My first thought was that it might have been one of the pet birds my son has been raising for the past six months. Though the little darlings are locked safely behind the bars of their cage, the cat has been known to jump on the top and knock the whole contraption over. Tiny birds are amazingly difficult to catch, l learned, as I watched my son chase the finches around the room with a bed sheet ballooned over his head.
But no, this small creature was a wild bird.
I hate it when my pets bring in live but injured animals. Sure I can rescue them from their captors, but what does one do with internal injuries or a broken wing? And do you know how fragile bird bones are?
My brother’s family had a canary that suffered a broken leg due to an unfortunate accident involving a canister of flour and a heavy handed child. My brother, being the independent type, decided to help the little fellow along by setting the bone and wrapping it in a narrow ace bandage. They call the bird ‘One-Legged-Jack’ now.
I stared down at the unfortunate creature debating what the best course of action was. By my side, the dog beamed with pride and the cat looked down right jealous.
Staring at the bird before me I was reminded of the incident of the broken winged robin that had happened the year before.
It was evening that day when I walked into the kitchen to find my cat happily playing with a large red breasted robin. It’s left wing hung in such a way as to assure me it was broken, but it’s eyes were bright and incensed.
I rescued it from the indigent cat, while debating what to do with the poor thing. If I threw it back in the yard, it would be forced to wait helplessly to be dinner for some larger carnivore or worse, to suffer a slow death from starvation and pain. On the other hand, I didn’t want an injured bird living in my kitchen eyeing me angrily every time I tried to give it food or water.
“Just kill it quickly and put it out of its misery,” suggested my son, the one without the pet birds.
“And how would I do that?” I asked.
“Just hit it on the head with a hammer.”
We couldn’t find the hammer, of course, and I refused to let my meat cleaver be sacrificed for the heaven bound Robin.
“You could twist its neck like they do with chickens?” that same son suggested.
An idea which, though we all agreed with in principal, no one was actually willing to do.
“Perhaps if we leave it outside in a box it will be dead by morning,” I suggested.
And so, after finding the right size box, fitted with a clean rag and a small pyrex custard cup of water, we place our injured fowl out on the back porch and suggested it rest in peace.
The next morning, the darn thing was not only alive but active, hopping about the box, dragging its broken wing behind it and complaining profusely about the accommodations.
At last, with no other option, I did what all residents of this free country do when faced with an impossible situation. I called City Hall and they dispensed the animal control truck. The brave officer, who handles rabid cougars on walking trails and rattlesnakes that have taken up residence next to back yard swing sets, showed up at my house and took custody of our houseguest, box and all. I left the rag but retrieved the custard cup.
This year I was not willing to go through another painful bird incident and so I determined to scoop the guy up into a dustpan. Once I'd retrieved him from the floor I headed outside.
My two pets watched me in stunned amazement. What was I doing with their toy? Didn’t I realize how hard it was to actually catch a bird? Those dead ones weren’t nearly as much fun to play with.
But I ignored their pleading eyes and went to the edge of the deck, intent on tossing the visitor into the depth of the strawberry plants where it would hopefully heal or die peacefully.
As I raised the dustpan up, low and behold the bird flew out and off into the distance. I guess it just needed the right motivation to push through its shock and fear.
To me this was the perfect ending to a difficult problem. My dog and cat still haven’t quite forgiven me though.