I counted the rhythm. My bare arm laying over the top of its massive brown feathered body. Its chest rising and falling in sync with the expansion of lungs. My arm rising and falling with the chest.
What a simple thing a sign of life can be.
How fragile that simplicity is.
I looked to its beak in admiration of the design of its body; Brown Pelicans, funny as they are, are built perfectly for their job. The galleons of the sea.
The bird’s wings flapped in protest as the anesthesia began to flow. It was waking, not reacting to the medicine. I used my arm to cradle its wings safely around its body until it fell asleep, then we could finally do a condition check and assess his trauma.
For a moment, frozen in time, my breath synced with the bird. And I felt lucky. Lucky to be so close to something that belongs to this ancient eco-system. Humbled to know that we are not as far removed as we believe from nature and other living things.
And then my arm stopped. The movement of the feathered body slowed to nothing.
My eyes slowly looked to the respirator, which glaringly showed no sign of life, and sighed into a depressing silence. A gurgle broke the stillness of the air as I pulled the breathing tube from its trachea; the stench of salt and fish filling the room. Dim eyes peered in no direction.
“I should be used to this now,” I thought. But I never was. I’ve volunteered in wildlife rehabilitation for over seven years. Animals have died in my arms all too often. But each time hit just as hard. There was no adjustment period.
The determined cause of death for the pelican was led poisoning from a bullet wound. Ultimately, the pelican survived being shot, its delicate wings and hollow bone structure in tact… only to be slowly poisoned. If his carcass had been in the wild, another animal would probably have eaten it–establishing a domino effect. And the cycle of death would continue onward.
That is one thing we often fail to see when we are too inside of ourselves. The beauty in how things are intertwined. The dangers in failing to acknowledge this. Ripple effects and footprints and chemicals. What would happen if we all stopped to consider our actions? If, like a video game, our choices were mapped out before us? Would we hesitate? Or is apathy or ignorance a choice that we make?