Friday, August 06, 2004
There was a medium sized, greyish bird just outside the door yesterday morning - I thought it had been got by one of my cats. It turned out to be a baby pigeon, and more likely flew into a window, stunning itself. Hence I was fooled into thinking it been a cat. There was no visible wound top or bottom, so I put it in a large cardboard box and let it be overnight.
This morning pigeon was still alive and though not mobile looked a lot better. I took Lizzie the greyhound out for a walk and on my return busied myself with household chores. I potted up some Ageratum - managing to do eight before losing interest, walked back into the kitchen from the yard and saw the lid of the bird box (a wooden tea tray with a weight on it) had been displaced. My fears were founded. In my hallway Big Black Cat was gnawing on a bird thigh. I dragged cat off and pushed him off.
To my horror, dismay and anger pigeon had a very bloody raw thigh and side. Cursing myself for not putting a few more weights on the tea tray, I took pigeon outside to dispatch it. I couldn't do it. I put it on a large flat stone, turned it so that it couldn't see what I was doing, picked up a short garden tool, but it was no good. Enough time had passed for me to lose my nerve.
I have brought the boxed bird up to the study so that it is away from cats. It can get some sun and air here from the south-facing open window. I can swivel round from the computer to see how it is.
After I realised I couldn't kill it, thoughts of a peaceful death filled my mind. Looking around the kitchen, I saw a very old bottle of DeKuypers Gin and wondered if I could put it to sleep with a small pipette of neat alcohol. What a way to go! Was it suffering? It looked like it. Injured birds blink their eye-lids if they are in pain or dying. This one is doing that now, so I guess it is on the way out. Ought I to put it out of its misery?
I curse myself again and again for not being more careful. The damage is done. The wound will probably not heal. The bird seemed to have recovered a bit overnight. But I didn't know where to put it. The first time he got away without injury. This makes it doubly worse.
At least here I can keep an eye out and, if I think it is suffering, kill it.
What is the definition of sentimentality? I looked it up and came across a site new to me called Humanity Quest , which put me straight.
For some reason I have an image of two countries: England and Italy. In the former, anoraked men and women are ticking off their lists; in the latter, stout huntsmen are rifling the sky, bringing down masses of the small birds the English folk have assiduously identified and counted over their land.
Saturday 7 August 2004
Birdy died in the night as I had expected. It was a dove not a pigeon, according to my better half. Mmiden flight, perhaps. I am happy that it is no longer suffering, but dismayed at my lack of moral courage in not dispatching it quickly. I did it in the past when I came across birds beyond repair. Never can you feel so bad and yet so good at the same time.
The older I get the more I stand in awe of life. The more so because I don't think there is an afterlife. Its almost Jainist in its intensity. I save tiny drowning flies and rescue little jumping spiders, though I have no idea what a Jain would do in similar circumstances. Perhaps make sure there is no water to drown in!
I certainly don't allow total freedom. I can be the as authoritarian as the rest, sometimes. If a fly really bothers me - like some humans I know - I get quite annoyed and saying things "If you don't go away, I'm going to have to kill you...but I don't want to". To flies, not humans... Though, not so long ago some young tyke - human not fly or spider - called me a prick for no apparent reason (I didn't even know him..probably honing his low-level intimidation skills. I jumped out of my car - stationary at the time - chased after him and said I'd kill him. But that was a rare occasion. I usually develop sudden deafness for random insults.
Death is a maudlin subject death, true, and MBH is the sort of person who will not discuss anything in its environs, including unhappy endings in films which she refuses to watch. I admit to quite liking the poignancy of unhappy endings.
Saw the Italian film "The Son's Room" (2001) last week on TV and couldn't have made a better ending myself. Three lost people all ambling slowing in different directions on a morning beach. Marvelous. I had never heard of the actor, writer, and director Nanni Moretti, but on this offering am willing to see a lot more of his work. They apparently labeled him "Italy's Woody Allan" but this film certainly gives him a niche of his own.
Death, death, you say. Well, sorry sensitive types, I do have a life and death story to end with. My Greyhound dog is 15+ and well past her sell by date. Deaf, almost senile, a bit wobbly in back legs and doubly incontinent. MBH and several others have said her misery ought to be ended. I think she has a quality of life despite things not being easy for her. I feel I will know when the time is right.
She probably aches at times and her teeth probably hurt but she shows no obvious signs of pain. The beauty of it all is she in almost certainly non-reflective and therefore cannot get as depressed as a human with similar depredations of age. She eats heartily and walks a few hundred yards, enjoying the smells. Her eyes are reasonably good. She can see a peanut on the ground - she likes nuts and raisins and, suurprisingly red peppers! She still has her biological clock, barking for at me from downstairs for her evening scraps if I have not brought it down to the kitchen from the study where I usually eat it on a tray.
It seems - has seemed to me most of my life - that the ability of humans to protect other creatures is one of the most rewarding and important tasks in life. I take that one stage further to trees, which I can't bear to see damaged by vandals. In the UK, this seems to be very common. No sooner is a sapling planted in a communal area, that someone snaps it off. Gives me pain. I am The Mad Saw Man who discretely carries a pruning saw to cut off the broken branches of my favourite trees. I never cease to be amazed by their "endurance" in re-sprouting time and again after being attacked by fools who have not learnt to appreciate their beauty and utility.
A Silver Birch tree in our park was broken right down to the ground one year by kids wanting sticks. It grew up again as a bush with dozens of new branches till this year it was about five foot tall. Some mindless fool broke it down again. In three months it has re-grown from ground level at an incredible rate, a handful of soft eighteen inch shoots testifying to great fortitude and lack of ill-will towards humans. Turning the other cheek, built in so to speak.
For the first time I noticed this year that the Oak tree has a very clever way of growing. In the spring new leaves appear on last years growth. Only in the summer does it send out soft new shoots from the tips of last years stems and from wound areas and cut branches. That's clever. Unlike the mindless idiots who will probably never learn to recognise the need to treasure and achieve satisfaction and pleasure from nature.