It's about the flap of wings, the anguished cries of an animal in pain, the decision to do what's right - not for money, fame or other gains - but because it's what's right. Because it's what I would expect anyone else to do in the same situation. I've been called a "collector" and a "rescuer" of broken and lost souls by a fair number of people (including my mom and grandma), but this was the first time I really saw my actions as a separate entity.
This is what today's post is about:
And ironically, the story of how this poor jay came into my posession started with food. I was out in the backyard picking tomatoes and peppers to take to my massage therapist this morning, and decided to check on our grape vines to see if there were any bunches of Concord I had missed (and if I could steal some more of the yummier Cabernet Sauvignons) and maybe grab a few of our strawberries for a mid-morning snack. As I walked down the row, I kept hearing the caws of a bluejay that were way closer than I was used to hearing, and looking around a flurry of frantic activity in the netting on one side of the row caught my eye. While I expected a bird, I was not prepared for the sight I came across: the poor thing was upside down, flailing helplessly, and had tangled one foot in the netting, attaching it to one of the twigs and pretty much binding it six ways from Sunday. In an obvious panic trying to get free, the bird twisted and pulled so much before I came across him that he broke his leg at the knee joint, and I could see the bone poking through the skin. It was the first time I had seen a compound fracture in "real life", and I admit it originally scared me.
Then the adrenaline kicked in. I didn't even have to think it over, I didn't even pause to consider if the bird was sick, what I would do with it, if it would even live for long enough to be worthwhile. I just knew I had to get him out, take as decent care of him as I could, get him any and all the help I could find and afford. Nobody deserves to be in pain at all, nevermind being left alone, hanging upside down by one broken leg. I could never imagine leaving any person or animal in that situation. So I did the only thing I could at that moment - I dropped the bowl of tomatoes I had collected, jumped over the row of strawberries and carefully grabbed hold of the creature from behind, pinning his wings so he couldn't flap about. Not having scissors, I bit through the plastic netting around the tangle and got him free. As soon as he knew he was'ne attached to the fence anymore, he relaxed - exhausted, I'm sure, by the pain and exertion. I made a beeline right into my bathroom, which became (as I called it) Birdy Triage. The first thing I found in the bathroom (as I was looking for a dish for water) was Orajel - and suddenly it made total sense. Not only would it get rid of some of the pain, but it would help somewhat sterilize the wound so that I could look at it closer.
It worked - I was able to not only examine the leg, but calm him down enough that I could wrap it in gauze and tape it with the only thing I could find - Band Aids. I put him in a box with a towel and a little dish of water, covered it so he couldn't fly out (he can still fly!) and spent the rest of the day calling, Facebooking and Twittering anyone and everyone I could think of to find a shelter to take care of him that wouldn't euthanize on site. He had - has - so much life and vim left in him, that aside from his leg he's a totally healthy wild being. If I didn't believe staunchly that wild animals should be as free as they were born to be I would fight to keep him, but given that he is a wild animal, has a mate out there calling to him and that I live in a home with three cats, three other humans and a dog it is so not right on so many levels. But I refuse to give him up to die just because others won't deal with the situation. You don't kill a dog because it's hurt it's paw, or even if it's been hit by a car. Assisted suicide is against the law pretty much everywhere in the world, even if the person is clearly in pain and will never recover. I think all creatures deserve the same respect. Call me crazy, but there you have it.
I did, in the course of my searching, manage to find a shelter willing to take injured wildlife, and they gave me the name and number of a vet to look at his leg. With luck saving this bird's life won't put me in the poorhouse, but in the long run I don't really care - you can't put a price on life. And regardless of what the naysayers think, the good karma I reap from whatever I can do tonight and tomorrow will have effects when I truly need it most.
What would you have done, in my situation? Have you ever rescued an animal?