Angus, I think, continues to struggle with his off-season routine, or lack thereof. The combination of repeated, unsolicited, bad haircuts, bombardment with daily sessions of depressing bagpipe music (“Unjust Incarceration,” “Ronald MacDonald of Morar’s Lament,” “Too Long In This Condition”), unpredictable feeding times, boating, numerous nomadic sprinklers throughout our property (lifelong hose-hater), and – now – a robin family with extremely protective parents has left Angus off-kilter.
Earlier this week, four robin chicks fledged from their nest cradled in our DirectTV dish above the garage door, too early in my opinion. The fledglings displayed their weak aviation skills every time we walked outside, launching in serpentine flight patterns like a drunken balloons buffeted by the breeze. We could see their apparent destinations, our cringing increasing as their accuracy decreased such that they would miss their targets by wide margins. Striving to land on the shop roof, a baby robin collided with the wall two feet below the target and crashed straight to the ground 15 feet below. How many times can a baby bird’s little legs or organs handle that kind of impact? But it gets worse…
Yesterday I was out watering. Angus followed me as he likes to do. Heading back to the house I heard a sudden commotion of bird shrieks and turned to see two adult robins dive-bombing Angus, who was trying to juke his way between the sorties while carrying a screaming fledgling toward me in his mouth.
My response taught me something about my priorities. Despite how much I love bird hunting and marveling at Angus’s expertise as a bird dog, my instinctive shout at Angus to drop the baby bird trumped everything else. I didn’t want that baby bird’s blood on my hands. Hunting is blood sport. For me, yardwork ain’t hunting, and shouldn’t involve blood, mine or anything else’s. But how could I blame Angus for not knowing the difference? I suppose I could squabble over species differentiation, and how he should have known better than to go after a robin. But really you can’t expect him to know the difference, especially since baby robins aren’t much smaller than a quail.
So I yelled at him, implying his instincts were wrong and to drop the bird, stat. He complied, and was rewarded by more aggressive robin attacks, even as we fled in another direction. I tried to distract him to dilute his confusion by getting him to play chase. Mama and papa robin interfered in this, keeping close eyes on us despite moving far away.
Things calmed and I went on about my watering in another part of the yard on the other side of the house. Angus hovered, looking through the tall grass nearby. While moving a sprinkler, I noticed the robin parents following Angus. The next thing I know he’s got another baby bird in his mouth. I yelled, “NOOOOO!” He dropped the bird and ran toward me but didn’t see the sprinkler head between us and got nailed by the stream of water, causing him to bolt away. He stopped and looked at me as if to ask, “What next? Will the sky fall?” The poor boy. September 21 can’t come fast enough.