Beastly Behavior

Wildlife rehabilitator Vivian Steele got along fine with animals. It's people who gave her trouble.

It was clear, at least to Ed Steele, that TWRC's shelter would have to be wrecked first, and that this Wrecker was doing the wrecking.

"You won't find her fingerprints on the body," he said, and he was certainly right -- no fingerprints, no evidence, no nothing.

Kathy Pyne, a WR&E board member, called Steele's conspiracy theory "crazy," "baffling" and "totally incredible." She and fellow board member Sharon Schmalz would not discuss gossip. They worried what a story about gossip would do to their reputations, but they seemed at peace with what had been done to Vivian Steele's.

The official WR&E view was eventually presented by Wrecker Barbara House. "I don't think there's any evil, horrible people involved in all this," she said. "There's caring, emotional people, and I think that's all there is."

After the Post story appeared, Vivian sat on her bed, hugging her teddy bear and crying. The SPCA had stopped referring animals to the shelter, and a few of the newer volunteers quit. Eventually, the state, while finding no evidence of cruelty, did discover that Vivian sucks at filing, as she put it. Her permit was probationary for six months, as she endured inspections by wildlife officials with guns.

"It was pretty awful," said Vivian. "Somebody tried to punch us out, and we didn't fall down."

Inside the mall now, the shelter is a posted "No Gossip Zone." Another sign says there will be a $10 fee for dealing with grouches. Though all wild animals are welcome at the shelter, Vivian screens her prospective volunteers, and bases her decision to keep them largely on their sense of humor and sense of death. A good balance there has created something "just like the Brady Bunch -- it's disgusting how well we get along!" she said.

The shelter has a regular veterinarian, good volunteer training, a good location -- everything Vivian always wanted. "A marvelous organization," said P.C. Haney of the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. "Couldn't praise them enough."

Vivian's next big idea -- something she calls "the answer on dealing with urban wildlife" -- sounds very much like the giant shelter the old board wanted. For their part, the Wreckers still don't have a shelter and are operating as TWRC did years ago.

Vivian has never completely understood why they left. She thinks maybe her enthusiasm was part of the problem. Some people don't like enthusiasm, she knows, and she tries to keep from gushing and bubbling all over them, but still, "they think you're fake and phony," she said, "and they run screaming off into the woods. The old board was like that -- little grumpy people."

"They are no longer with us," said Vivian. "Good riddance! And no, I didn't take them to the parking lot and slam their heads in the trunk. Crossed my mind, but I didn't do it!

Keywords:Correction: In staff writer Randall Patterson's story "Beastly Behavior" in that same issue, the name of P.C. Hanes, a member of the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, was misspelled as P.C. Haney.

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