Learning from the Birds

May 1, 2016 / Giving Stories

Rose Ann Meccoli poses with veterinary students at a medieval fair with the resident birds of prey

Stephanie Dantino, Class of 2017, was the first recipient of the Rose Ann Meccoli Memorial Scholarship. A student volunteer who cares for the Wildlife Medical Clinic’s resident birds of prey and takes them to community outreach events, Dantino has done a lot of teaching.

And yet, she is quick to credit the birds themselves as being her teachers.

Her experiences as a close caregiver for these noble animals have imparted fundamental lessons—about perseverance and about joy—that resonate strongly with the memory of Rose Ann Meccoli. Meccoli worked at the college for more than 35 years as a parasitology technician, and volunteered for more then 20 years at the Wildlife Medical Clinic, before her death in 2015.

“Rose Ann served as the primary caregiver for the clinic’s resident educational animals as well as for hundreds of wild bird, mammal, and reptile patients,” said clinic medical director Dr. Julia Whittington. “Any animal in her charge never knew a more caring advocate or more pampered lifestyle.”

“Working with our residents is very different from working with a dog or cat. Often the birds would not want to participate in training activities,” said Dantino. “I learned pretty quickly that one cannot give up. If you keep trying, you eventually form a bond with the resident and from then on there is mutual trust.”

Meccoli, who continued to volunteer at the clinic even after being partially paralyzed by a stroke, demonstrated perseverance in many facets of her life, including her fierce commitment to helping injured or sick wildlife. (Meccoli is second from the left in the photo above.)

“This work has also taught me about joy,” said Dantino. “One of my favorite aspects of the job has been watching community members become excited to learn not only about the residents but also about their wild counterparts.

“I would not be who I am today if it had not been for the Wildlife Medical Clinic. Working with the residents and treating patients, I have gained self-confidence that helps me feel ready for my final clinical year as well as my future beyond vet school.”

By Irenka Carney