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.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

supposed to publish as a link

the new chicken house

This one can be dignified with the name of "coop" instead of "hutch" like the last one. I raided the front yard for bricks that I used to line the border around the coop. There's also a hardware cloth floor inside under the wood chips because it doesn't come with a floor. The original perch was high up, so we drilled some new holes and lowered it, hoping the hens will eventually figure out where it is.

I bought the coop used from some lovely people with equally lovely chickens and even a banty frizzle house-rooster who wears a diaper and strides around the house all day, commenting on everything he sees. He shares their house with a rabbit,a collie mix, and a teenager (and parents).

My chickens are still getting used to their roomy new quarters, which should be big enough for 3 or 4 chickens. My son and I put it together a few days ago and the chickens still have to be pried off their hutch in the evening and put in the new coop. Yesterday I found one of them trying to get into the hutch, though I had shut the door, and the other hunched miserably on the top, getting dripped on by cold rain. I opened the side of the new coop and put the gold-laced hen on the perch. Once I got the silver-lace in the new coop, she stayed out of reach, so I couldn't place her on the perch.

This morning they were both camped out on the floor. I imagine they'll still need some help finding their way inside this evening.

This is the Chick'N Barn:

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

greatest accomplishment of 2008

We’re talking only one day so far. No big deal, you might say; but I’ve spent the weekend finishing up procrastinated projects, including clipping and bathing one of the dogs without setting up the grooming table, moving the last ten or twelve boxes of books from the garage to the downstairs, and today trimming Peaches’ beak which is the most disliked of many dreary tasks.

Most parrots keep their beaks trimmed by chewing on toys, scraping on perches provided for the purpose, and eating. In the past few years, none of that has worked for Peaches the Amazon. I wrap him in a towel and he swears, struggles, and bites at the towel while I try to maneuver various clipping instruments to take off just the tip. When he needs a major trim, I take him to a vet. Last summer I saw a vet use a cuticle clipper to trim and shape his beak perfectly, so that’s what I tried this time. Because the blade is small and curved, you can clip off bits on each side of the beak’s tip, keeping it pointed and symmetrical. A major load of guilt is now gone, with the trimming followed by major cleaning of cages.

But that is not the big accomplishment. Even the fancy new chicken house (stay tuned for that) is not the big accomplishment.

The big accomplishment is rearranging the garage and putting my car inside. Other than a few weeks in Portland when I put my car in the garage before using it for storage, I have never used a garage for storing a car. In some houses, this was because the birds lived in the garage and in some there was simply no room. In this house, however, the birds live in the mud/laundry room, much to the dogs’ delight because they can nose around for dropped food every time they go in and out of the house. With the books out of the garage and many of the packing boxes flattened and put away, I drove my car inside and pressed the button for the door to roll shut. So now there’s a dark red Saturn LW2 taking up what was this nice, big empty space.

I don’t know if I like having a car in the garage; it makes the garage smell like car. This does not seem healthy for the food, artwork, wrapping paper, portfolios, camping equipment, tools, gardening equipment, extra table linens, and many other items stored there. Will they all wind up smelling like car exhaust?

slightly unfocused Peaches