I am working in the Live Animal Unit, having recently become a weekend manager. Behind me, I hear the sounds of someone walking into the room, talking as he enters.
I turn to see who he’s talking to, and am surprised to find that he’s more or less talking to me.
I stop working and watch him move around the room, talking the whole time as he checks in on certain animals, fiddles with other stuff, grabs some things he needs, and leaves via the back entrance to the room.
I blink. I’m not sure who he is, if he was allowed to be in here, or what exactly just happened.
This is my first introduction to Anthony Paino.
It’s Memorial Day weekend, and one of our skunks in the Crazy Critters exhibit is having a grand mal seizure.
I seriously have no damned clue what to do. I’ve crawled into the exhibit space and am cradling the unresponsive skunk. His name is Classic, I’ve helped raise him from a baby, and he’s in shock.
I might be, too.
Ant runs up. “I’ll go get a carrier.” He runs off do that.
Visitors are commenting on how nice it is that I’m keeping the skunk company.
I try to smile.
I’m so glad Ant is here to help me.
Our animal center’s coyote, Chinook, has gone to live in Maine, away from cities and concrete enclosures. Ant has put together a trip to visit Chinook in his new home. It is a frenetic adventure and of the four of us, only one will ever make this trip again. More than once. And that person is Ant, because he loves Chinook enough to drive into the wilds of Maine over and over again to check up on his friend.
Ant and I are walking to Starbuck’s to get a mocha before the museum opens for the day. He is not someone that one would say needs coffee; he’s always animated, always seems to be moving. But he’s introduced me to the joy that is Starbuck’s, and this quick walk down the street to get an overpriced mocha is maybe one of the best parts of my day, because he’s kind and friendly and makes me feel included in a way I generally don’t feel.
This is the Ant that lives in my head, in a snapshot of a world that no longer exists. If you’ve ever visited the Academy of Natural Sciences up to about 2011 or so, you’ve probably encountered Ant in Dinosaur Hall, doing a natural history demonstration, working with the Women in Natural Sciences program, or handling one of the myriad small jobs a museum manager encounters every day on the job.
A few weeks ago, I learned that he’s been struggling a lot. The doctors don’t know what’s wrong with him, but they suspect it’s a rare condition called chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) – his immune system is attacking his nerves, leaving him so weak he is struggling to do things as simple as eat, or stand up if he falls down. You probably haven’t heard of this condition before, but it looks a little like MS..or stress. Which is why his doctors are having a hard time actually diagnosing him. His health has deteriorated over the past few years and he needs help. A lot of help.
This is where you come in. 🙂
There’s a fundraiser for him here: https://www.youcaring.com/anthony-paino-your-favorite-former-non-profit-naturalist-458373 You’ll see that the request is for money, and for other things as well.
Tis the season, of course, where we are inundated with pleas for help. And honestly, too many of us are a paycheck or two, or just one health crisis away, from needing help ourselves. I’m boosting the signal for this request because Ant is truly one of the best, kindest, most dedicated people I’ve ever known. I have zero doubt that he would do anything in his power to help his friends. So we, his friends, are doing everything in our power to help him.
Because of Ant’s health, he’s been unemployed for too long. We all know how terrifying hospital costs are even if you *do* have a job.
So. This your daily chance to do good, y’all. Even donating the cost of a Starbuck’s mocha would help.
If you can’t help? Please consider boosting the signal.
Thank you. With all of my heart, thank you. ❤