Monday, January 21, 2008

A long story about a short life

On Friday I got off the bus after work across the street from the Park & Ride where I’d left my car. I had a message on my cell phone from the veterinary oncologist. Keeper the Airedale should come in for her chemo treatment that afternoon. It would be a quick appointment because she had had her blood work done the day before.

I was not looking forward to a slow drive north in Friday traffic. I crossed the street with the other commuters, mostly students because this was 2:30 pm, not 5:30. Walking past the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store, I saw a crow on the ground close to the cement side of the building, beside a tuft of grass. I stopped. A woman passing said, “That’s an unusual sight, isn’t it?”

I said, “He’s probably dying.” The last time I had seen a crow on the ground, sitting at the base of a tree in my yard, it had died not long after I took it to the wildlife rescue center.

Not a happy camper, I walked up the street to where the sheriff’s office is conveniently located, thinking someone there would know which wildlife office you’re supposed to call when you see a sick or dead crow. Then they would pick up the crow and I would not have to worry about it; I would worry about my dog instead. The unhelpful young woman at the front desk handed me the phone number for animal control—like they’d come rushing over from 20 miles away to pick up a crow.

So I had to pick up the crow and take it somewhere. A lot of people had walked past it, doing nothing more than giving it a glance. I thought of wrapping it in my coat but then I’d have to dry clean the coat if I didn’t want to share it with the mites and such that wild birds carry. Thought of taking off coat and sweater to retrieve my tee shirt, which was the last layer next to a bra, but I’m not the sort of person who enjoys drawing attention to herself.

Duh. The crow was sitting outside a thrift store. I dashed inside and bought the first towel I found. When I came back out, the crow had struggled to its feet and was hopping into the busy street. I put my briefcase on the sidewalk and followed, holding up one hand at an oncoming car like a dorky police officer in a movie. Coming from the other direction was a school bus. Both vehicles stopped while I stalked after the crow, towel ready to wrap around it. I didn’t want it to panic and flap over to an even busier street.

So much for not calling attention to myself—a middle-aged woman in office-work clothes following a crow up the street and holding a towel.

When I wrapped the towel lightly around the crow and picked it up, it didn’t struggle at all, which indicates it was in pretty bad shape. So off we went to the Park & Ride to get my car, drive home, put the crow in a box, wedge the box in the front of the car, look up the address of Progressive Animal Welfare Society’s wildlife rehab. center, get the dog—the one who loves to kill things—and put her in the car, and set off for the town of Lynnwood where north turns into south and east seems to be in the direction of west.

Even with a GPS, it is not easy to find your way around Lynnwood. I decided to drop off the crow before going to Keeper’s vet. Just about any vet will euthanize an injured wild animal at no charge. But not crows. Because of West Nile virus scares, they can’t deal with crows.

The wildlife center is tucked away in an obscure corner of Lynnwood but I got there and handed over the boxed crow to the woman at the front desk. I wanted to look at it one last time but she said not to open the box in the front lobby. She said I was one of two people bringing in sick crows that afternoon.

I’ll bet the other person didn’t get sniffly about it, but I do have a good excuse. I have accumulated an awful lot of dead things over the past few years.

It’s a rare wild animal that dies of old age. Most die from illness, human interaction, or being eaten by another animal. If I see a downed bird in a wooded area where it won’t get kicked by a person or eaten by a neighbor’s cat, I leave it alone. Interference isn’t always a good thing. Prolonging your sick dog’s life isn’t always a good thing. But sometimes they are. I just try to do my best guess at what’s right.

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