There are two parts to this story -
the first is about Larry, the second is about all of us
Last summer, an acquaintance mentioned that his son owns a pet dove. "Larry Bird" -
when he told me of his son's clever name. The dove was being kept in
the garage because his spouse was upset at the mess of seeds
around the bird's cage. I tried very gently to explain to this person
how awful the situation was for the bird. I explained how they need
companionship (and why) and tried to help this man understand what a horror
life probably was for this lonely little bird. I also expressed my
concern about the presence of fumes and the possibility of being attacked by
insects or mice at night. I loaned this man one of my birds' covered
ceramic food cups with the suggestion that a covered
cup might prevent most of the seed scattering that caused Larry's
A few weeks later he had an update about Larry. I listened hopefully, but learned
that his son had lost interest in the bird, and that Larry was still
living in the garage. Larry had company now, however, the boy had been raising some other animals in the garage, too; baby squirrels
and such. The boy apparently "likes animals" and brings home anything
he can. The boy's father said he was thinking about taking the bird
back to the pet store where he'd been purchased. I cautioned that the
pet store would probably not take him back, and I offered to help find Larry
a new home. He responded that he might just turn Larry loose - and to
this idea I replied that doing that would be issuing the poor dove a death
sentence. Wouldn't Larry just fly south with the other birds?
No. He was probably going to end up with a dog, a cat, or a hawk.
I offered again to help Larry find a new home.
Yet more time passed, but he
eventually came to me with an update on Larry's situation. Larry was
no longer in the garage. My relief at this was followed by horror as I
listened to how Larry's cage had been moved to the back yard and left open
so that Larry could fly away. But Larry hadn't left. Instead, he
spent his time in the trees behind their home and flew back to his cage for
He clearly thought this was "cute"
and a sign that Larry liked his human flock too much to leave it. My
mind saw another picture however, a picture of an animal never taught to
survive in the wild suddenly thrust into a world for which he is not
The man telling me about his son's
bird could not see why what he'd down was wrong. Would he dump an
unwanted dog on the highway? Probably not. But we weren't
talking about something as large as a dog; somehow the dove's size and the
fact that there are wild birds around changed the picture for this man.
Sometimes people really do want to
be in ignorance. After all, it's easier, isn't it? I could see
from his demeanor and the way he told the story that he wasn't listening -
and he didn't want to.
The days have grown colder, and with
each frosty morning and the few tentative flakes of snow falling in early
December, I wonder about Larry. Larry who would not know enough to fly
south. Larry who would not be able to feed himself in the wild.
Larry who's body is not equipped to handle freezing temperatures.
Person's A Person, No Matter How Small... "
from "Horton Hears a Who" by Dr.
Epilogue - Our Story
We cannot reform people who choose to be ignorant of the pain they inflict on others. We
cannot reform people who believe that homo sapiens are somehow so important
that we should be allowed to do anything we want to other species. We
cannot awaken the willfully unconscious.
What we can do is turn the
white-hot spotlight of judgment on ourselves and try to uncover our own
ignorance and arrogance.
I am not a better person than this
man and his son. I am also selfish, self absorbed, and prone to
take a view that leaves me feeling self-righteous. Of course.
But Larry's tragedy fuels my
determination to educate as many people as I can about birds and their
needs. As most of us who have shared our lives with avian companions,
I find that people around me (non-bird people) just don't understand - but
most of them ARE willing to learn, they ARE interested and can be educated.
I can help to make this learning fun, interesting, and non-threatening.
And so... as I type this and look
out my window to the snow falling on the ground... I make a promise to poor
little Larry that I will do my part - with this website - and with the
contact that I have with people in my life. And I can pledge to try
harder to be willing to give up my own ignorance.
I can't save Larry - but maybe I can
prevent future "Larry's" from living his fate.