by Jane Lenel
The midnight security guards covering the 35 acres of the Cathedral Village grounds in upper Roxborough are of course out to assure the safety of the retirement community’s residents.
On the lookout for unwelcome intruders — which they fortunately seldom find — their job is also to see that the operations of the CV physical plant, such as water-pump pressure, are functioning properly. They also answer residents’ emergency calls of all sorts.
However, in the 15 years that Judy Carney, 59, has been on the job, she has added other concerns to her patrol — dealing with creatures with curved horns, sharp macular tools and more than two legs for speedy getaways.
Conflict with these creatures is a possible danger, but Carney is fearless. She knows how to deal with wild temperaments and considers her work an opportunity to help rather than punish. Actually, she loves and befriends many of them — with a few exceptions.
For example, it was difficult one time when she encountered a group of foxes enjoying a mass rabbit banquet on one of the CV lawns. She couldn’t rescue the rabbits from the mouths of the predators, but she did bring on a speedy fox exit. Actually, the problem seldom arises anymore since the rabbit population has been pretty much decimated.
An entirely different situation another night was the hunky snapping turtle she met lumping along a path, lost and far from his/her home. Evading a major snap, she picked it up, unscathed, took it home and gave it to her brother to put in the creek where the snapper belonged.
“One of the tricks to approaching animals,” she said, “is to freeze on the spot so you don’t scare them.” Then of course you need to know how to help them if necessary without injury to yourself or the creatures, somehow showing your concern. Animals seem to sense that concern, especially when Judy takes them home to Roxborough to join her family of pets and, formerly, to her four children — Patrick, Jimmy, Jill and Colleen — when they were young and lived at home.
As a child, Carney said, “My life was always full of pets: mice, snakes, chameleons, lizards, birds, dogs, fish, etc. — allowed by my mother as long as we took care of them.
“More recently I’ve had every kind of animal imaginable, including two baby pygmy hedgehogs (they look like mini-porcupines) and a handicapped hamster whose injured leg I had to amputate.” These have kept company with her two Japanese Chin dogs, a Boston Terrier, two cats, and two ponds of koi and goldfish.
Other rescue missions have included the unfortunate possum she found in a resident’s bathroom that she rescued and released, and the almost dead squirrel and baby chipmunk she found lying miserably in someone’s doorway.
She wrapped them in a warm blanket in a box and took them to the Schuylkill Wildlife Clinic for care and freedom. There was also a dog, miserable and confused by the ear-piercing July 4 fireworks who somehow had found its way onto the CV campus and was lying outside an apartment.
Brought to her attention by a resident, Carney and another employee took the dog to the security office and with the help of others was able to locate the dog’s owner.
Then there was the snorty dinnertime greeting she got from a gathering of deer that didn’t delight Carney. But this inhospitality didn’t lessen her concern for one deer stuck in a fence that she helped a game commissioner set free. “Although slightly injured,” she said, “it did limp away.”
So Judy Carney has made many and varied friends and acquaintances on her midnight to 8 a.m. roams of CV’s large grassy campus, and fortunately she’s able to keep in touch with the outside world while on indoor desk duty , particularly the skunks who lick the nearby building windows.
She also enjoys thinking of the groundhog mothers she’s met in front of the main building traipsing down their entrance holes and coming out their back doors (holes). But seeing birds injured by flying headlong into the windows concerns her, so she does her best to help by taking them to the Schuylkill Wildlife Clinic.
Needless to say, Carney is a passionate animal lover, but her rescue abilities and knowledge of how to care for critters can’t be traced easily to her studies at the Shawmont, Dobson and Levering Elementary Schools or Roxborough High School.
Or even to her later professional activities as treasurer, president and co-president of Shawmont Elementary School Home and School Association, or her positions as president of the government council at Shawmont, regional representative of 42 public schools in Northwest Philadelphia, conflict resolution among parents and teachers or her years of working with the kindergarten students at Shawmont. And it’s doubtful that Judy’s life as a basketball, volley ball and softball player, coach and umpire produced her care for possums, snakes and the like.
Who knows where this passion for animals came from? It just comes naturally to Judy, and the world would be a much better place if everyone else shared it.