Sunday, May 24, 2015

Weird week

First, it was the stray conure on the shoulder of a person in the clinic lobby. Then came the text from Sue, while dog sitting, that she found a dead and endangered rattlesnake.

The small South American parrot was tame and friendly, black-headed, a Nanday, with a green body and electric blue flight feathers. It sat on my shoulder, picking gently at my neck, then went to the shelter to hopefully find its home again. It was lucky—most tame birds when out, never come back. The snake, well—it turned out to be not “as wide around as a soup can” as Sue reported. It was 2 cm around, likely a Western fox snake, dead of no apparent trauma, tucked in the leaves. How our hearts wish for the extreme. 

Or it’s that deep-seated flee response, ingrained in our genes. The chocolate lab she was walking really really wanted it.

I used to play this involuntary mental game while driving: what is that thing in the road? Snake or hose? Porcupine or sod clump? This time it was indeed snake, and previously mentioned, a bird. I first heard the parrot’s calls from the clinic parking lot and since the weather was warm, I thought it was from inside a nearby house, by a window.

Two stunned women came into the clinic lobby, the bird on one’s shoulder. They asked: what is it? How could this happen? Now what?

And with the snake: the same questions.

I am no Pollyanna, but I am relieved the bird is safe and being fed and kept warm. And I glad it was no rattlesnake, not because I don’t like them; just the opposite; I am glad a rare creature is not dead.

In vet school, while I was on the special species rotation (aka “exotics”), a guy came in with rattlers in a bag. They were timber rattlesnakes, Crotalus horridus, lovely species name: horrid. No judgement there. Humans had killed almost all of them. But this man was collecting them, having the vet school anesthesitize each, so a tracking device could be surgically implanted, to monitor a protected species. I do not like surgery; I did not volunteer, but I watched. One snake at a time was placed in a closed end, clear tube that contained its viperous poisoned fangs, and it was given gas anesthesia. When asleep, the vet student cut between its scales, placed the device and sewed it back up. And back in the bag it went.

Here’s for hope in a sack. And in a flighted, lost bird. (And here’s my own stray foundling.)

Aka Sweet William, a dusky headed conure, 2009, found on the UW campus. Now lives half the year in Georgia, lucky guy.

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