Several days ago, Chester the 77.4 pound yellow labrador retriever leaped from the car and raced into the backyard. Ten seconds later, he had located and cornered a fledgling robin in the soccer net. The avian parents screeched and wheeled above, threatening to poke out Chester’s eyes with their pointy beaks. He headed in, nose down, mouth open as I screamed “NO!!!!!!”, fighting against generations of careful bird-dog breeding. I managed to grab his collar and drag him into the house.
Rafa the world’s largest pomeranian looked on, disinterested.
Visual assessment suggested the fledgey was shaken but not stirred. We had a little chat, s/he and I. ”Look,” I said. ”You can’t hang out here. This is about the worst possible place to learn to fly.” S/he concurred. The robin parents squawked – GET AWAY FROM OUR PROGENY!
I scooped up the bird, evaluating relocation options. The neighbors to the East have three dogs. The neighbors to the West have two dogs. Ace likes to weed whip, almost took out a baby bunny the other day. Fledgey and I settled on the front garden between our house and the eastern folk. Dense spirea and fern coverage.
I attempted to soothe the parents. ”Your baby’s fine, just look under the ferns outside the fence.”
On my way back inside, I noted that several of my smaller freckles appeared to be moving. MITES! ACK! I cranked on the hose and sprayed the – CHEEP! (hop hop) CHEEP! – oh you’ve got to be kidding. Fledgey #2 dodged the water, trying to get away from the crazy lady and her firehose of death.
I shoved #2 through the fence to dwell in blissful harmony with #1. More mites. More spray. Only then did I realize that the birds nest I had seen in the forsythia arbor might be an important player in the current scene. I hauled out an 1850 firehouse windsor chair (extremely practical for birdwatching), got face-to-nest level, and found #3 and #4. #3 perched on the edge of the nest, teetering. I reached and she flew. Sort of. She flailed over to the fence whereupon I grabbed her and shoved her through the board gap to her siblings.
#4 sat placidly in the nest as his parents berated me for my interference. ”If I leave you here, you’ll jump out tomorrow and Chester will eat you. So suck it up and get those wings ready.” My pep talk fell on deaf acoustic organs. #4 clamped his claws on the sticks of his nest and refused to leave. I pulled and pried and eventually extracted. He showed very little initiative, but did manage to totter off beneath the cover of ferns.
“I’m out,” I announced to the robin parents who, no doubt, went on to have simultaneous heart attacks and fall out of their tree that very night. Even a long hot shower couldn’t rid me of the crawling sensation on my forearms.
On Sunday, The Big E left for several days in Wisconsin. Just E. All alone. Without me and Ace. Admittedly he’s staying with dear friends, one of whom is a physician.
Hello metaphor, my old friend.
Ace and I fretted when he slept till 10:30 the day of his departure. ”He looks more pale than usual. Do you think he has a fever? We can’t send him to Walkerland if he’s sick!”
The Big E assured us that he was fine and had every intention of leaving the nest that day. He planned his travel wardrobe, packed his suitcase, and stepped into our friend’s car. Ace and I squawked and fluttered. ”Your sunscreen is in with the toothpaste. Is your seatbelt tight? Don’t forget to wear your helmet if you go biking.”
We feed them. We love them. We teach them to tie shoes and multiply fractions and apply compassion. Then they spread their wobbly wings and fly while we watch from the sky, screeching at the labrador retrievers.