Burton on the Bay
Vol. 9, No. 25
June 21-27, 2001
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Help Keep Noah's Ark Afloat

When your household numbers 150 displaced wild creatures, where are you going to go when your lease expires?

God gave Noah the rainbow sign.
No more water, the fire next time.
- James Baldwin, 1963

Velvet and Ted Kitzmiller aren't worried about more water. And something about as bad as fire has already struck. They have lost their lease.

So how can they (with our help) keep Noah's Ark afloat?

The predicament the Kitzmillers are in here in North County is of ultimate concern among those with a passion for wildlife, especially injured, sick and orphaned wildlife. The citizenry is aroused, but as yet it's unclear what can be done.

This Ark can't sink. It’s practically a landmark.

This modern ark dilemma is for real and more serious than the woes posed by Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) when he wrote of Noah’s concerns in his piece, "Wine and Water": And Noah, he often said to his wife when he sat down to dine: "I don’t care where the water is if it doesn’t get into the wine."

Ted and Velvet, the two contemporary Noahs, have much more on their minds than where the water goes. For starters, how about where some 150 members of the captive wildlife community will go?

They're not captive in a literary sense, and they're not in a zoo, a carnival or a circus where people can gawk at them or toss them a peanut. Most are what Ted and Velvet probably would refer to as "temporary captives."

Their Noah's Ark isn't a big floating boat of wood planking waiting for the waters to rise, nor is it already afloat. It doesn't have two of each species aboard. But they're praying for a miracle.

You see, their Noah’s Ark - which is really a sanctuary, though something akin to a wildlife hospital - is on land, high and dry.

And unless the miracle comes quickly, some of the sick and injured wildlife have no future. They face euthanization.

This is the plight of three caring members of a Pasadena family with a passion for wildlife. It is also a story about mending wildlife, much of which at this time does not have the capability of making it on their own in the wild.

Delivered by Water

I first came in contact with Ted several years back when a leaking bathtub faucet plagued the Burton household on the shores of Stoney Creek. When time allows, I can be a fairly capable handyman around the house and the three lots that make up the ranch, which incidentally - due to our handouts - is something of a zoo with all the rabbits, squirrels, ducks and songbird visitors.

When, after many attempts, it became obvious that all the washers I tried couldn’t stem the flow of the faulty faucet, I knew I needed help. But who to call?

Once before, shortly after we moved to Riviera Beach, we had a leak in the pipe that fed the washer. We did what any new resident in an area would do. We called a plumber who lived in a fancy house/business complex a few miles down the road.

He sent a young man who looked like a high school student, who puttered around for a few hours before finally fixing the leak. When we got the bill, we knew why that plumber could afford to live in such a nice house. We also figured that the apprentice dispatched to 178 Park Road could make his college tuition by fixing pipes part time.

We weren't to be burned again. We Yankees are a frugal lot who won't accommodate what we figure are excessive costs like paying an unaccompanied apprentice the full journeyman's hourly wage while he's doing on-the-job-training, trying to figure where the water is coming from and continually phoning the boss on our time to seek advice.

They're praying for a miracle

So I went to the yellow pages of the independent Glen Burnie/Pasadena phone book and looked for plumbers - and not those with expensive full-page display ads offering 'round the clock service, radio-equipped vehicles and other things those with plumbing woes end up paying for manyfold.

Of all the ads in the yellow pages, none have more entries than plumbers or lawyers. But nestled amidst all the gaudy, in-color, space-hogging listings was a small unpretentious black and yellow line or two that read Three Bears.

Now when you're looking for a plumber, not a homespun zoo, "Three Bears" is bound to get your attention, especially if you're an outdoorsman. So I looked no further. Soon the faucet was dripless, and the bill was reasonable. The plumber himself, one Ted Kitzmiller, did the job - and with no apprentice or helper standing by to hand him a wrench.

I learned Three Bears originated via the family’s appreciation for wildlife, and I learned what they were doing at Noah’s Ark with their 14 -year-old daughter Jessica and volunteers. I realized it was the makings of a good story, but alas, one I never got around to doing. In writing, we have what’s called "aces in the hole," stories we can always write, saved for a time when there’s a blank computer screen, a blank mind and a screaming and impatient editor. It will always be available when that time comes.

Noah’s Ark Now Drains Down the Hole

But now, Noah's Ark might not always be available come next month. The landlord tells the Kitzmillers they have to move by the end of the month. This month. The property will be rented to a family member of the owner moving to these parts.

Within the property, there is a house and the sanctuary, and moving isn't like you and I packing up to relocate to a new condo.

You can't put orphaned baby birds in a closet. There's gotta be four acres of land to accommodate raccoons, squirrels, ducks and such - whatever is sent to the Ark via veterinarians or citizens.

Figuring in are costs of property, zoning laws and time. Even if you took the hands off the clock, time keeps passing, July 1 looms. Ted isn't a wealthy plumber, the current rent is $900, and he picks up the tab.

The Kitzmillers are "incredibly dedicated people," said Amy Holstein, the Crofton veterinarian who performs surgery on the inhabitants of the shelter. But even for the most dedicated and determined, finding four affordable acres of land and a house zoned to allow a sanctuary wildlife can be mighty worrisome.

As news spread that the sanctuary and its inhabitants were endangered, support came from within and outside the community - to the tune of more than $3,000 in donations. But that's a drop in the bucket compared to what's needed to carry on the work of the Kitzmillers.

TV, radio and newspapers have pitched in to make people aware of the plight of Noah's Ark and its inhabitants, prompting the county to get involved, but thus far there still isn't a solution. As I said, moving a whole menagerie ain't like you and me calling Atlas Van Lines to move us to an adequate facility.

The clock keeps ticking, Ted, Velvet and Jessica keep making their daily rounds, July 1 looms. Only the wildlife is free of worry - and that's because they don't know what's going on as they're treated, fed and watered with loving care.

That's what's going on up here in North County. If you have any ideas, or want to help financially, you can call Dr. Joe Lamp, who’s handling things for the distressed Kitzmillers, at 410/647-6051. They’re burned out by the whole ordeal and busy taking care of their charges. Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly