Fri, October 26, 2007
Today was Death Day. Most unfortunately. Things that had been hanging on all week... we made some hard decisions to let them go.
I found that the hardest one, by far, was my patient the Crow.
Someone found this crow by the side of the road, unable to fly. He was big, glossy and gorgeous- in great health. Except for the exit wound on his wrist (in his wing). Some goddamn bastard shot him with a BB gun. We took radiographs, and saw BB shot in his wing- one whole BB, one shattered, where his radius and ulna were shattered- and one embedded just below his skull, in the muscle. (He could have lived with that one).
I never knew how incredibly beautiful they are up close and alive. Dead, they have black feathers. Alive, they shimmer with purple and navy blue. The most amazing deep beautiful sheen I have ever seen. I just loved this guy. He was sassy, trying to bite and get away.
So the problem was not the wound, nor the shattered bones. Those we can fix, and do so all the time. The problem is that adult crows go absolutely crazy in captivity, and abhor bandages. They will gnaw off a leg to get a bandage off. They will chew off a wing because of a skeletal fixator device. We put a simple bandage on his wing, with vetwrap and tape, overnight to see how he'd tolerate it.
Poor thing... he tore apart his cage, ripped up the newspaper in it and the branches and perches we gave him. He was bored out of his mind and tore that bandage off like nobody's business.
After discussing him at length in rounds this morning, we had to put him down. Now, I never ever flinch when I put down that bird that's been half chewed by a cat. Never feel terrible for the hit by car squirrel that's hanging on by a thread. But! This beautiful bird was not sick, not dying... just murdered by some asshole, to die slowly. Good job, shooting innocent animals you have no intention on eating.
I euthanized him myself. We put them under anesthesia so they don't struggle or fear what is happening. My heart was in my throat the whole time, tight with sadness. All of us were sad for it. There were several other deaths today in the same manner; a hawk with eyes so damaged she'd never hunt properly again; a gull with a wing fracture so bad he'd never get off the ground again. My other hawk stands close to the same fate. Sometimes some animals can be placed in captivity somewhere, but we always weigh if this is the right decision because sometimes it isn't. Some of them would rather be dead than have to face the fear and shock of handling every single day. We did place a 17 year old hawk (!!!) in a captive program, used to educate people on raptors. (She had a leg band that told us when she'd last been captured!) That hawk, though, was missing part of a wing due to amputation and was well accustomed to people by this point. She has the temperament for it.
My crow... did not. I'm sad. I love crows, I think they're incredible and beautiful. We don't get many of them in; crows have a mystical property of never ever showing up sick or dead. Only in rare cases. They are good at hiding illness and seem to die where no one can find them.
Anyway... we were Dr.Death today, not a fun feeling. That's the nature of the business sometimes.
A note on shooting innocent wildlife: please remember that when you shoot an innocent animal and don't make sure you finished the job, it is going to suffer in fear and agony for days, maybe even weeks. Animals are great at hiding hurts, and surviving despite injuries. We see a lot of animals with BB shot in their xrays. It makes me so fucking mad. I have nothing against killing an animal in fair sport if you plan on eating it and using the parts, respectfully. This makes sense, to feed a family; we are omnivores. I think people ought to be that close to their food anyway. But to kill without meaning to eat, that is a sin worse than any other I can imagine. It is wasteful and causes an incredible amount of suffering. That crow was lucky someone found him so I could finish the job (unless a hawk or something got him first); if no one had found him, he'd have gotten skinnier and skinnier until he was unable to fend for himself, and an agonizing starvation death awaits after that. It is disgusting and cruel. If you think it's funny to shoot innocent things, go shoot your neighbor in the ass or yourself in the foot. The repercussions would be more real and more interesting anyway.