Saturday Morning Drama
I rolled out of bed at 6 a.m. yesterday so that I could make it to my Weight Watchers meeting at 8 (yes, it takes me two hours to get my act together - you got something to say about it?). I let the dogs out into the back yard and then headed to the bathroom. As I wandered back down the hallway, I heard Fritz barking outside. I am not one of those dog owners who allows her dogs to bark at 6 a.m., so I rushed to the sliding glass door and started to call them in. I saw all three dogs freaking out over something on the ground, pawing at the grass and barking. My heart sank. Oh no.
I threw on my flip-flops and ran off the deck, waving my arms frantically and screaming, "Leave it alone!" I didn't yet know what "it" was, but I did feel confident that whatever it was, it surely was not enjoying the scene as much as the dogs were. I spotted the young bird on the ground, frantically trying to flee from the momentarily distracted dogs. I ran around in my pajamas, trying to shoo the dogs inside. I think I stepped in poop about eight times. The boys, Fritz and Giddy, actually listened and went inside. Gretchen, however, was not giving up so easily. She grabbed the bird in her mouth and sprinted across the yard. I yelled out every command that any dog has ever learned just in case one of them might register. "Drop it! Leave it! Down! Sit!"
Finally, she dropped the bird. It lay motionless on the ground, the brief weeks of its life having just flashed before its eyes. I grabbed Gretchen by her skull-and-crossbones collar and led her inside. Boxers are not natural hunters but apparently they are natural . . . torturers. Or something. I stood there in the dining room with my heart pounding, grateful that I have privacy fencing and that it was unlikely anyone had spotted me galloping around in my pajamas, braless, shrieking at the dogs. They might have heard my maniacal screaming, but at least I spared them the visual on that one.
I fed the dogs and tried to figure out what to do. I finally summoned the courage to look out through the door. The bird was now sitting upright in the dirt (our back yard is in a sorry state - dogs and grass, it seems, are mutually exclusive) and did not seem overly stressed. He appeared to be waiting patiently for a bus. I grabbed a shoe box and an old washcloth and tiptoed across the deck and over to the bird, while the dogs watched with rapt attention. I scooped him up and put him in the box. He didn't put up a fuss at all. I looked him over and the only obvious injury appeared to be to one of his feet - it looked like one toe (?) was possibly broken. I put the open box in the garage and put a paper towel over it.
When P finally rolled out of bed to find out why I had been screaming a half-hour earlier, I asked him to check and see if the bird was still alive. You probably saw this coming but yeah, the box was empty. My feathered but flightless charge could hop like a pro, as it turns out. P recaptured the wayward bird and this time we put the lid on and weighed it down. There were two small holes in the box. Before long the bewildered captive began flinging himself at the lid and poking his beak through the holes.
I put the box in my car and after stopping at my meeting just long enough to weigh in, I drove the bird to our local wildlife sanctuary. I am beyond grateful to have this facility nearby, as I've needed it quite a bit. Our back yard is the size of a postage stamp and hosts exactly one tree (a large, well-established tree). We've tried many times to plant a second tree, but apparently young saplings have certain requirements and "daily flood of urine" isn't one of them. As for animals, we do absolutely nothing to attract wildlife to our wee yard. We don't hang feeders or anything of the sort. We don't plant vegetables. And yet, someone insists on giving birth in our yard every year. We have a deck that's about a foot off the ground, which is perfect for labor and delivery, I guess. It's so low to the ground that we can't get under there, but small mammals sure can. One year it was opossums and last year it was rabbits (and those are just the ones we know about). When Karl was alive he was always shoving his nose under the deck and pulling out baby whatevers. Sometimes he killed them outright and sometimes he only put a good scare into them. Many times I have taken injured and/or petrified juvenile furballs over to the wildlife sanctuary for rehabilitation and release. I really don't know what I'd do if the sanctuary wasn't there. Now that Karl has died, I've seen countless rabbits in the yard this spring - I wonder if word has spread that ding-dong-the-black-dog's-gone. They are probably copulating under the deck as I type this.
I can't help but wonder if some of these animals are just getting really bad real estate advice from their agent or something. Seriously, of all the houses on this street, they choose the one with THREE dogs in it? The birds should have been safe up in the tree, but it seems something went terribly wrong. In addition to the not-yet-ready-to-fly bird the dogs found in the yard, there was another, more macabre, discovery. On the deck railing, which is probably just 7 or 8 inches wide, lay a dead bird. It's feet were in the air. I assume it fell out of the same nest and had the misfortune of slamming into the railing on its way down. I quickly scooped it into a bag so that the kid wouldn't spot it when she got up.
As for the living bird, the wildlife rehabilitator told me that she thought he was in pretty good shape - just too young to fly. I am hopeful that he'll get a happy ending. He seemed pretty feisty for a bird who had just been in a dog's mouth an hour before.