This is a true story …
She comes at the most unexpected time. In the evening, when the sun has sunk behind the hills, and it’s time to roll back the canopy on the terrace to allow daylight into the flat. I head towards the kitchen door and open it to let in the cool evening breeze. Something crawls around my foot. A kitten, on the first floor? I look down and see a small pigeon.
She walks, but can’t fly. I presume she would have the moment my foot touched her body. Something must be wrong. Maybe her leg or wing is injured? I fill two bowls, one with water and another with bread and seeds, and place them near her. She doesn’t touch them. Frightened, she seeks refuge in dark corners. I let her be and watch her from behind the terrace door.
Darkness falls. I switch the lights on in the lounge. She hides by the flower pot next to the kitchen door. I must not disturb her. Later, before I go to bed, I must lock that door.
Discreetly, I close the door. She’s sleeping on her feet by the flower pot. Let her be …
It’s still dark when I wake up. Under the moonlight, I see her shadow against the flower pot. I slide open the terrace door. She doesn’t move.
I turn on the coffee machine, sit in my chair, and switch on the computer. I hear wings flapping. Through the netting, I peek outside. Birdie is thrashing herself on the terrace tiles. She makes an attempt, falls on her head or sideways, and tries again, as though her legs are paralysed. She can’t walk. What happened? She was pacing the terrace last night. I took photos …
She’s still trying to hide from me. Desperately, she moves to the opposite side of the terrace, and then, under the table, seeking refuge. I don’t know how to help or comfort her. I take a soft floor brush and gently move her towards the food and water. She perches on the food bowl, then on the water, and stays put.
I check my watch, 7.30 am, can’t call anyone at this hour. I wish my downstairs neighbour were here. She’s good with animals and would know what to do. My conscience hurts as Birdie flaps her wings and falls sideways. She’s trying to hold onto life.
My plans for the morning and the day over, I desperately Google information on vets who might take care of birds. I come across a name I took my neighbour’s cat to. I punch the number on the landline. No reply. At 8.30 am, I call my neighbour, away on holiday, asking for help. “Any vets who can take care of birds? This one is dying and I can’t do anything to help.”
She comes back with a name, someone she knows, but he won’t be at the clinic till 10 am. I look for a suitable box, lay some paper at the bottom, get dressed and call the Vet clinic after 9 am. They tell me I can bring her in.
I lift birdie with plastic gloves and put her in the box. She’s faint, but still living. I drive slowly towards the address not far away from home.
Carrying the box in my hand, I walk into their office. “Can you please help her? I think she’s dying.”
The young Vet takes her out of the box and examines her with his gloved hands. He says, “Her rib-cage is hollow. This is an advanced stage of a viral infection. She’s dehydrated, suffers from malnutrition. “
“But I did give her water,” I say.
“At this stage, you need to force her,” he replies.
He asks the assistant to bring some water and puts her beak into the paper cup. Birdie takes a couple of sips.
“I tried to do that,” I say.
“Maybe she was frightened,“ he says.
“Can you help her?”
“Very difficult at this stage. This infection progresses fast.”
“She was walking last night. Look I have photos.” I show him the images on my phone.
“It happens. Why don’t you leave her with us? We’ll take your contact number and get in touch with you.”
I leave the Vet’s Clinic without Birdie. I arrive home and think I must wash the balcony, get rid of the bird’s poo on the tiles. I can’t. I sit and wait. I’m unable to go for my morning swim. I can’t move. An hour later, the nice girl at the Vet’s calls me. “I’m sorry,“ she says.
And I cry for Birdie.