Denver got hit with a heavy wet spring snow, the sort that are lethal to weakened tree branches that have just put out their leaves but which aren’t yet rejuvenated from their winter dormancy and are not strong enough to support the weight of inches of clingy snow. One of the neighbor’s trees which hangs over the fence line was bowed by the overnight accumulation, injuring and displacing a female House Finch.
Celeste gingerly brought her back into the house this morning after her morning perimeter check, complete with a little pile of leaves that the finch had likely fallen on. She placed the bird on the floor nudged it with her nose, and then walked up and pawed urgently for attention. She then turned around and pointed at the little bundle of feathers and leaves. Celeste is really an amazing dog.
The bird’s outer feathers were soaked and she was a little freaked out by the ride into the enemy castle in the mouth of the house-wolf, so I collected her in a towel and began looking for local animal rehab contacts, none of which are open at 7 am, obviously. I didn’t prioritize getting the perfect photo, but I did snap a shot on my phone to help identify the bird while I waited for the rehab places to open. I couldn’t tell if the poor girl was in shock or just resting from the ordeal, but she was no longer on her feet, lying on her side and was not looking so good with her beak mostly open and wavering with the obvious labored breathing.
A note on one of the rescue pages mentioned that hypothermia is a major concern and that the birds should be the warmth of your palm, so I quickly filled a sock with a cup of rice and microwaved it for a minute to provide a sustained source of dry heat and nuzzled the bundle up next to the bird. I really wondered if there’d be anything left to rehab in the hour and some left before I could even call.
The first place didn’t accept birds but they had the name of a center that specializes in avians, and they are fantastic. If you’re looking for a worthy organization to donate some funds to, please check out Wild B.I.R.D. Information and Rehabilitation of Denver.
When I arrived at the bird center, there was already another woman getting out of her car with her own cardboard box with a towel over it and it appeared that the other cars in the lot were there overnight with snow accumulation and no tracks under their tires (read: dedicated staff/volunteers who were likely there since at least the night before). When we knocked on the door a young woman appeared to check our birds in and she called to another specialist and they both efficiently and quickly processed the latest casualties of the spring snow while the little porch was filled with the sound of the thousand other birds on site welcoming the morning.
To my amazement when the tech pulled back the towel the little finch was up on what turned out to be her only full leg and was looking around with her one good eye–alert, dry, and eager to get on with the day. I was under the mistaken impression that the little bird was a Western PeeWee and thus had decided to call it either Herman or Hermione, but the specialist identified her as a female House Finch, noted her one peg-leg and one good eye (both old injuries). So we christened her Grace O’Malley after the famed Irish Pirate Queen, and assigned her to the brig for a 72 hour observation after which she’ll be released back in the neighborhood or kept for further rehabilitation if needed.
I was too preoccupied filling out the paperwork to snap a shot of the rejuvenated Grace, but she looked pretty happy all things considered and I gladly left a donation for her further care with the Wild B.I.R.D. staff.
I can’t help but think that more dog rescues should be run the way Wild B.I.R.D. runs their intakes. All positive, a friendly suggestion for a donation which is based on their calculation of their own costs (they estimate $40 rehab costs per bird), no negativity, no judgment, the offer of education and an amazingly convenient location and good hours with young volunteers and an easy to find web presence. The entire vibe was “I’m here to help” instead of “I have compassion fatigue and you’ve just increased my workload so I’m going to vent my frustration at you and make you reconsider leaving your animal with me.”
The above video is also a decidedly refreshing take on the pitch for donations. Instead of bleeding their hearts all over you with depressing music and playing up the injuries of the birds and casting hate on the cats or cars or urban encroachment that leads to their intakes they instead show you how well lit, clean, and efficient their facility is and give you facts about how many animals they care for and how their goal is to expand and improve and innovate. It’s the pitch of a winner looking for investors instead of the pleas of a loser begging for sympathy via emotional extortion and threats of closure. You get face-time with the actual people doing the work instead of some sound stage with a C-list celebrity and a prop-pet with sad eyes.
That’s why I’d be thrilled to support a group like this again in the future and why groups like the HSUS and the ASPCA will never see one dime from me.
I’m proud of Celeste who continues to amaze for her gentle run-in with Grace O’Malley and for the rescuers at Wild B.I.R.D. for their professionalism and dedication to what is a jaw dropping inventory of birds of all sizes. There’s clearly a demand for what they do so I hope they get the funds they need to build their new facility and grow their mission. Help them out if you have the inclination, I don’t think it’ll be wasted like gifts to those big name organizations.
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