It looks like the Year of the Dog will be exceptionally lucky for the Medicine River Wildlife Centre.
After a decade of planning and fundraising, executive-director Carol Kelly is excited the walls of the badly-needed new animal hospital will finally be going up the week of Feb. 12 — followed by a new roof.
A brand-new wildlife hospital, costing nearly $1-million, will replace the centre’s two depalidated rooms that are now stacked with injured animals in 50 cages, and warmed by shop heaters.
“It’s been a long road,” said Kelly, “but it looks like the Year of the Dog (which kicks in mid-February, according to the Chinese zodiac) will be good to us.”
The pre-formed concrete walls and steel roof, costing $105,000, were paid for by four generous benefactors: Ruth and Dorothy Bower, AltaLink, and the Twilight Homes Foundation from Red Deer.
Some of these big donors approached Kelly directly because they appreciate the wildlife rehabilitation work done at the centre near Spruce View. About 2,200 injured birds, mammals and waterfowl from across Central Alberta are treated at the centre annually, and if possible re-released.
“It makes us feel very proud and grateful that people are liking what we do,” said Kelly, who describes feeling “like a kid at Christmas” about the project coming to fruition.
She’s still nervously waiting to see whether a $445,000 provincial grant to finish the hospital’s interior will be approved. If it comes by March, the hospital could be finished by this summer. If not approved, “it’s back to the drawing board” with more fundraisers, she added.
The existing centre building is so worn out it wasn’t worth renovating.
“One of my managers described it as “50 per cent duct-tape,’” said Kelly, who has been collecting public donations and corporate gifts-in-kind for the new hospital for years.
The centre’s four employees, four contactors and 150 volunteers are extremely grateful for the donations — many of which were spent on site preparations, including moving power and gas lines, putting in a new septic field, and completing engineering designs for the facility.
Construction won’t stop with the new wildlife hospital. Kelly said plans are afoot to start a Go-Fund-Me campaign to help pay for a “desperately needed” new birds-of-prey compound to replace one lost in a windstorm three years ago.
While she’s planning to turn the reception room of the new hospital into a temporary interpretive centre for school groups and other visitors, eventually she wants to build a separate, larger interpretive centre next door.
When the new hospital gets better internet access, Kelly plans to live-stream centre activities on YouTube or Facebook to further raise public awareness.