Looking Twice Saves Lives (From Janet)
I am one of those who keep a watchful eye and ear open all the time. It doesn’t matter if I am tired, or sick, or cranky, or busy, or with others. It doesn’t matter if it’s a holiday, or a vacation day, or a funeral, or a road trip.
No matter where I am doing, no matter where I am going, no matter who I am with, I am always “eyes open”.
Over the years, on seemingly typical days, I have been put in the path of many animals who need rescuing. Some have been injured, some have been lost, some needed water, some needed police intervention…bottom line – they all have needed help.
And I never not help. Never. Not.
The drive home from work last Thursday was just like any other – almost.
On the side of a quiet neighborhood road, standing and then pacing, with three tiny chicks in tow, was a Mama Mallard. I always have a camera with me, so I snapped a few pictures.
It’s baby season for many animals, so it’s no surprise to see a female duck with chicks out and about.
But – BUT – what was surprising was that a) she only had three chicks with her (mallards usually have around 11-13), and b) she seemed agitated between her non-stop calling (quacking) and pacing back and forth in the same area.
So, I turned around to see what was wrong.
Mama was standing near a shallow indentation on someone’s lawn. That shallow indentation turned out to be a sewer grate, that opened many feet below to a sewer drainage system.
A death-trap for any tiny living being small enough to fall through the grate without being able to climb back out.
Initially, it was just me and Mama by the side of the road. Me, on my hands and knees, counting chicks in the sewer drain, and failing miserably at trying to pry open the grate by myself. Mama, pacing back and forth with her three chicks in tow, yelling at me to move faster. And every time Mama quacked, all eight babies in the sewer peeped back. It would have been a lovely sound, had it not been for the urgency of the situation.
A quick call to local police put us on the waiting list for rescue. Not good enough. Another call to our local Humane Society guaranteed professional rescue help within the hour. Better, but Mama was pretty worked up.
So, I ran across the street and grabbed a neighbor.
And he was Superman where I was not able to be. He knelt down and tugged the sewer grate until it gave way.
So now there were two of us on our hands and knees by the open sewer grate. That’s all it took for other neighbors, joggers, and drivers to stop to see what we were doing, and how they could help.
Within ten minutes we had our first plan. #1 One person would watch the traffic (at this point, Mama and her three chicks kept crossing the road and crossing back to the open grate), #2 one person would go into the drain to grab the chicks (NOT an easy thing to do by the way. The chicks are anxious, do not stay in one place if you put your hand next to them, will run farther back into the connected sewer drains because they are scared, will jump out of your hand if you don’t hold them snug but at the same time you need to make sure that you don’t hold them too tight), and #3 one person would take each chick to Mama.
Great plan in theory. But unless Mama quacked, the chick did not know where she was, so we ran the risk of a rescued confused and scared chick running in the road instead of towards her.
That’s when we got the laundry basket.
The remaining rescued chicks were put together in the laundry basket, covered with my sweater (they are spry little beings, and were trying to jump out of the basket every time we lifted the sweater to put another chick in).
Once all the chicks were put into the laundry basket, I carried them to Mama, and gently turned the basket on it’s side. All it took was for Mama to quack once. As soon as her rescued chicks heard Mama’s voice, they ran to her. How wonderful to see so many little babies running to meet their Mama.
And Mama, just visibly relaxed.
And we all just watched, together. Smiling at what we had done. And no, we didn’t have time to take any more pictures – the camera stayed on the ground as we rescued the chicks.
Don’t ever tell me that a Mother doesn’t know her children. Mama Mallard stayed with us until every chick has been reunited with her. It was only when the last chick ran from the basket that she led her family down the street, behind a house where she probably had come from.
By the time Mama and her chicks were back together, the Humane Society Rescue showed up. He did an extra check of the sewer by putting his cell phone in the drain and using an app to play a recorded call of a female Mallard calling to her babies just to see if any more little heads would pop up (none did).
Before the night was over (as an added check, maybe more for me, than for them) I went back two more times to check that sewer, which was, of course, happily empty.
Such a small thing, a U-turn. But such a BIG thing when it impacted a family, and eight lives. And that small effort wound up saving eight little, wonderful peeping lives.
It takes seconds to turn around, to do a double-check, to make a call, to stop.
It takes seconds to JUST DO SOMETHING.
Looking twice can save a life. So look. We did. And we’re happy we did.
PS – In our town, it is illegal to fully cover a sewer grate. But with a little imagination, you can put together a make-shift grate cover where the openings are smaller, preventing the tinier animals from accidentally falling through the grate holes. A little effort can make a big difference – a life or death difference.