Two days ago my middle-aged black lab Sadie and I saved a baby bird. It was secondary to our principal purpose of checking on the duck family that lives in our neighborhood pond. I can not verify the effects of global warming on other parts of the world, but here, where we live in northwestern Nevada, birds of all species are having babies at the wrong time. We were monitoring ducklings born late in the summer. Nine had quickly dwindled to two earlier in the month. On Sunday, sad to say, we lost one more. Sadie and I made a careful search in the rocks around the manmade pond. Slowly we climbed up into the waterfall that is turned off each Labor Day and picked our way through the marshy reeds where the bullfrogs and abandoned koi hide from curious youngsters.
Hearing a distressed cry from up the street we went to investigate and found a baby bird stuck under a roll of garden hose in a neighbor’s front yard. It didn’t look like a duckling but we carried it back to the pond anyway. Not until I put the fledgling down did I realize that its feet weren’t webbed and that it sort of looked like a cross between a turkey and a pterodactyl. Sadie and I proceeded home, proud with saving a life, checked the internet for baby bird rescue information, placed the fledgling in a cat carrier with stuffed animals, and waited for Monday to contact the Department of Wildlife.
The fledgling ended up being a baby pigeon. Who knew that baby pigeons are notoriously unattractive. The Wildlife staff earnestly thanked me for rescuing the pigeon, which they would feed and release, and I went home.
There I found Sadie dying. She was paralyzed and scared and dying from what was probably a undiscovered tumor that had erupted, causing massive internal bleeding. In just an half-hour or so, Sadie was my companion, and then she died in my arms.
Sadie and I have been together for nearly thirteen years, adopted after her owners had broken bones in her front left leg twice during her first six months of life. She grew into a loving and very accident-prone dog with a signature walk that resembled a crab – each leg facing slightly different directions as she moved forward. I know that every owner is prideful of his or her pet, but Sadie was special. She never ran away, she never chased other animals, she only barked to protect the family, she groomed our cats, and I sure she knew that the day before, she and I had rescued a pigeon.
So, this is what I believe. I believe in the animal world. Whether wild or domestic, gliding in the thermals, creeping through our bushes, swimming the shallows and the seas, sleeping at our bedsides – animals are our planet’s true guardians. They ask for nothing except the opportunity to live and die as nature has set out for them. Those that we have chosen to be our workers, companions or pets don’t ask anything different. That’s not exactly true. They ask that we learn from them to become better denizens of the earth. My belief is that simple. If we were each to study and model the animal kingdom, then there might be a reason to believe in all the human attributes on which so many homo sapiens hang their hopes.
Today, more specifically, I believe in Sadie. Sadie joined me on an adventure to save a baby pigeon. Sadie reminded friends and family to remember the pure devotion of an animal. Her sudden death allowed me to come to terms with the death of my mother and so many other friends whose lives ended in the past year and a half.
It’s that complicated and that simple. Which is the beauty of the animal kingdom in which I believe.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.