On Saturday afternoon, one of my dogs caught and killed a baby bird. I still can’t get the scene of carnage out of my head.
See, both my pups love to hang out on my covered porch with me. (I installed a baby gate to safely confine them.) I read and drink my coffee, while they observe the traffic, our neighbors and the constant procession of squirrels that fearlessly launch themselves from dogwood to crepe myrtle across my postage stamp front yard.
Most of the time, Sam and Charlie just lay side-by-side in front of the gate, letting loose the occasional growl or muted “boof.” Pedestrians, cyclists, the white cat across the street and our long-suffering mailman get a full-on cacophony of threatening barks, but it’s just noise. If anyone actually approached the porch, my fluff balls would cower under my chair. Little wimps.
My porch is flanked by two columns, the top corner of each providing the perfect small ledge for a bird’s nest. A family of doves makes their home on one or the other of the columns throughout spring, summer and fall. In the 10 years I’ve lived in the house, they have probably birthed 40 chicks.
My dogs get curious about our guests from time to time, wagging their tails when they hear rustling from above. I’ve been startled a few times by Mama Bird zipping across my line of sight from my neighbor’s roof to her nest. But for the most part, we all peacefully co-exist — the doves don’t bother us, and we don’t bother them.
I love watching Mom feed her newly hatched babies, and later seeing the baby birds furiously flapping their wings as they learn to fly. It ain’t exactly Wild Kingdom, but it’s cool to see some of nature’s magic from such a close vantage point.
On Saturday, my dogs and I were happily perched in our respective spots, when I noticed little Sammi Sue out of the corner of my eye, haunches up. I assumed she was hot on the trail of a water bug, which is usually the only wildlife that deigns to encroach on her territory (at least, at her eye level).
Next thing I knew, Sam was standing in front of me with a bird in her mouth, blood trickling to the concrete, its broken neck hanging limply to the side.
I could tell that Sam was so proud of herself for finally bagging a pesky critter. She has chased birds, bunnies and squirrels in our back yard for years, never quite catching one before it slipped through the fence. So bird in mouth, she stood regally at the storm door, scratching to get in.
There was no way in hell I was going to let her bring a dead bird in my house. No. Fucking. Way. Aack.
I told her to drop it as calmly as I could, considering I was both emotionally and physically sick over the whole debacle. Poor, mangled baby bird. Eww.
Anyhoo, I did not want to scream at my dog for only doing what her instincts told her to do. (I’m also a big “circle of life” person, being an omnivore and all.) So began a 15-minute tango that at one point involved a broom (no, of course I did not hit Sam with it) and a dust pan.
I finally got my wee hunter to drop the bird, quickly scooped it up and dumped it in my side yard. Then I had to deal with the blood. I think I was more traumatized than the damn bird. Yeesh.
All of this reminded me of some of my favorite childhood stories, one of which my mother told me at bedtime: Little Amy finds a baby bird with a broken wing, and with the help of her Mommy, nurses it back to health and sets it free. I told the same story to my son when he was small, substituting his name for mine.
I also couldn’t help but think of my neighbor growing up, who actually DID nurse a baby bird back to health, and it stayed with her for the rest of its life. It just happened to be a dove she called Tiny Bird, and I would go over there to gently pet its head just to hear it happily coo.
You might have gleaned from all of this that I am an animal lover. Seeing lost or injured dogs and cats make my heart hurt. I’ve had to stop following certain charities, news organizations and people on social media because I cannot deal with their posts about animal cruelty (even when it they have a happy ending). I can’t even stand to watch an animal get hurt in a fictional movie or TV show. I literally have to leave the room or change the channel. My reaction is visceral and intense. Can. Not. Take. It.
Please allow me a small tangent: I know this whole ice bucket challenge has become a huge awareness campaign for ALS, and that’s great. It’s a worthy cause that benefits research toward a scary disease, but it’s not one I choose to support.
With my affection for animals, I’m understandably drawn to animal-related causes, although it’s been a while since I have actively participated in one. The bird incident and the purveyance of friends dousing themselves with frigid liquid has got me to thinking that I ought to get myself involved again with causes I care about.
I also recently participated in a “visioning” exercise with a wonderful friend who happens to be a life coach (bear with me; this tangent is also related). This structured activity helped me map out what I want my life to look like over the next year, in all conceivable areas — spirituality, money, home environment, career, etc.
It also provided some insight into my problem areas, one of which is fear of commitment. That fear most certainly affects my romantic relationships (yeah, um, I don’t have one). But the bigger picture showed that I am reluctant to commit to anything — people, places or groups. I’ve been so focused on establishing my autonomy over the past couple of years that I’ve inadvertently isolated myself. I don’t want to get “stuck” again, as I had been in past relationships, and even jobs. (One fantastic thing about working for yourself is that you’re not stuck with anything or anyone … which is probably why I love it so much.)
Part of my new “vision” is to face my fear of commitment and join some groups that are meaningful to me, thereby opening myself up to new people and experiences. All that said, the logical selection is an animal rescue group. (Suggestions of ones you like are welcome.)
I’m still upset about the dog-bird incident, but I’m hopeful it will ultimately serve a greater purpose — getting me off my ass to help animals in need.
I also hope it won’t deter the dove family from returning to my porch to hatch their fall flock.
I promise to keep a better eye on my fluffy predators next time.
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After 10 years, she's still just saying.