Wednesday, 08 August 2012
How a Baby Bluejay, Feral Cats and the West Nile Virus Might Be Connected
By Jacqueline Herships of The Little Old Lady Stays Put
The other day Dechok, the Buddhist nun who lives with us in our shared house, came in from her morning walk with her hands tightly cupped demanding attention.
I was busy at my computer and therefore had to be loudly told that she was holding a baby blue jay and needed help. Good Lord. There is hardly ever a dull moment in a shared house, even in one as quiet as ours.
Where does this fit into our topic of finding a new affordable place to live or to figure out how to stay put? It doesn’t really. But it does point up the power of community to inject life and relevance into daily life. Which is what staying put where you are already connected is all about.
They say that moving is right up there on the life trauma list with losing a job, divorce or a spouse or loved one dying. Although many seniors insist they are not lonely or isolated, articles about them insist that they are.
The problem is as follows: We know that isolation leads to depression, that depression leads to illness and that illness is expensive and draining for the one who is ill as well as for their friends and families.
How much better for all concerned if we elders can manage to live an engaged and interesting life in the communities we have grown familiar with over many years.
Returning to the baby blue jay. Dechok had found it struggling with what appeared to be a double injury to both wing and foot and knowing that our neighborhood is swarming with feral cats, she decided that the poor thing wouldn’t stand a chance if she left it to its own devices.
Fortunately, I happened to know of The Raptor Trust, a rare and wonderful bird sanctuary situated in an area of New Jersey known as the Great Swamp. In addition, I knew that The Raptor Trust takes in wounded birds.
Of course, they were probably not going to want a bluejay, which isn’t a raptor, but I knew of another case from my days as a journalist in which they took in a chicken with an injured foot after no vet in the vicinity would touch it. So I thought they would probably do it. Which they did.
So there we were with the baby bluejay in a large brown paper grocery bag rushing to the doctor, as it were. And thanks to the modern miracles of MapQuest and Google, we arrived safely with the bird much improved and demonstrating loudly why jays are referred to as noisy.
In fact, the overburdened staff member who greeted us didn’t want to take it in at all, explaining that all fledgling bluejays are kicked out of their nests by their parents, initially cannot fly and struggle around as ours had been doing with their parents flying in and out with food and one likes to think, concern.
We greeted their suggestion that we take it back with a resounding NO, because of the thousands of cats in the area. And they agreed to keep it, thank heaven.
But the encounter with the bluejay got us thinking that municipalities such as ours should mount “trap, spay, neuter and release” programs for the poor wild cats which now starve behind locked garages when there aren’t enough baby birds to go around.
If the birds were allowed to live, they would enjoy eating mosquitoes which are the vector for some of our worrisome new diseases such as West Nile and the even more terrible dengue which is beginning its march into areas of this country.
This is not a call to destroy all feral cats. They also keep mouse and rat populations in check. It is just a suggestion that we work to reduce their numbers. http://theraptortrust.org/
Finally, a thank you toTthe Raptor Trust for being there and for being of service to blue jays.
[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]