I was mostly joking in my last post when I stated the rules for handling of wild/dead animals at our house. I should have known better. Lydia came to me yesterday with huge eyes and a plea for me to come right away to the deck. She had found a tiny bird sitting at our back door. It was obviously not in good shape, laying on it's side and having a very hard time breathing. My first thought was that this was a little gift from our friend Jolly the Neighborhood Cat. (Who decided we serve the best vittles and has become a permanent fixture in the back yard.) We crouched around the bird and everyone took turns sort of poking it before I finished my assessment and decided the least we could do was bring it inside to die a warm and comfortable death. It was, after all, cold and rainy outside and I've seen what Jolly does to the squirrels, I couldn't let her finish off this dear little bird.
Despite my horrific allergies, I've spent a lot of time with animals in my life. Many people are surprised to hear this because I am allergic to everything under the sun, but it wasn't always this way. There was a time when I slept with my cat and let my dog lick my arm affectionately. These days if a dog licks me I break out in blisters and cats anywhere near my face, clothing or house will swell my airways shut faster than you can shake a stick at a snake. But I also have a huge soft spot for all things nonverbal and fuzzy. So I scooped the little sucker up and put it in a little bucket with a little dish towel and we set it in a corner of the sun room so that it could be near plants and the sun, should it choose to show it's face.
I also have a pretty good knowledge of animal husbandry and veterinary techniques thanks to my Dad who didn't really use the vet for much more than things that were illegal for him to do himself. Because of this I know that birds are extremely fragile and rarely ever recover from an injury or illness this severe. You can't really feed them anything very easily, they dehydrate faster than a thimble of dew on the Sahara and they are so delicate and jumpy it's hard to house or administer to them at all. Still, I wanted it to be comfortable in it's last few hours.
I explained this to the kids as we scrubbed up for lunch. I told them that it was probably going to die and that at least we gave it a nice bed and yes, they could see it in heaven when they died too some day (far, far, far in the future!) All three kids were a bit teary eyed and begged to say a prayer for the little bird along with their grilled cheese sandwiches. I gave in, we prayed for the bird and our food then ate and ran off to our other commitments for the day.
When we got home just after 6pm that night Maggie was the first to remember the birdie and run to check on it. She started screaming and crying. I thought, "oh crap, I've really screwed up this time. Baby girl saw dead little bird."
I raced up stairs to comfort her and dispose of the little body, when to my surprise I found Maggie over an "empty tomb". The bucket was on the ground, and the birdie was no where to be seen. Upon closer inspection of the bucket I saw that there was some healthy looking bird droppings on the little bed, however so my heart started to perk up. (More on discerning healthy vs. unhealthy bird droppings in another post... maybe.) A bird who can poop and leave the box is probably a bird that is going to make it.
Sure enough, the little bugger was hiding under the kitchen table. We had a little chase around the house before I cornered it and returned it to the bucket, with a lid this time. We added some soft wet rice grains and some bird seed (unwittingly donated by Bob the cranky parakeet) and the kids prayed again for the little sucker and we waited out the night. It was too cold and way too rainy and heart breaking to think of turning it lose in the dark that night.
I thought for sure it would be dead in the morning. I think I've turned into a bit of a pessimist over the past year. Disappointments in life will do that to a person. I still kept that happy little feeling from seeing the "empty tomb" though. It was heart warming to see my kids cheering and grinning because their birdie prayers had been answered. And I was surprise the little guy had made it as far as he had from where he had been. Still, my goal was to make it to the kitchen before the kids to soften the blow should there be one to soften.
Luckily, there wasn't. The bird was snuggled down with his bits around him just like he owned the place. He seemed very alert and aware and the weather had let up a bit so we decided to let him go. After all, wild animals take much better care of themselves than we can, except in very specific circumstances.
We set the bucket outside, took a few pictures and then lifted the lid. Everyone cheered as he hopped out and then flew about four feet to land by the fire pit. Enter Jolly the Neighborhood Cat. Introduce five screaming children and one frantic mother in her pj's and no shoes.
NO JOLLY NO!!!!
The screaming was probably heard all the way into Johnston County and luckily it was enough to cause Jolly the mighty huntress a moment of pause just long enough for our little birdie to escape to higher, more dense ground.
It was quite a bit of drama for our house in a short period of time. It could have turned out much, much worse, at several different points. (Imagine not finding the bird in the house until you could smell it.. ugh!!) But I re-learned a valuable lesson from the whole thing. Just because something bad is the most likely outcome doesn't mean that's the outcome that will happen. And never, never, never doubt the power of a child's prayer. Especially when it's three children bent on the same sweet desire.