June 26, 2013: Saving a Loved One from Killing another Loved One

~by Louis Templeman

Mom called and let me know her flight was delayed. I wouldn’t have to be at the airport until the afternoon. I was free for the morning. I pulled in my driveway and saw my cat Flo, horsing around in the weeds beside the back fence. I assumed he found a lizard. Then a second look made me suspect a different scenario. My schedule was free so I could be curious. I decided to investigate.

A tiny flurry of black and white feathers escaped his claws. He pounced. Missed. And, began to fan his paws through the fiddlehead ferns, keeping his back arched for another shot at his little prey. I hurried to the fence. Flo didn’t care for my help. He wanted to slip through my legs and enjoy the better view of my big hands folding back the ferns. I was gently discouraging his hunt by squeezing him between my calves. It didn’t work very well but it gave me the few seconds I needed to cup my left hand over the tiny feathered ball of hysteria and lift her up out of harm’s way.

However, the baby bird did not know it was out of harm’s way. She simply thought the big two legged giant was a faster predator than the cat. I tried to place her on the top of the fence but in her fear she winged crazily, dropped back towards me and Flo was on it. I had to catch him first. After I got him I placed him gently on the low roof of my Florida Room, which he frequents anyway. I walked back to the Chickadee chick and placed her on the fence again. This time she fell to the neighbor’s side. I hoped for the best, left her and went back to the house. Flo was climbing down the tree, her access to the roof, and soon was snooping around the fence line again.

Fortunately, I stopped and watched him for a second, just enough to see his twin, Jet, coming over the fence with a black and white feathered prize. He dropped the bird as he jumped down and immediately two twin black cats were competing for her like hockey players on a puck. I ran towards them. I am beyond the age of running and yet I made pretty good time. The cats were startled and backed off for a second, just enough for me to scoop up the tiny feathered ball of fear.

I had a bird in hand and two cats in slobbering excitement behind me. I put the Chickadee on the roof, thinking it a good place for her parents to find her. I gathered the cats up in my arms and locked them inside, with a little water and some ham to assuage their hurt feelings.

Outside I found the chick in quiet shock. She would not move. Her parents were flitting about but would not come close. I decided to take her back to the fence. It was not easy to move her tiny talons from the roof tile. She was so stiff in fear I thought she’d fall off the fence again. But, I was slow and careful and she cooperated. She gripped the fence and remained still as a stone. I walked back to the house and watched. She was immobile. But, now her little mother and father were able to see about her. They flew around her, landed a few feet from her perch and flew away trying to encourage her to take advantage of her second chance on life. A few times one of the adult birds got right close to her and touched beaks.

Finally, after about twenty minutes she started flapping her wings. Then she hopped to the adjacent fence post, about a six inch wing flapping jump. Watching her, I recalled – at least, a hint of memory – staring through the glass at my first born in the Maternity Ward. The little bird was becoming a part of me. I did not really put out that much effort, but I had saved that little one and wanted to see her make it. She hopped to the next fence post. Then again. And again. The parents were flying from twig to twig in the little maple that is dwarfed under an ancient oak. All three were now involved in the baby bird’s little dance of learning to fly. At last, she really flew. Not straight ahead or upwards, but in a descending 20 degree angle into the neighbor’s cat free yard.

My part of the life and death adventure was over. I tried but could not locate the little one. I can only hope for the best. For a few moments, hopefully hours, she was in a predator free space with the mother and father chickadees. She may have made it. I say this, of course, not knowing if she had sustained any serious injury from the cats or from me.

I love my cats. I did not really know the bird long enough to develop an emotional bond. I am glad I saved her life and certainly wish her the best. I discovered I lost my cell phone it the fray, probably when I was running. Fortunately, St. Anthony, himself a bird lover, found it for me and my day got back to normal. An hour later I let the cats loose.

~Louis Templeman

Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D.

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