Critter Tales

A science museum ran short of funding. A number of their dead, taxidermied birds had to be destroyed by fire, the method prescribed by law. Having obtained approval and permission, the staff began their sorrowful task. As the smoke rose, one of the volunteers looked upwards, and pointed. “Look! Is that a hawk? Why is he flying above us; why doesn’t he leave?”

Indeed it was a hawk which circled lazily on high drafts far above the smoke until the burning was done. Was he sent there, Heaven’s emissary, to guide the souls of his fellows below to a far better place? You say.

A battered Mourning Dove was bought to us missing most of the feathers necessary for flight. He was an adult who ate well, seemed otherwise uninjured; just couldn’t fly. So he sat for some days in his solitary cage waiting for his flight feathers to regrow [a process which takes months.] Being social birds, it seemed to Sabrina and I that he was becoming depressed, so Sabrina set a mirror near him. Now at last, he had a friend. Birds don’t know themselves from reflections and it did seem to brighten him up some.

Then, early this March, a three week old fledgling Mourning Dove was bought to us. March is too early for mating and babies, but because the winter had been so mild, procreation got a jump start and thus the new dove on our doorstep.

Now, a ‘fledge’ is akin to a teenager; they leave the nest, mom or dad flies down to them on the ground periodically to feed them, check on them, and teach them about what is involved in being a dove. This one had gotten separated from his parents somehow, so many of his survival lessons had remained untaught.

He, like all immature Doves, was unable to feed himself, so Sabrina, using a special instrument, fed him until he learned.

Despite the little one’s bad luck, he has ended up in the second-best place he could be: Sabrina’s house. We set ‘little’ in the same cage as ‘big.’ ‘Big’ will act as surrogate parent, and, through mimicry- watching ‘mom’ peck, and preen and flap wings, she will learn how to do so herself. Rehabbing might well be impossible without such mimicry and surrogacy.

A tree was cut down; momma squirrel fled in terror leaving two surviving offspring. They were bought to Sabrina. She checked them over.  They were fat, healthy, and without disease. Sabrina then said softly to wherever the mom might be: You done good; real good. They continued to gain weight, and become active. But, sadly, we heard from the rescuer that a full-grown female squirrel comes out everyday to the stump of the tree searching for her lost ones. We ran through all the scenarios for re-uniting the family, but ultimately, the ever-presence of cats in the neighborhood turned that possibility from heart-warming to potentially fatal for her babies.

Not long thereafter, Sabrina was bought an orphan squirrel who had not fared so well, under-weight, poorly nourished, and flea-ridden [this causes anemia over time.] Despite his desperate plight, My Lady patiently worked her magic. Soon the fleas were gone, his weight was up, his energy improved, and he was put into the cage with the two older baby squirrels who adopted him on sight. But the two olders did something else: remember I told you about mimicry? One day as I watched, I saw one of the biggies eating a peanut, and, although I don’t speak ‘squirrel’, I can imagine the conversation:

Little: What’s that you’re eating?

Big: Peanut. It’s good for us. Also, check out those sweet taters.”

Little: I like milk..

Big: Milk is for babies; get over it. Here, try this.

Little: [Chomping tentatively] CRICKEY! This ain’t bad!

At night, they roll up together and sleep the sleep of the warm, well-fed, and unafraid, and who knows, maybe Sabrina will figure a way to get all three back to the faithful momma. [Hmmm, I thought I only lost two, now there’s three, but they all have the same smell, so maybe I was wrong.

[Ed. Note: squirrels don’t count all that well, but their sense of smell rocks!] Even if we cannot find and release them to mom, they will be kept in out-cages here as they strengthen, then released, and begin their life anew. A second chance, courtesy of my Sabrina.

It must also be said that rehabbing accompanies you to hearts warmer than you might suspect:

A vagrant man found an injured squirrel. He took it up and found the phone number of one of our rehabbers. Could she come get it? [We typically don’t retrieve.] He spent his last twenty dollars to pay for a cab. Now, with no way, save walking, to get home, she gave the Good Samaritan twenty dollars. Two good hearts there.

In a neighborhood lived a woman who rehabilitated birds. One day, she heard a knock on her door. There stood a homeless man she had sometimes seen about the neighborhood. He thrust out a small bird to her. “I found her fluttering in the road. I couldn’t bear the thought of her being hit by a car. Can you take care of her, missus?” You see, he had learned through the ‘grapevine’ that this lady not only helped the injured, but knew how to do it.

Homeless maybe; but not heartless. Such deeds set a smile on the face of Heaven.

– Lucky Garvin

 

Look for Lucky’s books locally and on-line: The Oath of Hippocrates; The Cotillian; A Journey Long Delayed.