The Ghosts of Pets Past

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The actual little visitor. 

The baby bird made it through the night. The heating pad, the hasty scrambling for something to feed it, the toilet paper nest. Oh, did I not tell you? Yours truly acquired a somewhat newly hatched baby bird. Species, don’t know.

I am one of those folks who, yes, go out of their way to try and save wildlife and stray dogs and lost kitties. My life has been picking up stray little souls on the sides of roads, finding little feeble nestlings in the lawn and generally trying to save tiny lives others have dismissed as ‘why do you bother?’ Because something in me actually cringes at leaving something to suffer a lingering death. Or a quick awful one from being smacked by a rapidly moving vehicle. My mother also did this. I remember her stopping to help strays and little lives, too. Once a baby rabbit somehow got in our house and she tried to get it fed and calmed down. It died, being too stressed and too afraid to recover. That was the last year of my mother’s life. If you want, you can see that an omen or a foretelling. Or a warning not to try and save anything, we all die. We all die.

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the old apricot tree, home to countless blackbird families

Except for those little lives we manage to save.

I’ve had some success with baby birds. One summer I managed to save and release back into the wild about seven or so. A robin and some tiny quarrelsome sorts that I found huddled up and freezing in a blown down nest. I raised the baby robin and wrote a short story about her. It never developed the colorful breast of the male robin, and it was too big for a starling, so I’m gonna go with it was a robin. It never got tame and as I had no intention of keeping it anyway, it got to hop-fly away. On the day I could not catch it again to put it back into the big cage it hated, that robin signaled I’d done perhaps a little good. Or not. That robin stuck about and took its chances with humans and dogs alike, and then it disappeared…but it survived, for a bit, got to grow up, and then discover the joys of finding its own bugs.

My mother once brought home a goat she found wandering about on the road. She also found a home for it, as we were not set up for keeping it permanently. It had a personality, it liked to drink beer, it head-butted whatever dogs we had at that time. I also remember this old cat named Alice who found my mother at a livestock sale– back when we were living in Southern Washington State. Where we were set up for livestock and my mother had gone to buy some young pigs. Alice went straight to my mother, meowing very loudly. Everyone looked at my mother. Who made it clear that Alice, as she later called that calico cat, was not actually her cat. Why would anyone bring their cat to a livestock auction and sale?? But Alice persisted, and as cats do, Alice adopted my mother and decided my mother was hers for life. Alice then starting bringing her kittens to my mother…who of course took Alice and her batch of kittens home. I don’t remember if she bought any young pigs or not at that particular sale. Alice proved to be a one-cat woman. She was also the best mouser this side of the Mississippi. And an ugly cat, this was not a show cat, this was an outside, scruffy, skinny, barely tolerant of anyone except my mother sort of cat. Rough calico fur, a loud voice, not fixed that I remember.

I won’t go into the Ghosts of Pets Past. The tragedies and triumphs. The assorted scruffy little lives. The bungled and the botched of wild and domesticated alike. But I will try to keep the nestling remanded to my clumsy care alive as best I can.

Don’t worry. No insanely precious stream-of-consciousness poetry is forthcoming. Yet. Yet!!


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That’s one of the local quail, taking a moment to check stuff out

An update: This afternoon, that little life grew still. Breath stopped. The tiny peeping. I wish I could write something here profound and deep as the Marianas Trench. It lived, and then it didn’t. I buried it beneath the oak tree, beneath the carpet of old leaves, among the shy worms and the tunneling gophers from the neighboring fields. I should have made a little boat, Viking style, and let that very young life rise back up into the sky…fire and ash, the ash floating upward, upward toward that sky. I could have sailed that tiny boat, set on fire, in the deep puddles in the lane we have yet. Goodbye, little bird. Say hello to all the other birds I couldn’t quite save.

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