May 27, 2009

Front Door Bird: The Final Chapter

Early on Saturday afternoon, I peeked out the front door and noticed that the mama bird, who had been gone for some time, still wasn't around and so decided that it might be a good time to get some quick photos of the two fast-growing baby robins that we discovered in the nest about two weeks ago. I got Griffin to get the camera and take some photos of their little heads, but from the ground it was really difficult to make out their features, so I asked him to climb up on a ladder and take a few from a closer distance so I could post them here. He was convinced that the mother bird was going to come back and peck his eyes out, but I assured him that everything was going to be fine as I hadn't seen her for some time. When he snapped the first shot, one of the birds freaked out, flew out of the nest and careened over to the next door neighbor's front porch. It was nearly adult-sized and fully feathered and could fly pretty well, but clearly had little in the way of effective steering capabilities as it smacked its head on the railing as it landed. Griffin was furious with me for making the bird go mental just to give myself something to write about. I told him that at least he still had his eyes and that the bird would be just fine.

We kept watch over the baby for a little while and when we realized that it wasn't going to return to the nest on its own and that the mother was still nowhere to be seen, we went next door and while Griffin blocked its path, I picked up the baby and we returned it back to the nest and its sibling. I have to confess that in spite of returning the baby safely to the nest, it was pretty freaked out by its sudden unplanned trip, standing bolt upright on top of the other baby with a wild look in its eyes for quite some time. Eventually the second bird grew weary of the little traveler crushing it, and pulled itself up and out of the nest. The two waited for mommy to return and when she didn't, they both left the nest which has now sat sadly empty for several days.

I was terrified that I had caused the mother to abandon her babies because I had touched one of them, but she was gone before my lapse in judgment. And given the size of her children, I believe it was time for her to leave them so they would become hungry and thus be compelled to leave the nest and face their new lives out in the world. My only regret is that I gave one of them a really nasty start to its first day of freedom. Sorry little bird and the neurotic life you will now probably lead...

May 15, 2009

The Story of Hachiko

November 10, 1923 - March 8, 1935

Hachiko was an Akita born in the Akita prefecture in 1923 and brought to Tokyo in 1924 by his owner, Mr. Hidesaburo Ueno, a professor in the agriculture department of the University of Tokyo, then known as the Imperial University. Professor Ueno walked to the Shibuya train station each day to catch the train to the school and Hachiko (whose full name was Chu-ken Hachiko, which literally translates to "the faithful dog Hachiko") would walk with him each day. They would leave their house together and then Hachiko would return to the professor's home once his master was on the train. Later he would walk back to the station at the end of the day and wait patiently on the platform for his owner to step off the train. The two would then once again walk back home together. They did this each and every day for nearly two years.

One day in May of 1925, the professor suffered a fatal stroke while at the university but Hachiko was there waiting on the platform that evening not knowing his master would never again come home to him. The professor's family came to take the dog home with them, but each day Hachiko would run away from the family's home and walk back and forth between the professor's old house and the train station looking for his master. Sometimes he would be away for days, repeatedly walking the route he and Mr. Ueno took each day. Each morning Hachiko would walk from the house he shared with his former master to the train and would be waiting at the station once again in the evening, tail wagging, waiting for his master to step off the train. He was less than two years old when his beloved master passed away, yet Hachiko continued his vigil each and every day at Shibuya Station for over ten more years. Those commuters who had seen Hachiko and his master before the man had passed and knew the dog's enduring loyalty, brought food and water to the devoted pet as he sat on his endless vigil for his master.

On March 8, 1935 Hachiko died on the very platform where he last saw his master, while waiting to meet his train just as he had each day since the man had passed. A bronze statue now stands on the platform where Hachiko waited each day so long ago, and morning and night he greets each and every person who comes through the station by train. His stuffed remains can be seen in the National Science Museum of Japan, located in Ueno, Tokyo.

To this day Hachiko remains an enduring symbol of loyalty and love between dog and owner. And if anyone says that animals don't or can't feel emotions (like love) because they're just lowly animals, then I would like you to offer me a plausible explanation as to what poor Hachiko was feeling that kept him there for more than a decade waiting for the man he so painfully never saw again. If that wasn't unconditional love, then I don't know what it was. To have a dog that loves that purely is a gift from the Divine, pure and simple.

May 6, 2009

Front Door Bird

About a month ago a mourning dove and her mate built a lovely nest on the inside top of one of the columns on my front porch. They worked very hard on it and then the mama bird took it for a test run. None of us noticed that they had been nest-building right outside the front door and so kept up our usual comings and goings, much to the dismay of mama dove who clearly grew weary of flying to the nearest wire every time the front door opened. She abandoned her nest for a quieter location. It sat empty for only a few short days.

Then last week another, clearly enterprising or merely lazy, bird took up residence in the nest and happily laid her eggs in it (much to my dismay as I was going to climb up and steal it for the antique bird cage in my studio). For the first few days we used only the back door to spare the new mama the need to lure us away from her future babies fifty times a day, but that fast grew old, especially for those of us with regular baggage. So now we come and go through the front door as we always do, and when we linger a bit too long beneath the nest, rather than fly off in a tizzy, Mrs. Bird simply turns her head up and pretends we aren't standing right below her and watching her from just a few feet away.

At first we thought she was a cat bird as we've been hearing one meowing in that funny way they do very near to the front of the house, but closer inspection has revealed the mama bird to be a robin. That's okay with me as I'd love to collect the remains of her babies' egg shells once they hatch to replace the ones I used to have that were eaten by Maia Louise in a typical fit of bad behavior.

I can't wait until I hear the teensy tweets of tiny robins from my front porch and even teenier heads peeping out of the nest at us as we walk by. It will be so exciting when they finally arrive!
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