Darwinism. Maternalism. And Zeke.


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.


Notes: Image Credit: Redovercoat.com. For more posts on Zeke: Zeke Series



  1. Ah this hurts..needless to say I would have done the same thing Susan did, mourn the loss of this baby bird and need some time to resolve the wondrous qualities of my pup with the realities that cannot be controlled. I’m so sorry.


    • Yes. Thank you Mimi. And don’t miss today’s article in the NY Times: “What the Sparrows Told Me

      After a few weeks I realized that instead of starting each morning with the newspaper — a die-hard news junkie’s habit— we needed to focus on something beautiful, something positive, something alive. My father had been told that he had terminal cancer 40 days after Katrina. He didn’t know a Mugimaki flycatcher from a Hudsonian godwit. But during his last days he loved to watch the birds come to his feeders. If watching birds could help my father die, maybe it could help me live and teach.

      I bought two bird feeders. Each morning I sat on that back stoop and watched those sparrows. Instead of wondering what was going to happen to the city, to the Gulf Coast, to the planet, I started wondering why one sparrow was hogging all the seed. I started thinking about their resilience, their pluck, their focus on immediate needs. If they couldn’t find food, they went somewhere else. If they lost a nest, they built another. They had no time or energy for grief. They clung to the fence in raggedy lines heckling one another like drunken revelers on Bourbon Street. Their sparring made me laugh.

      My “sparrow show” got me through the mornings and Audubon Park, home and nesting grounds of many migrating birds and ducks, got me through the afternoons.

      ~ Trish O’Kane


      Liked by 2 people

  2. Reminds me of the day an Armadillo wandered into our yard, getting the attention of the four Labs. The dogs thought it was pretty cool, the Armadillo…not so much. The women screamed, the Armadillo Shrieked (for a short time) and I had to clean up the mess when it was over. Like they say on Sesame Street, “Poop Happens”.

    BTW…how was the couch last night?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am sad for the baby bird, Susan, Zeke AND you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nature has no morals or compassion. Nature simply is.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. mothers grieve when they cannot save a creature from what is the natural order. it does not make the loss any more easily swallowed.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Been there….

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As disheartening it may seem, mother nature was at play. I love what your shared from NY opinionator. I would like to share it in my blog credit via to you, David. Poor Susan and Zelke. They both have good intentions. I watch the birds as well anywhere I go. Birds eating birds. What can we do, eh? Good Sunday to you and the Kanigan household.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I feel sorry for the bird – poor kid. Susan’s response was natural as she’s kind hearted. And I did smile at the ‘live kanigan reality performance’ 😉 that was terrific.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. 🙂 Thanks Sonia.


  10. I’m so sorry to hear of the baby avian’s demise, and of Susan’s sorrow. She’s obviously a kind soul, and Zeke, well, Zeke’s a dog, and he was ‘doin’ his dog thing.’ When my first Dobe, Chance, was a young lad, we walked out one morning and found a baby bird on the driveway that had fallen from its nest. He saw it, leaped, and popped it into his mouth. All I saw were two tiny feet sticking out. I screamed ‘NO!,’ which surprised him so much that he dropped it…and then after looking at me to judge the distance between himself, me and the bird, decided to go for it…again. Grabbed it up in his mouth, I said ‘Don’t even…’ and he did one big ‘gulp’ and swallowed it whole. I thought I was going to be sick and he looked, well, pleased. Sigh…..

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m still face down on the couch. And it’s Monday afternoon already.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. At first blush, it seems somewhat contradictory to harbor a carnivorous pet in your home when you are doing everything to encourage its natural prey to visit (unless, of course, this is your way of avoiding the purchase of dog food). Then again, the predator/prey paradigm has been around a lot longer than we have, and will no doubt survive the reign of man on earth. Besides, I can’t begrudge a dog a meal of fresh, local bird when chicken and turkey are on every restaurant menu. Although I myself am a vegan, I am well aware that this compassionate approach is not in the natural order of things.


  13. Alex Jones says:

    The raw side of nature.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I have mixed feelings while reading this. The dog is doing what he is bred to do. Susan is doing what her heart calls her to do. After all the baby birds I have tried to rescue, I can’t think of one that survived. There’s a reason they are booted from the nest or fall, etc. But it still tugs at the heart.

    Liked by 1 person

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