Beds, Herts & Bucks

Animal sanctuary in Rickmansworth provides perfect 'therapy'

Harry Wicks with Willow the owl
Image caption Harry Wicks, 23, enjoys looking after Willow the owl and says he loves animals "to pieces"

Caring for sick animals has been the perfect "therapy" for a young severely bullied man with schizophrenia, his father has said.

Chris Wicks said co-running CW Wildlife Rescue, in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, had made 23-year-old Harry Wicks "happy" at last.

The former van driver said animals had always cheered up his son, who is bi-polar and has learning difficulties.

Mr Wicks Jr said: "I wake up every morning with a smile on my face."

Image caption Chris Wicks always wanted to work with animals and "regrets" driving vans from the age of 17

As reported in the Watford Observer, Mr Wicks Snr, 64, started the non-profit rescue organisation three years ago in his garden shed at his home in Heston, west London.

He decided to move to more spacious accommodation at a rented barn at Stockers Farm as there were "incubators in the bedroom".

He said his son had been severely bullied from the age of 14 and had been suicidal.

He has Klinefelter syndrome, a genetic disorder that can cause learning difficulties, and would say his life was like "living in a black tube with no light in it and someone was putting a lid on the top", his father said.

Image caption The centre is currently looking after about 18 hedgehogs

His life was now "under control", his father added.

"Whenever he gets on a big downer, he always gets a big cuddle. We bring him straight down to the animals and it always cheers him up," he said.

The pair are currently looking after about 30 different species, including hedgehogs, owls and swans.

Mr Wicks Jnr said: "It's just a magical place; it's heaven for me.

"The bullies at school said I would never get a job; I would never be happy, I would never have a family,

"I have a job; I have a fiancée. I am so happy."

His father said: "The warmest glow I get is when I know how well he is now. He's a happy lad.

"Being with the animals has been our own therapy. Animals need you, so it's the perfect diversion."

Image caption Chris and Harry Wicks say they do not take a wage for running CW Wildlife Rescue

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