2019 Year in Review: Dr. Ernesto Domínguez, Hospital Director

It’s time to look back on 2019! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2019 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

2019 has been a bad year for me, but your reading this post has made it special and better.

This past year has been the biggest rollercoaster in my life since I migrated to the United States. It is funny to read that last year I thought there were lots of ups and downs, but this year was a big up, and with that came a big drop.

What dropped me down was losing my mom from an aggressive lung cancer on August 4, the same day that I received the excellent news that I had passed the specialty board examinations for the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine to become a specialized veterinarian known as “Diplomate” in Preventive Veterinary Medicine. The up was that early that morning, I was able to share the news with my mom. She was SO HAPPY, and she said, “That is all I needed to hear to go and rest in peace”. That day I went to celebrate with part of my Wildlife Center family, Dr. Karra, Jess Dyer, LVT, their significant others, and of course, my lovely fiancé Jenna Larios.

The question was, how to recover from being at the bottom of the rollercoaster, and try to go up again to enjoy the ride at The Wildlife Center and in my personal life?

The formula at The Wildlife Center was easy. With your support, I was able to do what I loved the most — put hands on, diagnose, treat, save, and release wildlife. Every day I will try to spend time in the clinic treating a few patients; that will give me joy and help me cope with my loss.

I also realized that the Wildlife Center is a place where I could find not just a great family of co-workers and volunteers, but a great family of individual donors and supporters that send me messages of love and support as well.

Finally, the day came when I felt that I could let my pain go and start feeling peace through working with a patient. That patient was Peregrine Falcon #19-0940. I became connected with this patient because the story of his life also had a lot of ups and downs. He fell from his nest and had a keel fracture (big down), came to us (maybe a big up), and was ready to be released in a “hack box”, but missed his opportunity (down). His rehabilitation process continued at Wild Bunch Wildlife Refuge with licensed rehabilitator Diana O’Connor after a circular flight pen became available to exercise him in (super high up), and he returned to the Wildlife Center for pre-release work. It was difficult to find a time and place for his release (small down), but he finally made a successful return to the wild on September 10 (best up ever).

When I released this Peregrine Falcon, I was able to not only connect with him, I was able to connect with all the people that were there watching this amazing animal fly away, and through it I was able to talk to my mom. Most importantly, I found peace through a mission: “Teaching the world to care about and to care for wildlife and the environment”.

— Dr. Ernesto, Hospital Director

Check out all of our year-in-review posts!