Riley & Dalton
Hi! My name is Riley Graham and my husband Dalton and I recently got married and decided to start volunteering with this wonderful organization Nature of the Wildworks. I have lived in this area on a ranch my whole life while Dalton recently moved up here when we got married. I’ve done dog rescue and have fostered over 720 animals, this is where my love for working with animals started! When I heard about this wonderful organization I was so excited and am still so excited and blessed to be working with such amazing people! My husband is a welder in Atwater and I’m a preschool teacher! My absolute favorite animals at Nature of the Wildworks are Spring and the opossums. The opossums hold a special place in my heart and of course who couldn’t love Spring sharing bunches of kisses! We’re happy and blessed to be a part of this wonderful organization as volunteers! Thanks for reading!
Most people have been with their animal friends for years. My journey to becoming a volunteer with Wildworks is far from normal. As a young child, I learned I was allergic to all those fun warm blooded animals out there: dogs, rabbits, cats, horses and probably the ferrets!
Growing up and as an adult, my companions have included fish, turtles, hermit crabs, two budgies and a conure parrot. I have vicariously reveled in helping family and neighbors pet-sit their horses, dogs and cats.
When I heard that Wildworks was in search of volunteers, I jumped at the chance. I’ve always loved the largest cat in California the mountain lion; birds of all kinds; gopher snakes and the cute prickly hedgehog. I was delighted to learn that most of these animals — with more to come — were happily living in Coarsegold.
Growing up in San Jose we had several birds, a hamster, and rabbit but my first true animal love was my tabby Chester. It wasn't until 1987 that I was introduced to living with dogs as my roommate had 2 Doberman Pinschers. Up until that point I had been fearful of dogs but was soon overcome with love and devotion when we adopted Amy, a Cocker Spaniel. Soon thereafter we adopted a beautiful black and white German Shepherd puppy. Due to the size of his puppy paws I named him Goliath. This boy would grow into a 95 pound sweet, gentle giant and showed me undying, unconditional love and was my true soulmate. Our animal family grew! Misha, a Siberian Husky came shortly thereafter, followed by another Cocker Spaniel, Sammy. Then Mia, another German Shepherd. Our household was basically a dog kennel for many years. Time passed, the dogs all got older, until eventually they all passed away too. Thereafter I soon rescued a neglected Border Collie puppy from a neighbor, soon to be followed by a Miniature Pinscher wandering the neighborhood. Another 16, 17 years passed with them. During all of the years of living with dogs, feral cats always seemed to find me too. In total, there were 6 essentially living around my house and/or garage that I fed and gave shelter to. I subscribe to the practice of trap and release, which I did, and they never left!
After retirement I moved full-time to Coarsegold while simultaneously moving my mom and dad into a care home in Fresno. I missed having dogs but knew that my time was limited and busier, traveling to Fresno and back a few days a week. The solution was to adopt a more self-sufficient animal but equally as cuddly and loving. Hence, the cats! I presently live with Saffron, a calico, and Squeaky, a gray and white domestic short hair. They fend for themselves while I'm away from home, which is often, but offer companionship and fun too.
My entire career was spent working as a patent paralegal in the hi-tech world of Silicon Valley but my true desire was always to work with animals. This urge took me to Utah to volunteer with Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Years thereafter, I booked a safari tour to Tanzania and experienced first hand the presence of wild animals - everything from monkeys, to giraffes, lions, elephants, zebra, wildebeest, cheetah, rhinos. Then one day while perusing the Sierra Star I came upon an article about the Nature of Wildworks seeking volunteers. I immediately jumped at the opportunity. I couldn't believe a wildlife animal sanctuary was only 4 minutes from my house!
A lifelong California resident, Sally grew up in the Berkeley area but always longed to live in the country. That desire was satisfied 20 years ago when she moved to O’Neals. She has two horses and a cat. She joined Fresno Wildlife in 2016 and raised a deer, Dandy, until she was able to be released deep in the Oakhurst foothills. Dandy was with Sally for a year. She also supported the group by helping with some birds and a beaver. Due to the distance, it became less convenient to go to Fresno and Clovis for activities, so The Nature of Wildworks appeared at just the right time to allow transition from one organization to another. She also will be volunteering at the Ahwahnee SPCA when it opens to help out with the dogs and cats while they wait to find their forever homes. She likes to keep busy!
Lin is a native of Southern California and grew up in the San Fernando Valley, when
there were still orange groves on the next block. She has always loved all animals. Her
childhood pets included a dog, a duck, and two chickens. Later on cats were added to
her family. She actually started learning about and working with exotic and native
wildlife as a Docent at the Los Angeles Zoo in 1997. Two years later she became a
volunteer at a large wildlife sanctuary where she became proficient at pulling poop and
changing water for many large cats. She also learned about enrichment and animal
handling there. After 10 years at that location, she discovered that the Nature of
Wildworks had a volunteer program. In February of 2010 she came for an orientation
and never left. When she retired from the working world in May of 2010, she began
spending more and more time with the animals cleaning cages, providing
enrichment and handling animals at outreach programs. Even though she came on the
wildlife scene late in life, she is happy for the opportunity to share information about
wildlife and the Wildworks residents with the people at programs. And lucky her, Wildworks moved close by to where she currently lives, so she can continue on being a Wildworks volunteer!
Catherine came to us in 2019 as a student of the Exotic Animal Training and Management program at Moorpark College. Every year their students do week long projects at facilities of their choosing. She chose us! Our animals here quickly grabbed her heart and she continued on volunteering after she graduated the program. She is currently working on her Registered Veterinary Technician certification to follow her passion to be a veterinary technician for exotic animals. From her passion for big cats to birds of prey, the animals here like Cliff the mountain lion and Henry the Turkey Vulture have shown her her patience truly pays off. Although we moved four hours away, Catherine still makes the time to drive out to us and volunteer for a few days. That's dedication!
Growing up I always loved animals and the great outdoors. It all started as a young kid walking around Lake Casitas with my mom looking at all the native wildlife. This love grew when I joined the Boyscouts where I went on countless backpacking trips and eventually climbed the ranks to Eagle Scout. However I never really thought of pursuing a career in the animal industry or in conservation. After high school I started attending the local community college on track to get a major in computer science. I very quickly realized that was not the path for me. I became very unhappy and slowly started failing or dropping out of most of my classes, but then I discovered Zoo to You.
I went to the next volunteer orientation and very quickly fell in love with all of their wonderful animals. I started volunteering all the time, attending every event possible and helping with every project. It didn't take long until I became a full time keeper and spent all my time at their facility. After spending a lot of time with all of their different animals, I started to become particularly interested in birds of prey and started the process of getting my falconry license. I am now a full time falconer and work seagull abatement jobs with my Harris Hawk, Speck.
As falconry started taking up more of my time, I stepped back from being a full time keeper at Zoo to You and started volunteering when I could again. The Nature of Wildworks came to Zoo to You while I was still volunteering. Just like with the animals at Zoo to You, I immediately fell in love with all of their animals as well. I started also devoting time to Wildworks and helped them build their temporary facilities in Coarsegold and helped them move all of the animals. I still volunteer with Wildworks from time to time when I can.