No one who knows Dr. Helene Van Doninck would question whether she deserves an award she recently received.
The Hilden woman provides veterinary care daily for the injured, ill and orphaned animals that come to the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (CWRC). During the busy season, when babies are arriving, there’s rarely a chance to take a few minutes’ rest.
This summer, Van Doninck received the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s (CVMA) Humane Award.
“It’s very cool to get a national award, and it’s especially meaningful that it’s a humane award, because that’s something I’ve strived to be all my life,” said Van Doninck. “It’s nice to get recognized.”
Van Doninck and her husband, Murdo Messer, co-founded the CWRC on their property, in Hilden, in 2001. During the first years, most of the small birds were kept in the basement of their home, with others in outdoor pens at the back of their property.
She organized fundraising activities and in 2014 a flyway was built on the property, providing eagles with space to strengthen flight muscle before being released into the wild. The flight centre is the only structure of its kind in Canada.
Many of the eagles that come to the centre are suffering from lead poisoning, and Van Doninck has been working with hunters and anglers for the past 10 years, encouraging them to avoid lead ammunition and tackle.
She has also treated several eagles suffering from oil contamination.
Although most of the patients at the centre are birds, those receiving care often include porcupines, turtles, squirrels and fox kits.
“Helene was an obvious candidate for this award,” said Dr. Ernie Prowse, who nominated her. “I’ve always respected her dedication and the fact that she and Murdo were running the centre. It’s pretty amazing.”
Prowse, who is also a veterinarian, has known Van Doninck for more than 15 years, but had heard of her efforts to help wildlife before they met.
“We’ve crossed paths fairly often, and I’ve seen how hard she works for wildlife,” he said. “She’s definitely dedicated to the cause, and she’s enthusiastic. We pick niche and run with it, and she’s certainly done that.”
The CVMA Humane Award is presented to one person, from across the country, each year.
Van Doninck wasn’t able to get to the awards ceremony, which was held in Vancouver on July 5, but it has been delivered to her. The award also includes a cash prize of $1,000, to help with the work of the centre.
For more information on the CWRC, go to http://www.cwrc.net.
How to help the CWRC
The Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre always appreciates donations to help with the care of wildlife.
Monetary donations can be made online, mailed to the centre, or dropped off at the facility. Items such as paper towels, puppy milk replacer, unscented liquid laundry detergent, tissues, stamps, exam gloves, kitten food, and blue Dawn dishwashing liquid (for washing oiled birds) can be dropped at the centre, on Irwin Lake Road, in Hilden.