I was scurrying around last June packing for my vacation and was about to fall exhausted into bed as I had a long flight the next afternoon. I was bringing the dogs inside for the night, but one, a nearly deaf female shepherd mix named Sandra, refused to come in. In fact, she kept darting in an old dog house that was on the patio. She would come out when I loudly insisted, but then go right back in. This happened so many times that I decided she had something in there such as a field mouse, dead snake, or who knows what. I finally grabbed her by the collar, pulled her into the house, and decided to check out the inside of the dog house in the light of day.
However, I had forgotten about this until the next morning when I attempted to feed her outside and the same in and out behavior occurred. I bent down and looked in the dog house. I didn't see anything, but old blankets and told her that whatever had been there was gone. About that time I heard a 'cheep' from inside the dog house. I bent down once again and could see nothing. But when I moved the blankets a tiny baby bird appeared. He had most of his feathers, but was still too young to fly.
Sandra had apparently found him somewhere in my yard and put him there for warmth and protection. She knew her brother, Bill, would probably have killed the baby. When Sandra and Bill 'adopted' my home ten years ago as starving stray pups, they had relied upon their instincts to catch and eat whatever to survive. Bill is a gentle, good dog, but small animals are still prey to him.
My yard is very large and I had no idea where the bird's nest was or I could have tried to put him back into it. (It's a fallacy that birds won't accept their young if touched. Most birds don't have a sense of smell.) So I hurriedly began making phone calls and found a woman who is licensed to accept and raise songbirds to be released back into the wild. So I drove 30 minutes to her home, delivered the baby, and gave her a donation to help with his care. She declared the baby a cardinal and said she had three others about his size that he could 'room' with.
Whew! Not much time before my flight and I was back home letting the dogs out for the last time before I was to leave. As I called the dogs back inside, I noticed that Sandra was walking toward me with her head held low. At first I thought she was sick so I began walking toward her. She walked up to me on the patio and gently put her head very low to the ground, opened her mouth, and softly laid another baby cardinal at my feet. She had carried him so gently as to not hurt him.
Oh, my--another dash to the wildlife rehabilitator! After she quit laughing, she asked if I wanted to see the baby birds' home. She had a lovely glassed in porch and little plastic baskets for nests. He was gently placed in with the other little cardinals who would soon be released so that in the dead of winter we can savor their bright red color against the evergreen trees.
Today check out your yard for a cardinal. It might just be one of the babies that my Sandra saved. She would greatly appreciate it if, during this season of good cheer, you remember to feed the birds. Happy holidays to you and yours!
Copyright ©2007, Sharon Scott. No reproduction without written permission from the author.