Ellie and I came home from the store Saturday to find our big dog, Drake, proudly carrying something around the yard. It wasn't a ball or a stick. He had that ears-down, slightly guilty yet incredibly proud puppy face on, as he usually does when he has caught a critter, so we at first assumed he'd nabbed another mouse. Good dog.
But then Ellie got closer to investigate and shrieked her alarm. Drake was carrying a baby sparrow. He reluctantly but obediently came when I called him and set the little thing down at my feet when I demanded, "Drop!"
The soggy little bird was still alive and made a valiant attempt to hop away. Seeing his treasure escaping, Drake picked it up again, ever so gently, and pranced off. We watched him set it down, watch it hop, and pick it up again several times. He didn't appear to be hurting it, but how much stress could the young sparrow take? I shrugged and walked away, concluding that this must be the reason the sparrows seem to always have two to three young, so they can afford to have one stupid one who launches himself out of the nest too soon.
My dear daughter's reaction was not the same.
She flew into action, scolding the dog and chasing him around the yard until he turned his captive over to her. He is, after all, a very good dog, and has conceded over the years that his place in the family pack is, unfortunately, one step below the little girl. I think he is humiliated by this, but he is, like I said, a very good dog.
So, Drake relinquished the bird and Ellie scooped it up. She got a shoe box and a towel and placed "Tweetsie" inside. I tried to talk her out of it. I really did. "Ellie, that bird is not going to live. He's been carried around by a dog, probably has a broken wing, and is terribly stressed out. You can't do anything for him."
But she could give HER (I stand corrected) a place to rest and get strong again and there was no dissuading her. Minutes after the little box was set up, I found the girl carrying Tweetsie around the house, cupped gently in her hands. The bird was not squirming or chirping and looked almost content. Or half-dead. She put it on the table and let it hop around, then picked it back up, stroking it and cooing sweet nothings into its little birdie ear. I watched this pattern repeat itself several times and realized it was really no different from what the dog had been doing, only perhaps a little less slobbery. I strongly suggested she just put the bird in the box and let it rest for a few hours.
We set the box on top of the chest freezer, out on the construction site where it was out of the hot sun and out of the reach of the dogs, and left the lid open a bit for some air. She checked on Tweets several times, then went out with her daddy for a date for the evening.
It was eleven o'clock when the pair returned and she immediately headed out to check on Tweetsie. Seconds later, she stormed back into the house in a panic. Tweetsie was gone. The box had not been disturbed, but there was no bird to be found. We got flashlights and scoured the area. No bird. We scoured some more. Still no bird. The dogs didn't have the little thing either. Tweetsie had apparently flown the coop.
Ellie was, of course, devastated. Through her tears, I commended her for her efforts. She had rescued the bird from the jaws of death, had provided it with a place to recover, and now it was strong enough to face life on its own. She had done the best she could. She finally believed me, decided she was actually a bit of a hero, and went off to bed happy. Tweetsie hasn't been spoken of again.
This story sounded vaguely familiar, so I looked back through my archives here. Sure enough, almost the identical scene played itself out two years ago, at almost this very time. Here is the link. The older entry has a photo. This girl is a little bigger than the one in that photo, but the scene of birdie love is otherwise essentially the same. Enjoy.