Clinging to Life

One of the comments made by a reader of the last post reminded me of this incident, which helped clarify my commitment to helping alleviate unnecessary pain, even when the rapid approach of death is a certainty. It wasn’t easy to go through, and I hope I did enough at the time.  I’ll never know for sure.

Birds build nests under an area of our roof between our home and the one next door.  It’s an area protected from wind and bad weather since our houses are close together.  However, some nests are sturdier than others, and some winds are stronger.  I don’t know how it happened.  My wife came and told me there was a baby bird lying on the cement between the houses that must have fallen from the nest.  I thought about the fact that our neighborhood has a lot of outdoor cats, and went to see immediately.  The bird was so young I couldn’t even tell what species it was.  It had more pink skin than feathers.  It couldn’t have been more than a day or so old.  Perhaps it was so light that a wind had knocked it out of the nest and partially broken its fall.  It wasn’t dead.

The bird was lying in a small pool of its own drool and waste, with the sun beating down upon it.  It wasn’t making any noise, but I could see it making feeble attempts to move.  At an earlier point in my life I would have stepped on it, to end the pain quickly.  I can’t explain why, but in a miraculous moment of empathy I got a sense of how hard that bird was trying to cling to life.  I could not witness that and not at least attempt to honor the bird’s efforts.  I got a washcloth, and gently scooped it up and took it inside.

My wife and I got right to work.  It was obvious this was a race against death’s clock.  The bird was so small, and had been suffering from pain and exposure.  I cleaned it and kept it warm and gave it water with an eyedropper.  We tried calling an emergency vet for information, but the vet suggested there was little hope.  Still, we turned on the computer and frantically searched for information, while I tried to follow my own instincts of what to do.  The baby bird perked up a bit when I placed it in the palm of my hand.  It curled its claws around my finger, and looked up at me intently.

While I kept holding the bird, looking for changes in its vital signs, my wife went to a nearby pet store and got a liquid vitamin mixture suitable for wild birds.  The little bird took a few drops.  I had learned some pretty convincing chirp sounds from a parakeet I had owned as a child.  I got down close and whispered the chirps to the baby bird.  It chirped back!  My wife came back into the room all teary, saying, “It’s talking to you.”

I could see it wasn’t going to work.  It had been about three hours, and even though the bird was more comfortable and didn’t appear to be in pain, it was growing weaker.  It still lay in my hand, claws curled around my finger, but now it was lying with its eyes closed as if asleep.  I could see the tiny chest rise and fall, and see the pulse of the surface vessels.  I warmed it with my breath.  Internally I tried to project the thought to the bird that it was all right to let go of life.  Immediately after I did that, the bird gave out a slow breath, and the little claws slowly relaxed their grip.


Filed under animal communication, Ethics and Morality

14 responses to “Clinging to Life

  1. That was really touching and well-narrated. The young bird had pleasant memories of love in its dying moments thanks to you. You did your best…thats all we the live ones can sit back and do.

  2. That was very touching story. I have similar ones I could share but none would be as beautifully written as yours was.

    I live in a semi remote location and although we do not keep livestock now and do not rescue animals any more either, we have had a long history of doing the same. To feel a tiny life in your hand and then see it fade like a candle that’s been snugged out is always a painful experience for me. Unlike many country dwellers I have never developed a rhinoceros hide around my heart. So when we have to euthanize a fawn that’s caught caught in fence wire I grieve the loss of that life.

    Some grow more callous as they grow older. I’m not among them with me the “tough veneer” is a thin one indeed and growing thinner day by day, so I appreciate your reference to an earlier time in your life when you would have stepped on the tiny bird.

    You write well Mikey and I will link to your blog and put yours on my reading list.

  3. This is such a moving story. Thank you for sharing it.!

  4. When soul touches soul the bigger differences between them cease to matter.
    That you and your wife were human and he or she was bird, didn’t matter, souls touched soul and love flowed though the connection.
    The littlest soul surely knew that and the little claw grasp demonstrated the acknowledgment and appreciation of that fact.
    That tells me that all that you did was exactly what was needed and that little soul probably knew that the battle was lost, …
    …if it were You in little souls position and you knew that too, how so much more comforting it must be to pass away gently and loved, in the arms of a friend.

  5. Gemma Sidney

    I just discovered this post (and your blog, via the Good Greatsby). This entry is so touching and well-written. I am very much interested by the idea of animal communication. I’ve met a few people able to communicate telepathically with animals and it’s fascinating… something I hope to achieve some day!

    • I’m gratified to have my old posts discovered, and Paul is a better gateway than most. I think anyone can learn to understand other animals better. I see no reason you can’t too, Gemma. Move slow, project your intent of pure interest without harm, and try to help them get what they want, which is often food. I haven’t encountered any animal that doesn’t offer enormous gratitude in return for even small kindnesses.

  6. jgavinallan

    The last paragraph made me tear. My whole day today was a little bit of a “weepy day.”
    You body of work is so gentle and touching. The sensitivity and mature emotions that run through the piece are refreshing. Thank you, it was very sweet and heartwarming.


    • Thanks, Jaye. (I see you must have dropped by via Gemma, so I’ll thank her too.) Crying is difficult for me, but I consider it a sign of good mental health most times. I’ve had days like that, and usually felt much better the day after. It’s better to be sensitive than insensitive.

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