. They could use a lot of help as they are having difficulties picking up heavier stuff. Both Nancy and Gunther are over 80 years old and with Gunther unable to move around much after a recent surgery. Most of the load is on Nancy.
“Right now we need help with heavy stuff. We are both having a little bit of a problem with any kind of lifting, and we have to take the wheelbarrow, load them on and dump them, it’s a lot of heavy work,” Nancy said.
As long as people are wishing to volunteer, and they are passionate about wildlife, the Golina’s will have less work to do. There is training involved, but the couple don’t have a ton of time for that.
“We have a whole list of volunteers but the first thing we see is that how do they interact with animals and we have had people who have said, how difficult is it to clean a cage? And I say you are right. But even a sparrow can scratch you pretty bad because they are panicked. So you have to respect the animals and we don’t have time right now to train people,” he said.
There is a need to educate children about wildlife and get them to come interact with animals, he said, adding that whenever they have children come to the shelter, it’s always a good time.
“Nature and wildlife needs to be promoted in school. It is our heritage and it makes us more human,” he said.
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