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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Distressed animals are discovering human help


After reading a satire piece Saturday about how Tweety-bird hired an attorney to sue Twitter, I noticed The Idaho Statesman posted a staff report featuring a bewildered parrot waiting at the Idaho Humane Society. In Did Tweet do the twick?, they say, “It was impossible to ignore a Friday morning tweet from the Idaho Humane Society: "Missing a parrot? Stray parrot waits in our humane enforcement office. He won’t talk."

Remarkably, the humane Twitter report help redirect the lost parrot to its Zoo Boise home.

As the ‘impossible to ignore’ quote stuck in my craw, it reminded me of a recent story about a sick loggerhead sea turtle that swam to the hospital doorstep of the ‘only place in the world, licensed solely to treat turtles.’ In that Florida case, the 73 lb. under-the-weather reptile somehow knew precisely where to go, to seek help.

In another case, in February, the Toledo Blade reported a deer that walked into a PetSmart with a wounded hind leg, from behind two trash bins outside the store:

“The animal, found in a pool of bloody snow, proceeded to jump and run into the just-opened door leading into the building’s stockroom. Once inside, the female deer lay down on the floor as blood dripped from her left hind leg, recalled store Manager Trudi Urie.

Staff moved quickly to seal the entrance to the shopping area. "The last thing we wanted was a bloody deer running through," she said.

Ms. Urie figured that the appropriate thing would be to call an animal control officer. But with none nearby, employees called Rossford police. They also beckoned Dr. Cuesta, who works in the veterinary clinic inside PetSmart. Yesterday Dr. Cuesta recounted how after examining the doe and finding it in good health aside from the leg, he told officers he could treat it right there on the stockroom floor, so it could return to the wild.

The leg needed serious work. Dr. Cuesta said it had two or three deep cuts and that bone was showing through the fur. He said he could not determine what caused the injury.

Observers said that despite the injury and unfamiliar surroundings, the deer maintained a surprising degree of calm.

Clinic assistants held down the animal and placed a white towel over its head so it wouldn’t be spooked.

Dr. Cuesta placed a numbing agent on the wounds and began administering an electrolyte fluid under the deer’s skin.

The veterinarian closed the wounds with dissolvable stitches.

Before finishing their work the team gave pain medicine and an antibiotic to prevent infection.

Finally, everyone stepped away and began to motion the deer out the door.

"We took off the towel from her eyes and slowly she got to her feet," Dr. Cuesta said. "She stood frozen for a few seconds, but after that she ran out of the store."

There’s no answer yet for what may have first attracted the deer to the PetSmart building.

While it’s said that animals can smell fear, what is less known is whether they can sniff out good will and free medical care.

"Of all the places to run into, a pet store that has vets in it," marveled Ms. Urie, adding with a laugh: "If it would have went into a Bass Pro, it would have been a different story."

Though stitched up and medicated, the deer wasn’t back in the woods quite yet. Dr. Cuesta recalled how there was no small amount of distress among his staff when the doe ignored an open field and instead darted across an intersection.

The deer stopped for a moment in the parking lot of a Wendy’s restaurant. It wandered for a few seconds, and then dashed into a field and out of view.”

Right as I was prepared to post this, I discovered another synchronistic article from the Vancouver Sun’s Nicholas Read:

Mother duck’s ‘bird brain’ saves ducklings

She grabs police officer by pant leg to lead him to her brood trapped under grate

Don’t mention "bird brains" to Ray Petersen, because after what happened this week, he won’t hear a word of it. Petersen, a community police officer for Granville Downtown South, was walking in the 1500-block Granville Street (directly under the Granville Bridge) Wednesday morning when a duck came up and grabbed him by the pant leg. Then it started waddling around him and quacking. "I thought it was a bit goofy, so I shoved it away," Petersen said in an interview. But the duck, a female (he thinks it was a mallard), wasn’t about to give up that easily. Making sure she still had Petersen’s eye, she waddled up the road about 20 metres and lay on a storm sewer grate. Petersen watched and thought nothing of it. "But when I started walking again, she did the same thing. She ran around and grabbed me again." It became obvious to him then that something was up. So when she waddled off to the sewer grate a second time, Petersen decided to follow. "I went up to where the duck was lying and saw eight little babies in the water below. They had fallen down between the grates." So Petersen took action. He phoned police Sergeant Randy Kellens, who arrived at the scene and, in turn, got in touch with two more constables. "When they came down, the duck ran around them as well, quacking. Then she lay down on the grate," Petersen said. While Kellens looked over into the grate, the duck sat on the curb and watched. Then the two constables, John Schilling and Allison Hill, marshaled a tow truck that lifted the grate out of position, allowing the eight ducklings to be rescued one by one with a vegetable strainer. "While we were doing this, the mother duck just lay there and watched," Petersen says. Once the ducklings were safe, however, she set about marching them down to False Creek, where they jumped into the water. Kellens followed them to make sure they were all right, but elected to remain on shore. The experience has changed Petersen’s mind about ducks. He thinks they’re a lot smarter than he used to. And while he never ate duck before, he says he wouldn’t dream of it now.

These stories make me curious about how many more incidents there are of animals mysteriously finding their way to human helpers and healers. If you know of any, I would certainly be interested to hear about what you have to tweet.

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