by Ana Palles
At half past eight in the morning, my dogs were letting me know that it was way past time for me to be out of bed. Although I knew they had already been out at six, they had a standing date with the squirrels who ran across the top of the fence every morning. I suspected that my dogs had a secret stash of Rolex watches they used to remind us of their various outdoor appointments and of course, mealtime.
I am not one of those bright and sunny morning people and even without the added fog of surgical incisions and pain meds from my recent surgery, it takes me a while to begin processing coherent thoughts beyond the basics of autopilot: use the bathroom and let the dogs out, in more or less that order.
I grabbed my glasses on my way out of my room, but waited to put them on until I could actually focus my eyes. It is not a good idea to go down the stairs with half focused eyeballs. I managed to navigate myself to the sliding glass doors and the two dogs waiting excitedly to head outside.
I don’t know if perhaps it was a sense that they had a heightened excitement, or if it was simply that I caught a glimpse of something odd on the top step of the deck, but for whatever reason, I hesitated. I stopped midway in opening the door and squeezed my eyes tightly trying for a clearer picture.
I thought I saw a mottled grey tiny figure on the top step of the deck. It wasn’t appearing to move and I had no idea what it was.
After squinting at it, face pressed to the glass alongside the husky and the mutt, it dawned on me in a miraculously coherent morning thought that it might be prudent to put on my glasses. The bright flash of this idea was not lost on the dogs who knew something was up although not exactly what. Like Keystone cops, the dogs and I looked around the room in a mixture of confusion and stupor trying to find where I’d put my glasses.
And while it may sound obvious to most, in my defense, I had not yet had a cup of coffee. Finding my glasses wherever I had set them was a moment of sheer brilliance. There they were sitting right on top of the morning newspaper. I managed to put them on, threading them behind along my ears and pushing them on my nose into their proper position. Now I would see what that tiny figure was.
Once again I pressed my face next to the two doggies, and this time I could actually see more than just a blob. I realized it was a little bird, just sitting on the top step.
How strange that it hadn’t moved when I popped the lock on the door.
Hoping that I wasn’t walking out there to some horror movie scene – the one with the dead body propped up to look like a live person -- I pushed my way past the dogs and out on the deck, making sure to keep the dogs inside.
I recognized the little ball of fluff as a baby robin. What it was doing sitting on the top step of the deck stairs catching the morning breeze, I’ll never know. It didn’t budge when I approached, but I could tell it was alive and looked to be ok.
I knew the mottled feathers marked it as a baby. I wondered if the parents decided it was time for it to fly, but that it had other ideas.
At times like these when confronted with little wild animals that need care, I do the responsible parent thing, I immediately go look for someone that can help me take care of the problem. I go in search of my older daughter, Lisa. She is good with animals; as, to my mind, having worked a few years at our local Petsmart qualifies her to work with all creatures’ great and small. Besides, Lisa is really good at not screaming in utter terror. I brought both dogs upstairs with me (sorry, no morning squirrel meetings today, they would just have to reschedule their date) while Lisa went outside to check out the little bird.
Just as it had done with me, the little bird didn’t budge until she actually touched it. Had the dogs been outside, the little robin would not have lasted a nanosecond. The robin half flew half hopped across the yard, but not very well. He landed just a few feet away, then turned around and began demanding food.
The parents were obviously concerned as adult robins hovered and landed next to the baby trying to help out. But strolling around a yard where dogs roamed would not be the healthiest thing for the baby bird. My daughter found a box, laid some tissue paper in the bottom and easily scooped the baby robin into it. He immediately made himself at home loving the tissue nest.
An hour later, the baby robin found itself at the Wildlife Center where my daughter had brought the baby for care. It wouldn’t take long for him to be ready for flight, but in the meantime, he would at least be safe there and would get fed until he was strong enough to fly off on his own.
I thought all day about how lucky that robin was. He was lucky that he was sitting on the top step where he would be visible around the railing. He was lucky that something stopped me from just opening the door and letting the dogs out. He was lucky that my unfocused, sleep drenched eyes somehow managed to spy the little handful of feathers and beak. And he was lucky that my daughter was able to catch him and gather him into a box for safety. And last but not least, he was lucky that we have a wonderful wildlife rehab center in our area to care for little wayward robins.
I guess sometimes, in spite of hovering on the brink of certain doom, everything just falls into place resulting in an unexpected and excellent outcome. Even for little baby robins.