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Wings Bigger Than Ours


A client just wrote to me, upset for months over an incident with an injured baby bird.  It had fallen out of its next, and she took it home to care for it, hoping to return it to the nest when it recovered.  Such rescue is always an act of love.  She was feeding it and put it down for a moment, but that moment esalated like fast forward when her dog suddenly leaped, grabbed the bird, and killed it.  For months, the woman has been blaming herself, assuming responsibility for the bird's death.  She came to me for some clarity.

I didn't have to stretch to empathize wit her.   I have been in that position a number of times.  For years,  I was actively involved in Muscovy duck rescue, retrieving scared, injured, abused and victimized ducks from lakes, parking lots, streets.Once I took in an almost newborn duckling -- tiny and still yellow -- who had been abandoned and seemed to have a broken leg.  I called the president of the rescue group to ask for instructions on its care until I could bring it to She told me to test its leg for spring by lightly moving it up and down in the palm of my hand.  As I did this, holding the phone under my chin, the tiny bird in my palm, and my other hand testing its leg, my excited Irish Water Spaniel suddenly leaped up and chomped on him -- right through its delicate chest.  Hysterical, I ran  with the duck in my hand to a neighbor who worked for animal control who was miraculously home morning.   She euthanized him as I watched, in tears, but grateful that she was there to end its suffering.

Another time, in heavy traffic, I stopped to pick up a two foot tall anhinga, circling in a daze after being by a car. I took him to a friend's pond where he swam and seemed all right but was not and had to take him the next morning to the Wildlife Care Center  when it opened Monday morning.  A few days later i called to check on his progress and learned that he, too, died.  I grieved.  Two of myschnauzers killed ducks, years apart.  One killed a duck in in my parents' yard, and I brought it to an animal shelter, feeling guilty.  Years later, my feisty little schnuazer attacke a young duck who innocently flew ino my fenced yard.  I brought it, dying, to the vet to be put out of its misery, sobbing the whole way, my hand on her chest, administering Reiki.  Each death brought sorrow.

Why are we brought into these scenarios? What is the lesson? I believe it is twofold: one, it invites us to be the best of who we are, reaching the pinnacle of our capacity to love and care for other beings.  Second, it reminds us of nature's supremacy.  In the last incident, my ex-husband said to "punish" my dog because she killed a bird.  "She's a schnauzer.  A hundred or so years of careful breeding perfected this natural instinct in her. She was doing what she is naturally meant to do, and she did it well.  She was being her best self. "  The best self nature presents does not always coincide with what we would like to see happen.  These deaths are a reminder that we are not in charge of life.


 I explained to my client that she was  responsible for nothing other than providing loving care for an abandoned bird.  The outcome was like a piece of thematic literature:  nature reigns supreme.  We are not as grand and powerful as we like to imagine. Bigger wings prevail.

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