Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dead Animals...

The following events happened a few months ago, but I am just getting around to writing about it...

At the back of our house, there is a hole in the roof's overhang. I am not familiar with all the terms for parts of the house, so forgive me if I am unclear. A bird decided to build her nest up there, much to the delight of the neighborhood cat, Jude, who likes to sit on the window ledge, waiting for the opportunity to snag the bird as she flies in and out. He is patient and hopeful, despite the fact that I have repeatedly urged him to give it up, pointing out that the drain spout somewhat blocks his reach of the opening. He's a very optimistic feline. Well, the day came that the baby birds hatched. We found egg shells littering the concrete stoop and the manic shriek-like chirps of newborns could be heard far and wide.

My kids like to play with a couple of children that live a little ways down the block and they were all happily playing outside when the commotion started. All the children, en masse, rushed in the house, one of them cradling something in his hand. They were beside themselves and all talking at once. The story, when I got them to calm down enough to be coherent, was that they had found a baby bird that had fallen out of his nest. They had told the little boy not to touch it, but he had anyways, and now they were sure that the baby would die. They begged me to help it. They were ready to care of it themselves. Kimmy even went so far as to put padding into one of their dollhouses. However, I found out that it is against federal law to keep a wild bird. Okay, now I like animals, but honestly, if the children hadn't been there to beg and plead in near hysterics, I would have likely left the animal to its natural fate. The neighbor children also ran home to their mother to ask for her assistance. I immediately went to the greatest expert known to man: Google.

Apparently it's a myth that touching a baby bird will cause its mother to abandon it. The article I read suggested trying to put the baby back in its nest, if it is easily reachable. I grabbed the step ladder and gingerly took the funny-looking, floppy little thing (gotta say, I wasn't crazy about touching it at all) and with 5 children and one mom looking on, I attempted to return the infant to its nest. This was easier said than done. The hole was large enough to stick about half of your hand in, but way more difficult to stick it in when you are trying to hold something. And there was the added complication of a nail jutting out into the hole. Great real estate, mother bird! Finally got the baby in there, but I couldn't reach far enough to get it back from the hole or get it up into the nest. I worried that it would wriggle out again.

I was right. The kids came back a little later, with the bird again. The article I had read before suggested putting it in a padded shoebox and then calling the Audobon Society if you can't put the baby back in its nest, or the Humane Society. I put it in a shoebox, then tried looking up the number for the Audobon Society. All I could find was a P.O. Box number. Well, that won't do any good--would have to write them a letter!? So, I called Animal Control. The guy there said, "Um...I don't know...sorry." Then I called the Humane Society. They said that I should call a nature center and gave me the number. The guy there said no, but that I should call a "rehabilitator" and gave me the number to one. The rehabilitator that I called said that she has never had one speck of luck in rescuing baby birds. She suggested that I just let it die. Easier said than done, when you have 5 very excitable children looking on. She finally suggested that I put the baby back in the hole, push him as far back as possible with a stick, then put grass and leaves in there to keep him from rolling out again.

When I went to get him out of the shoebox, however, there was blood around his head. I think it was coming out of his mouth. And he wasn't as full of life as he had been before. I think the second fall may have caused some internal injuries. I decided he would probably die and even if I put him back in the hole, his mother would push him out when he was dead. So I stuck him up there, poked him back with a stick, and placed leaves and grass inside to keep him from rolling out. Then I kept a sharp eye out. The neighbor kids went home and my kids came in the house. I knew mama bird must be back because I started seeing grass and leaves hanging from the hole or falling down to the ground. Apparently she didn't appreciate my decorating skills! When I checked a while later, the baby was on the ground again and this time he wasn't moving. Before the kids could see, I put him in the shoebox again, and hid it in the trash dumpster.

My kids never asked about the bird again. They assumed that since they hadn't seen him on the ground, he was fine. The little girl down the street came by the next day when my kids were gone and asked about it. I lied! I told her he must be fine because I hadn't seen him. I hate lying, but I couldn't bear to tell them that he had died! The girl's mother called me a few days later to ask me about it and I told her the truth. But, to this day, the kids think that the baby bird had a miraculous recovery and lived a long, prosperous life!

Billy had a rather different experience with animals. On his 3rd day of preschool, he dissected a fish. He came home, telling me all about it. I thought he was making up a story. I mean, whoever heard of dissecting animals in preschool? That's just silly! I asked his teacher about it and she said that they had, in fact, dissected a fish. They have pet fish in their classroom and the kids were having trouble understanding what parts a fish has and if they are like people, etc. The teacher decided to buy a whole frozen fish and take it to school to show the kids. She said she had hoped one of the other teachers might be more into it than she was, because she was a little squeemish about it. They weren't. She said she just decided to suck it up and do it because if she didn't act scared, the kids would be fine with it. She let them each practice scaling it and they looked at the insides and the gills and even cut its eye out. She has a picture up on the board of Billy holding the fish's eyeball with a caption that says, "Billy said the eye felt nasty." Billy thought it was great! A couple of weeks later, they played with little dead squids too. Gross!

Arrena also had a dead animal experience. We were walking through the park and she was riding her bike. I saw something on the ground, but before I could make out what it was, she had run over it. Thwump, like a speed bump. Kimmy started screeching and Arrena skidded to a halt and looked stricken. Apparently she had run over a baby bird. Kimmy was calling her a bird killer, but I am convinced that it was already dead. Whether it was dead or not mattered little to Arrena, who felt terrible about running the poor thing over. She looked so forlorn, hanging her head in guilt and saying, "I'm a bird killer." Billy, of course, wanted to pick it up and examine it. He probably would have taken it to school to be dissected. I'm betting Miss Kristalyn wouldn't have appreciated that one little bit.

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