Friday, April 15, 2005

Hurt Birds

Just had my second encounter with the realm of bird rescue... My first was when I rescued a parakeet that had escaped from its owner's apartment. I was in Burnaby, on the way to SFU, when I noticed this clearly displaced bird sitting on it's owner's patio. I approached and tried to catch it. It had had its wings clipped somehow, so it was easy enough to get my hands on -- it could only fly a few feet at a time and, panicked and out of its element, eventually gave up, exhausted. It tried to bite my hand with its little hooked beak as its heart raced in its tiny chest, but eventually it accepted that it was being held and calmed down a little. I walked along the sidewalk trying to figure out what to do with it, wondering to myself what a bird in the hand was really worth. The clerks at the Seven Eleven wanted nothing to do with it, looked at me like I was insane, some guy walking around with a bird in my hand; they treated me like I might be dangerous. It made me a little angry, but as my mood blackened, I could feel the bird starting to struggle, so I tried to calm down. I tried to approach someone in the parking lot, but, appearing as I did ("he's got a bird in his hand and he seems to be containing a certain amount of anger") they rolled up their windows and drove away quickly. I finally found a guy who would listen to me ("Look, this bird needs help; we need to get it to an animal shelter or something; do you know if there is one near here?"), and he drove me to an "animal actor's" establishment, a place where some guy was training and renting animals for use in movies; he phoned the SPCA, and made a deal that if they couldn't find the owner they'd give the bird back to him. The amount of indifference and self-interest I encountered -- even the guy who gave me the ride insisted on giving me a business card and explaining that he was involved in some sort of multi-level marketing scheme -- seemed disgusting; my compassion for the bird marked me as some sort of freak, seemed to require more justification than the selfishness of the people I appealed to for help.

Well, either things have gotten better in the world, or Vancouver is markedly different from Burnaby. I was on the way to pick up a presecription (Topicort for my eczema) at Shopper's Drug Mart today when I encountered another bird -- a small, sparrow-sized creature -- that had apparently flown into their window. It was sitting, panting on the sidewalk, obviously in distress, making no move to get away. I went into the store and approached the first clerk I saw, a guy about 25, with a blonde goatee, glasses, and kind eyes.

"Hey, uhhh... This is a bit weird and has nothing to do with Shopper's Drug Mart, but there's this hurt bird on your sidewalk... I was hoping we could phone, like, an animal shelter or something?"

"Damn!" he stood up. "I am not the guy you want to tell about this sort of thing. I wish you hadn't told me. I can't take it!" He immediately started looking through the phone book. "I don't even know who to call..."

"You could call 411, ask for an animal shelter..."

"No, I'm blocked out... Uh... Let's see. The SPCA." (He started looking for a listing for the SPCA, muttering how he can't stand to see animals suffer.

"If it's any consolation," I offered, "the bird looks like it'll be allright. It's not that badly hurt... Hey, do you have a box or something we could put it in? You make the call, and I'll get the bird."

He set down the phone and speedily began lining an open cardboard box with paper towels.

"Is that for the bird?" a female clerk asked as she passed us. "Because I've got it. I'll take it to the vet up the street." She walked by with a box, bird inside.

The transaction ended there, and I went to the back of the store to pick up my scrip. On the way back, I noticed that the clerk looked markedly relieved, and was laughing with a customer. I felt like I should say something to him, but I couldn't think of what, so I left.

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