Susan finds an abandoned baby bird on the lawn in the backyard. She has to protect it. To save it.
She cups it in her hand. She calls out to me to help.
“Put it back.”
I don’t get a response. A few minutes later she has the bird in a clear, plastic container. Where did she find that? (Note to self: Cache of Bird paraphernalia is growing.)
“Look at how cute she is.”
I glance at it. I’m gulping the flashback: What’s with you and birds? It was a different mother then. A Robin. Also, trying, to protect her young. The irony not lost on me.
“What do you think we should do?”
“I think you should put it back.” She’s getting attached. This will end badly.
“But it can’t fly!”
Zeke is circling. He’s sniffing wildly. His eyes are full. His breed and his blood, the Vizsla, was trained for generations to look up. To flush. To retrieve. It’s all about Birds.
“Its Mother can’t find it either. Go put it back. Near the trees.”
She ignores me. (Again.) I see her cupping the bird. Bobbing its beak in water.
“Come on birdy. Take a drink. Then we’re going back.”
That was Thursday.
Birdy had reappeared near the fence yesterday afternoon.
Zeke’s body is taut. He’s trembling. His tail is in full point. He’s caught the scent, and he’s giddy with anticipation.
“Zeke, stay back!”
Susan stands between Zeke and Birdy, with one hand gripping his collar.
I’m watching the scene from inside the house through the second floor window. I glance over at the bird feeders. She’s had three hanging since early spring. Bright lemon Goldfinches (males) peck away, the low drum of their tap-tap-tap offering percussion. Their female lady friends sit on the fence waiting their turn. Doves waddle below picking up droppings. Birds, many species, zip in and out of our backyard from dawn till dusk. We have re-routed the migratory flight paths in the Northeast – – I’m certain causing major ecological disruption. I don’t ask what the cost of the non-stop feedings run at The Kanigan Bird Sanctuary. Some things are best left unknown.
“Zeke, stay back!”
My reading now disrupted, I’m anxious to see what happens next.
“Zeke, I told you to stay back!”
Zeke is tugging on the leash. Susan is straining to hold him.
He breaks free.
He clamps down on Birdy and runs deep into the bushes with Birdy’s tail feathers bobbing from his mouth.
Susan, horrified. Screams. “Zeke! Let that bird go.” The Baby she has nurtured and saved is now in trouble. Deep trouble.
Susan continues to yell at Zeke to let it go. Eric comes out to join in the fracas.
I can’t bear to let it go on any further, I shout out the window:
“He’s a damn bird hunting dog! Leave him alone! You’re sending him mixed messages.”
“Shut up Damn it. We don’t hunt. And bird hunting dogs aren’t supposed to eat the birds, are they? Come down here and help.” Well that’s nice. The neighbors are getting yet another live Kanigan Reality TV performance – – without having to pay cable fees – – and I’m sure wondering about the source cause for the screaming.
I walk up to Zeke. He’s nestled way back in the bushes, flat on his belly. His snout is laying ever so gently on top of the bird. I see the bird’s body trembling in distress. And I see that Zeke couldn’t be more at Peace.
I grab him by the collar. He snatches the bird in his mouth. And I drag him out of the bushes where I begin coaxing him to let the bird go.
“Is it alive?”
I don’t respond.
Susan walks away. She can’t bear to watch anymore.
Zeke looks up at me, not sure what to expect.
“Zeke, that was great. What a good boy! Let’s get you a treat.”
I head back into the house and find Susan laying face down on the couch.
I arrive back at my perch, back to my reading, soothed by the tap-tap-tap drum of my goldfinches.