One Small Rescue by Mankind,
One Giant Save For. . .
By Audrey W.
“Well, that was a waste of our time,” John Gage commented after he and his partner Roy DeSoto headed down the side walk of a home in west Carson.
The two paramedics had been sent out on an afternoon rescue involving a ‘man down’, only to find out a woman’s husband had somehow pinched a nerve in his upper back when he reached in the refrigerator for a cold beer. The ailment was something his own doctor could take care of in an office visit.
“We’ve been over this before, remember? And until Rampart and the fire department figure out a better way for Dispatch to assess a situation over the phone, we’re going to have these kind of rescues at times.”
“Yeah, I know, but sti--”
Johnny cut himself off in mid sentence and was on his way off the concrete walkway, onto the grass, the biophone case still in his right hand.
“Where’re you going?”
“Over here,” he said as he now trotted in the direction of one of two large leafy trees in the yard.
Roy shook his head. What now? Did his partner suddenly get the urge to climb the thing? Gage could jump from one subject to another easy enough, but this was ridiculous.
However, it wasn’t the tree itself that had drawn the younger man’s attention.
“It’s a young sparrow,” Johnny stated when he’d reached his destination, his gaze downward. “Looks like it’s tryin’ to fly but can’t.”
He looked upward through the branches.
“I don’t see a nest up there anywhere.”
When Roy joined him, Johnny made another observation out loud.
“There’s a cat under that bush over there watching us.” He pointed to a rose bush up against the front of a house next door. “I wonder if he might’ve attacked the bird and hurt its wing. Maybe we scared him away before he could do more damage.”
“Could be. I’m surprised he didn’t run off with it, though. ”
The men stepped back a few feet to give the feathered youngster the space he needed to feel less threatened.
“Well, he’s not gonna make it like this. That cat’ll have ‘um in no time if we leave.”
“Whata’ you suggest we do? You can’t exactly hold him on your lap in the squad.”
Johnny looked at his partner. “You just gave me an idea, Roy.”
He set the biophone down on the ground and trotted toward the house they’d just come from. After a few minutes, he came back with a large shoe box, the lid included.
“I remembered seeing this on the kitchen table,” Johnny explained to Roy. He pulled out his scissors from his paramedic pouch attached to his belt, then proceeded to poke a few small holes in the lid, along with a slightly larger one at each end of the box.
“What’re we going to do with him?” Roy wondered as Gage handed him the box. “I don’t think the local vets take wild birds.”
“They won’t have to.” Johnny held up a hand to signal for Roy to wait where he was. He then slowly approached the sparrow that was now resting in the grass at the base of the tree. “C’mere, little fella. I won’t hurt ya. . .that’s right, just stay put. . .” He slowly reached out, then picked it up before it could get away. Carefully holding it in his hands, he gave the bird a once over, all the while assuring it that everything was going to be okay. “Looks like it’s got a bad wing, alright,” he commented over his right shoulder. “I don’t think it’s broken, but he definitely can’t use it very well right now.”
“You aren’t thinking of keeping the bird are you?”
“Not keeping it. No.”
“We tried to save a bird that hit our livingroom window once. It wasn’t a day before it died, I think from shock.”
Johnny made his way to the shoe box in Roy’s hands.
“Put some grass in there, just a little. It’ll make him more comfortable.”
The senior paramedic did as requested, but he still had doubts his partner was onto a good idea. Once he had just enough to cover the majority of the box’s bottom, he held the container out for Johnny to place the bird inside. He immediately put the lid back on afterward.
Johnny carefully took the box from Roy.
“Can you get the biophone?”
Roy followed behind the younger man once he had the equipment in hand, doubt still etched on his face.
As they climbed into the squad once Roy had the supplies back in their compartments and those doors secured, Johnny set the box on the seat between them.
After he was in, the dark-haired paramedic placed the box on his lap and waited for Roy to drive them to the station.
“So what makes you think this is gonna work out?”
“It’s not the injury that kills a bird a lot of the time, Roy. It’s the stress.”
“You mean the stress from the injury.”
Gage shook his head ‘no’, then looked at his partner. “When you had that bird that hit the window, what did you do with it?”
“We got a small cage.”
“And you kept it where?”
“In the livingroom. Joanne and the kids wanted to keep checking on it to see how it was doing.”
“Exactly what’s wrong with that?”
“Roy,” he said as he glanced over. “It’s a known fact that the stress of being handled or constantly watched by people can pose more of a danger to a wild bird than the actual injury.”
“Well, if it’s so ‘well known’, how come I didn’t know?”
“How’m I s’posed ta know?”
Roy turned the key in the ignition, while Johnny reached out with his left hand for the mic to their radio. He reported them in as available, then replaced it, all the while being careful not to lean into the box on his lap.
As he pulled away from the curb, Roy asked, “So knowing the ‘well known fact’ like you do, you really think a fire station where eighteen guys trade duty amongst each other every twenty-four hours is the best place for the bird?”
“Are you kiddin’ me? Out of that many guys, I know ‘someone’ would peek. A few ‘someones’ probly.” He glanced down at the box. “Nope, I’m takin’ him home with me. But first I’m hidin’ him in my locker. That way no one’ll be tempted if we’re out on a run.”
“What if the Phantom goes to set up a water bomb in your locker?”
A few seconds later came, “First I’m hidin’ him in your locker, that way no one’ll be tempted if we’re out on a run.”
Somehow Roy wasn’t surprised he’d ended up as the bird’s keeper. At least until they got off shift.
“There, that oughta do it.”
John Gage had lifted one end of the shoe box lid to get a small shallow cap inside. He’d filled it with water and managed only to spill a few drops in the process.
Next he sprinkled a few pinches of bird seed in through one of the holes in the top. He then placed the box in Roy’s locker.
“What about that?” Roy asked, indicating the five pound plastic bag of birdseed.
“Well, I’d put it in my Rover, but I may need to feed the little guy before morning and it sure would help to have some handy.”
Roy nodded knowingly and held out a hand for Johnny to place the bag in. Once the bird and seed were settled in, the senior paramedic closed his locker and sighed.
“I suppose it could be worse.”
“You could’ve rescued a vulture instead of a sparrow.”
Johnny snickered. But if that was the case, he figured he’d probably put the bird in Chet Kelly’s locker. . .just until the prankster fireman opened it anyway.
Johnny’s plan to keep the bird hidden worked until the shift was over. When he finally brought the box out to take it home, the engine crew was surprised that they’d had a temporary mascot in the building that they weren’t even aware of.
“You sure he’ll be alright, pal?” The captain asked.
“Yeah, I don’t think he’s hurt too bad,” Gage explained from where they still stood at the rear of the apparatus bay. “Just needs time to heal so he can get away from predators on the ground.”
“He’s done this before, Cap.”
“The bird or your partner?”
Captain Stanley then cracked a smile at his own joke and patted Roy on the shoulder. “I know who you mean.” He then addressed the younger paramedic. “Good luck. I’ll be anxious to hear how he’s doing when we go on duty in a couple of days.”
The two paramedics headed out to the rear lot toward their vehicles. Johnny carried the shoe box while Roy had the bag of seed.
“I still think you should name the little guy!” Chet called out from his VW Bus.
“No way, man. What if I give it a name like ‘Ralph’ and the ‘little guy’ turns out ta be a girl?”
“Who is going to know the difference?” Marco asked from where he stood near his truck.
Johnny gave it thought, then shrugged. “The bird,” he casually supplied.
Roy just grinned. Leave it to his partner. . .
Gage took care of the bird, just as he’d told Roy he would. He never took the lid off the box, but rather dribbled water in through one of the top holes to fill the water dish. He figured the amount he used was enough without making it overflow. He also just dropped bird seed through another top hole in the lid.
The sparrow was calm, but occasionally Johnny would take a quick peek in an end hole, and could see it was still alive and seemingly at ease in the confines. On days he pulled duty, he had a neighbor in charge of adding a little water and some seed, with the understanding the lid was not to be removed.
It was ten days later when Gage noticed the bird’s beak sticking out of one of the end holes. The sparrow was moving around when the beak disappeared. The added activity was a good sign the youngster was ready to be released.
Johnny took the shoe box with the bird to a local park near his apartment. When he got to an area with quite a few trees, he lifted the lid and watched with a crooked grin as his feathered charge took off. It flew up into one of the trees where quite a few other sparrows were hanging out as well.
“Good deal,” Gage commented to himself.
“So you just let him go?”
“Yeah. What was I s’posed to do, Chet?”
It was the start of another shift and Johnny had just delivered the news to his crewmates that the sparrow was on its own since the day before.
“You could’ve called us. . .or a couple of us. Maybe let us see it off, too.”
Johnny glanced at Roy, who was standing in front of the locker beside his. “Do you believe this?” Gage then looked at Chet. “Kelly, you didn’t even know the bird! Ya never even saw it!”
“But it was here in the building for awhile. He was still part of the crew for a short time. . .sort of. . .” he trailed off with a shrug.
“I would have liked to see it join the other sparrows,” Marco added from his locker near Chet’s.
Johnny shook his head, not sure if he’d ever totally figure out his co-workers. He then glanced at Roy again.
“I suppose you’d rather I invited you too?”
Roy shook his head ‘no’. “But I do kind of miss the five pounds of bird seed. You know, I got a little attached to that bag,” he kidded with a smile.
Johnny snorted a laugh. “Oh__ right__. Of course. Sorry about that.”
If he hadn’t sprinkled the rest of the seed all over the ground for his bird buddy and the other sparrows, he might’ve surprised Roy with it the next shift to finish the joke.
Oh well. . .
But for now, everyone would just have to be satisfied it was a happy ending to a very small, unexpected rescue. One he was grateful he’d made the right decisions with.
Note: I am not going to claim this is the best way to handle an injured bird. The best is to find a bird shelter if possible. However, when my husband rescued one, we did it this way after I read that it's the stress of being constantly looked at or checked on by people that often kills a non-domestic bird. After two weeks, we released ours and it joined the other birds in the bushes, in much better shape than it was when we first took it in. :o)
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