So, when I went to pick up Rorysaurus from her preschool on Wednesday, she was a babbling mess of incoherence. Something about a fall, a baby, the Oakland fire department and birds. So, I asked her teacher what on Earth was going on.
"A baby bird fell out of its nest in the tree above the house. I think it is hurt, it is very obviously hungry, and the kids have been fighting over who gets to take it home. It is probably going to die, since it is so small."
I turned to Rorysaurus. "The baby bird fell, just like me and Needlenoggin. It broke its neck, Mama. Is it going to need a wheelchair? Can we call the fire guys to make it better?" She was sobbing by this time, and looking into her tear-filed big browns, I knew what was about to happen.
"First mom to say 'yes' can have the thing," the teacher informed me.
Alright, alright. So, I went over to see the Easter basket where they'd stored the thing. Here's what we saw:
It WAS little. Poor little thing. As I reached into the basket to move some of the kleenex, the baby opened up its tiny maw and started begging for food. I looked at the teacher, smug in her assurance that this was now my problem, and then looked over to Rorysaurus, who was barely able to contain her concern.
So, we loaded into the van, and drove to our local vet hospital. We waited in line, and asked the nurse what we should do with this little thing. She peered into the basket. "Oh, he's tiny! I'm not sure..."
"Little is a girl!" Rorysaurus interrupted. "She fell and got owies but Mama is going to help her get to the doctor and back to her Mama."
The nurse glanced at Rorysaurus. "I can give you the phone number for the wild animal hospital. It is in Walnut Creek (about a 30 minute drive). They might be able to help her"
I sighed, took the phone number and went home to call and let Needlenoggin know he was going to have to baby-sit.
As I went through the messages, I scrounged around for finely-ground meat to feed this thing (we're in an apartment, so I had no bugs to grind up). "Poor Little," whispered Rorysaurus, staring at her little friend in the basket. "Mama will find you some food." Mama found ground crab-meat and chicken broth (does that make Little a cannibal?" and served it in a syringe. After the first gulp, Little was much more vocal, interactive and awake, even opening her eyes when she peeped at my daughter.
We finally loaded Papa into the car, and headed off to the hospital, Little peeping along happily the whole way. Rorysaurus wanted to hold her on the drive, but I could just see her dropping the poor thing, so I let her hold the basket while we packed everything in, and then buckled the basket in to Needlenoggin's seat-belt.
We drove the whole way there with my ecologist husband and I chatting back and forth about how, while not our plan for the day, this seemed like a good way to impart lessons about wild animals, caring for nature and helping. Rorysaurus babbled happily about helping her friend, and kept telling us how the doctors would make Little better.
Then we arrived at the hospital, and Rorysaurus carried Little in.
A quick look by the vet allayed my fears. "That one is just old enough that he ("she!" shrieked Rorysaurus) should be alright." Then he took the bird to the back and came out to tell us that Little was a House finch, and would look like this when she grew up:
"Cool," I thought. Then the man vanished to the back to get us paperwork.
When he returned, I knew we had a problem. "The little finch has a...fractured femur," she started, intentionally talking over Rorysaurus's head. "Because of how young she is, we can't do anything more than giver her a shot to make the pain go away, and put her down."
"No, no, no! You put her up in the tree! Up in the tree so her Mama can find her. Use your Snort!" This in reference to Rorysaurus's favorite book Are you my mother? and nearly broke my heart.
"There's no way to set that?" I asked. He shook his head. Feeling like I was about to cry, I asked, "Can she come back out so my daughter can say 'goodbye' to her?"
This is apparently not a common thing to do, but they brought her back out in the basket, and we said our adieus.
When Rorysaurus realized we were leaving Little at the hospital, she began weeping. "No, I want her to come home with us!" I admit, I thought about taking her home and trying to feed her asprin and crabmeat until she was healthy, myself, but I knew how bad a busted leg must have felt.
The man saved me the lie by telling Rorysaurus they were going to take care of Little, and once she was better, they'd take her to her Mama.
I accepted that, took her home to color in pictures of Little (google is an amazing thing), read her bird book and cuddle. We saw Little's mother the next day, when we dropped Rorysaurus off, and could hear all her brothers and sisters peeping away for food.
"Is Little back home yet?" Rorysaurus asked hopefully. "Or is she still in the hospital?"
Looking over at my poor little girl, I told her the truth: Little was still as the hospital. "But, as soon as she's better, they'll bring her right back here."