CHESTERTON, Ind. – Helping a turtle with a cracked shell mend is a slow process.
Getting a bottle-fed orphaned baby deer back on its feet is much easier, according to Linda Musgrave, of Chesterton. Her family’s homestead is an animal refuge for creatures from around northwest Indiana requiring respite.
Along with husband, Jody, and their children Anna Rose, 13, and Joseph, 11, the family works with local veterinarians to house and care for animals, already medically treated, that require time to heal before being released back into nature.
“I say I married a family of animal-lovers, because the real Dr. Dolittle is my father-in-law, since he’s the one who started doing this almost 20 years ago,” said Linda Musgrave, describing her father-in-law Glenn Wiles, who also lives at the Noah’s Ark-like homestead.
“I remember first meeting my husband’s family back in 1997, before we were married, and I noticed there were raccoons everywhere. That’s when I discovered this special mission to help those with fur and feathers, paws and claws, scales and fangs.”
Throughout the years, the family has taken in practically a zoo of creatures in need, ranging from skunks, raccoons, possums, deer and sheep, to turtles, ducks, dogs, cats, owls and all sorts of other birds. The only available funding and resources come from donated food and items provided by local animal hospitals, The Times in Munster reported (http://bit.ly/UtOYDk).
“I remember getting a call from Munster about an injured swan and we had to help with the transport,” Linda Musgrave said.
Wiles, 69, the patriarch who started the operation, said providing transitional healing care for animals requires not only patience and experience, but also training, licensing and “lots of paperwork.”
“A vet office can treat animals and provide the initial medical attention, but housing and looking after the hurt animals can be difficult and time-consuming, and that’s where we help out,” Wiles said.
While veterinarians and animal hospitals from around northwest Indiana refer to this Porter County family for assistance, they said it’s vets Dr. Larry McAfee and Dr. Larry Reed in Porter County who most heavily rely on their assistance. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources also helps with the licenses and paperwork required.
“Before we ever take in any animals, there are many shots and worming needed that vets provide, along with a supply of the medicine and detailed notes for care,” Wiles said.
“We once had a baby deer with an IV tube that needed to be attached, and that was pretty tricky.”
Wiles laughs at the notion explored in the 1967 original film “Dr. Dolittle” starring Rex Harrison of a person who can “talk to the animals,” but he says he has found communication important.
“When I say communication, I mean we have a network of other animal rehab care centers around the Midwest and we talk to each other about cases and what works best, while also keeping our vets informed,” Wiles said.
“And over the years, just knowing how to carefully approach a sick animal cautiously and provide proper handling is just as key as any interaction.”
Valparaiso-based veterinarian McAfee, who’s been in the field for 39 years, said Wiles and his family provide an invaluable service in animal care.
“I’ve never seen such commitment and such devotion of time and personal resources,” he said.
“Not every story can end in success. But so many of these stories end better than the alternative.”
Wiles’ grandson, Joseph, who is a Cub Scout, said in future years, he plans to continue his grandfather’s project.
And for now, while helping out, he said he always has “the best show-and-tell projects at school.
Story and photo distributed by The Associated Press.