January 17, 2009

Neither in Hand nor in the Bush

I returned home yesterday after being out-of-town for a few days. As is usually the case when I am away, Darlene, my cat-sitter, had come by a few times to take care of Zeke and Eve.

The temperature was below zero when I drove up to the house, even though it was mid-afternoon. I parked on the street, as the driveway was covered with a blanket of snow, which I had not anticipated. I grabbed a few items that had to be taken inside and trudged through the snow that covered the sidewalk, steps, and porch. As usual, Zeke was waiting for me when I opened the door. I told him hello, and I greeted Eve, who I spied lying on the bottom stair to the second floor. (Eve seems not to have any particular need to experience my homecomings firsthand, and seeing her when I walked into the living room was unusual.)

I dumped my burden on the kitchen table and looked for Darlene’s pet-sitting report. These reports are generally unremarkable, but her last entry this time was unusual and a bit difficult to make out. Despite her better-than-average penmanship, I could not quite parse her final note, which somehow involved “bird” and “house.”

I put down Darlene’s report and went back out the door. I grabbed the snow shovel resting on the porch and spent the next few minutes cleaning off the driveway, porch, and sidewalk. After returning the shovel to its resting place, I backed the car into the driveway. After a couple of trips back and forth, the car had been unloaded, and all my belongings were inside.

Back in the kitchen, while looking over the mail, a bird flew into the room toward the window. Unable to get out the window, it then flew back into the dining room. I still did not know exactly what Darlene had written, but the essential message now became clear. (I later decided that the note ended with “you have a bird visitor in the house.” Right!)

I was a bit surprised that the bird had survived more than 24 hours in the same house as Zeke. Although my older (and larger) cat no longer is allowed outdoors, he was once a fearless hunter of small birds and mammals. Presumably, the bird spent most of its time atop bookcases and cabinets when it was not actually flying.

I must admit that I find birds flying about the house rather disconcerting, although it was not my first experience with the phenomenon. The last time I had to chase a bird out of the house, the feathered friend had been brought inside by Buddha, a Tonkinese who died a few years ago. Buddha carried the bird in his mouth. I thought his prey was dead, a notion I had to revise when it flew up from the floor. I eventually chased it out the front door.

In this instance, I considered both the kitchen window and rear door as possible exits for the bird, but, in the end, the front door seemed to offer the most promising way out. It could be seen from a greater volume of space than either of the other possibilities. My plan was to first confine the cats in an upstairs room, so that no one was tempted to follow the bird out the door. In retrospect, I don’t even know if the cats were paying much attention to the bird. In fact, I didn’t even pay it so much attention as to figure out what sort of bird it was. It was about the size of a small robin, I think, and seemed dark in color.

Before I had a chance to herd the cats upstairs, the bird flew into the living room, landing atop the tall TV cabinet. This gave it a good view of the door, so I propped open the storm door, pulled back the wooden door, and stood back. The bird quickly flew outside, and I closed the doors with a sigh of relief.

I have no idea how the bird came into the house. There is a fireplace in the living room, but it is protected by glass doors, so it seems unlikely that the bird came down the chimney. When I saw Darlene today, she said she didn’t think the bird had come in with her, so its presence was something of a mystery.

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