The cats bring home trophies. Often they’re dead, but sometimes they’re still alive. (My friend Rob says killing the prey decreases the “toy” quotient for the cat) So on Vikki’s birthday, August 7, I come back from my bike ride and hear a fluttering in the corner of the great room. It’s intermittent, but the cats are clearly interested in the sound. Since I’m busy cooking breakfast in bed for VLM I don’t give it much thought. Later, I get the full story pieced together from the family. The day before Mitzi the cat had brought a semi-dead bird into the house at which point she promptly dropped the poor thing out of her mouth. Off the bird flew up to the safety of the alcove above the built-in bookcases.
The problem was, the builder of the bookcases had left a space on the wall side of the alcove between the drywall and the vertical side of the bookcase. Poof! Into the space went the bird and down, down, down it fell to the bottom-ten feet below. It couldn’t fly up the space, but the bird began making pitiful sounding cheeps from its new prison cell. The cats immediately went to investigate but obviously couldn’t find it. I kept hearing a muffled little sound but thought the bird was either outside or in the workshop below. Finally, we had Greg go up the ladder and ascertain that there was a space at the lateral aspect of the alcove big enough for a bird to fly into.
Then the planning began. How to get the bird out? There is no space in a house that cannot be reached if the proper tools are available. I took out the drawers at the bottom of the bookcase and started making holes with the jigsaw. The first one, in the bottom panel, yielded no bird. The second one, in the vertical side panel, yielded sparks. Sparks? Yikes I thought I’ve hit an electrical cable and nearly electrocuted myself. Is a small wounded bird worth dying for? I altered my cut and completed the hole without visible electrical burns on my skin. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough space between the side panel and the drywall to allow much of a viewing angle. So I made the hole bigger. Finally, with a flashlight, I was able to see the poor bird at the bottom of the space, covered in sawdust and looking very forlorn.
Next problem: My arm was too big to reach into the narrow space. So I enlisted Helen, age 8, who initially said sure, she would try it. Just as she was about to reach into the narrow space with her little arm, she paused, turned to me, and asked “But are there spiders in there?” Once the thought came, it could not be banished. So Helen bailed. Next I recruited Anna, who bravely put her hand (I did give her a work glove to wear) into the space, down to the bottom, only to declare “There’s no bird, Dad” What!? Sure enough, when I looked again with the flashlight, the bird had disappeared! What the heck?
On closer inspection with the light, I spied a small crevice in the drywall where it made its junction with the wood flooring. The shoe molding had been removed and left a space just big enough for the terrified little bird to scurry into, away from the bright lights, human voices, and buzzing jigsaws, and into the space between the studs behind the drywall. But now what to do? Was I going to have to tear out the drywall between the studs, too, just for a little bird?
Mercifully, with a little bit of time, the bird came back out on its own outside the drywall and back into the space between the vertical bookcase panel and the sheetrock. We heard it squeak again, so Anna reached down and got ahold of the little thing, and brought it out. Hooray!
We knew the cat had mauled the bird bringing it inside, and we knew the bird had been without food or water for at least 24 hours, (plus we had seen small spots of bird blood on the drywall from its wounds,) so we assumed it would be pretty well decompensated. While Anna carefully cupped the sparrow in her hands and took it outside, we thought it was probably going to die. As Anna unclasped her hands to show the bird to Vikki, the little sparrow, sensing its freedom at last, promptly flew off to the safety of the hedge.
So, apart from two large holes in my oak bookcase, the endeavor ended well. I spent the last half hour of the effort cutting and fastening pieces of 1X4 pine boards across the openings in the alcove where the whole adventure had begun.\