HAWLEY, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – One nurse who lives in Hawley doesn’t quit taking care of others when her shift at Hendrick ends, she just starts taking care of different animals.
Jennifer Kleinpeter grew up riding horses and having a menagerie of pets, both domestic and exotic, in her home state of Alabama.
From dogs and cats to ferrets and iguanas, Kleinpeter had them all and fell in love with taking care of wildlife.
She also grew up wanting to go into nursing because wanted to care for people, too.
But as life does, it gets in the way and forced Jennifer to make a decision. Should she take care of people or take care of animals?
Kleinpeter finished nursing school and has since been a registered nurse for a decade, specializing in heart procedures.
When the opportunity arose, Kleinpeter moved to Abilene and took a job at Hendrick Medical Center, where she started structural heart procedures and is now a coordinator.
“It’s a lot of collaborating with physicians and all of our units in the hospital,” Kleinpeter said. “Getting these patients scheduled and collaborating with them, as well.”
But her work isn’t over when she returns home. In fact, her second full-time job kicks in.
“I am sub-permitted with Texas Parks and Wildlife, and in the process of being a permitted facility,” Kleinpeter said.
She works as a wildlife rehabilitator in Hawley, bringing in injured and orphaned small mammals, such as raccoons, skunks and foxes.
Kleinpeter hadn’t been in the Big Country for a year before she received a call about four baby skunks in need of care.
She waited several hours and heard no response, so she went and picked up the four kits and brought them home and nurtured them until they were ready to be released again.
“I started out with four baby skunks and the door was wide open,” Kleinpeter said.
Now, she has close to 20 skunks, two foxes, three rabbits and a box turtle, all looking to be nurtured back to health and released.
She said out of all the animals in her care, she loves to rehabilitate skunks the most.
Most people would say “that stinks,” but Kleinpeter said they have the most adorable personalities.
While most of the animals can be in and out in just a few months, some of the animals there need a little bit longer.
Speedracer, an injured skunk, was hit by a car on Treadaway Boulevard in Abilene, leaving him with significant brain damage.
Kleinpeter said that Speedracer was unlikely to survive, saying she had to “scrape him off the pavement.”
But, he has made significant process in his recovery.
Since the accident, his brain damage has caused him to walk in right circles.
That’s where he got his name.
However, he has made progress and has been able to look left when walking, and has begun to show signs that he is getting his defensive mechanisms back, such as raising his tail.
She said that rescues like Speedracer are great examples and are used for education in the community.
“We are growing in our community,” Kleinpeter said. “We are seeing wildlife all the time now.”
She said her goal isn’t just to get these animals back healthy and say “smell you later,” but to also educate the public on their importance to the ecosystem and to give the animals the respect they deserve.
She said one way to do that is by leaving these normally nocturnal creatures be if they are seen in the daylight, and to know that if a skunk or fox is seen during the daytime, they are not always sick or rabid.
To prevent any disease from getting into the rescue, Kleinpeter said she vaccinates all of the animals when they come into the rescue.
They receive rabies, parvo and distemper vaccinations, keeping them safe from diseases when they are released, as well as making them safer to handle when needed.
Kleinpeter also said that the rescue facility accepts donations, whether that’s financial or a stuffed toy as animal enrichment.
She said that if you are interested in donating, more information can be found on the rescue’s Facebook page, “The Little Rehab That Could.”