I attended WOW's presentation at the Petoskey Stone Festival 2012. Rebecca clearly was an excellent communicator and a knowledgeable expert in her field. However, I made the mistake of walking my leashed dog near the raptor boxes during her presentation. It was a quick transgression -- one or two seconds as we crossed in front -- that neither the dog nor the birds seemed to take notice of.
Rebecca halted the presentation to call us out loudly for our mistake in front of the crowd, including a two-minute berating that included an admonishment to the crowd not to be as ignorant and stupid as us. We apologized repeatedly during her tirade, before watching the remainder of the presentation from a distance.
For 30 minutes following the conclusion of the presentation, Rebecca went out of her way to find us and subject my wife, myself, and my 8-year-old niece to a barrage of unwarranted verbal abuse the likes of which I have never encountered before or since.
She told me that:
1. Our dog (a puppy we rescued starving off the streets a month earlier) was ill mannered and dangerous (side note, he just passed the AKC Good Citizen test and is now qualified for therapy)
2. I was an evil and ignorant person who had no understanding of wildlife and should be kept away from animals of any type. (note, I work for an environmental nonprofit dedicated to protecting Michigan's natural resources)
3. We were a poor role model for our niece, who she probably assumed was our daughter (said right in front of her).
4. It is highly unlikely that I have the emotional or intellectual capacity to understand the work she does and that is the reason I felt it was OK to approach the birds with a dog (truth is, I didn't see the boxes until we were right in front of them)
My favorite part was when she physically pushed me away from a line of people waiting to see one of her raptors, telling them "He can't be trusted not to harm the animals."
I'm hard pressed to recall any person I've encountered -- stranger or otherwise -- who has treated my family or me with such unmitigated contempt and verbal abuse. No fewer than three separate people who witnessed parts of the encounters approached us afterward to tell us how shocked they were that she was so malevolent.
It disturbed me so much I sent a respectful email to her -- apologizing again and suggesting our lines of work might mean we have more in common than her first impression suggested. She did not respond.
Rebecca has an exceptional knowledge of and love for her birds and does a great service on their behalf. Communicating that message to a broader audience requires some minimal people skills that she lacked -- at least on this particular day.
Hugh McDiarmid Jr.
Wings of Wonder is a non-profit raptor sanctuary located in Empire, Michigan. Active since 1990, the primary mission is education. Wings of Wonder presents almost 150 educational programs annually throughout Michigan, reaching almost 10,000 people each year. Presentations are designed to foster appreciation, understanding, honor and respect for raptors and the important role these birds play in healthy ecosystems.
Wings of Wonder is also a raptor rehabilitation and release facility. Sick, injured and/or orphaned raptors are admitted for treatment, rehabilitation, and eventual release back to the wild. All raptors are seen and evaluated by the team of participating veterinarians. The primary goal with rehabilitation is to release healthy and strong raptors back into the wild.
The organization is funded 100% by private donors and grants - there is no state or federal funding. All donations go directly to the health and well being of the birds. There is no paid staff other than the founder/director, Rebecca Lessard, who personally administers all of the care. It is an amazing organization!