I didn’t save a seagull today.
Actually, I didn’t even see what happened. I was driving home from work on Friday night, right before the start of the Labor Day weekend, when I saw traffic trying to get past a woman in the street; then I saw the feathers floating on the breeze. There was a seagull flapping around in the road and the woman was desperately trying to guide it out of harm’s way; one of the bird’s wings hung unresponsive at it’s side. I parked my car and went to help.
The woman, I never got her name, and her husband were visiting from Connecticut for the weekend. They’d been on their way to dinner when they saw the seagull get hit by one car before being promptly run over by a second—neither car stopped. The poor bird had been trying to get a piece of discarded pizza that was in the middle of the busy street. That hit home for me; I too would risk life and limb for pizza.
I parked my car and used by sweater to shoo the seagull to the side of the road. I sat there with it while the woman went to get her phone. It was calm for a moment, most likely in shock, and we sat just inches apart. I’ve always been partial to seagulls, we have a penchant for clams and the seashore; I think they’re beautiful. There’s a blue that’s been very popular in nail lacquers this season, a pearly grayish periwinkle. I’d never noticed before today, but seagull feet are the same color.
Unfortunately, the seagull, doubtlessly in what I can only assume was excruciating pain, (it’s wing was literally hanging by a few tendrils of flesh and the bone was clearly visible) didn’t stay calm for long. When the woman from Connecticut came back with her phone it began trying to escape as we did our best to keep it from scrambling back into the road or being set upon by the large, black crows that had gathered in the power lines above. It dragged itself into the front yard of a beautiful home and we followed it as we called the police, the Department of Fish and Game, and a number of local wildlife refuges without reaching anyone willing or able to help.
The owner of the yard came out onto her porch and we apologized for the disturbance, assuring her we’d get the seagull away from her residence as soon as we safely could. Luckily, rather than urge us to speed up our efforts, she went back inside and returned minutes later with a blanket for the seagull. She was a retired veterinary technician and joined us in trying to reach someone who might be able to treat the poor animal.
We were joined shortly after by the husband of the Connecticut woman and a man from across the road. The man brought a box so we could immobilize the panicking seagull and keep it from injuring itself further. I was able to reach the Port City Veterinary Hospital. They referred me to a number of the resources that we’d already tried unsuccessfully to contact before regretfully saying that they wouldn’t be able to treat the bird, but they could euthanize it so that it wouldn’t suffer anymore. We tried a few more rescue organizations and vets offices before calling Port City back and telling them we’d be bringing the seagull in for euthanization.
The Connecticut couple helped me get the seagull into my car and offered to come with me but I declined. Having taken my cat to Port City before, I knew where to find it and didn’t see the need to disturb their holiday further. When I arrived, the veterinary technicians at Port City took the seagull from me somberly and with great care. All they asked of me was my contact information so they could get in touch with me in the event that the bird had any communicable diseases that I should be advised of.
It was a painfully bittersweet experience. Seagulls are known to steal food and are frequently regarded as pests, but they’re still living, breathing creatures. They have just as much right to food, shelter, and space as any other animal. That someone could mortally wound them without a second thought is so heartbreakingly awful. On the other hand, the fact that a so-called pest could bring together five strangers with the best intentions is pretty wonderful. It definitely gives me hope that the people who care outnumber those who don’t, and that’s something.
I cried for the seagull all the way home and when I got there, it was too late to cook, so my love and I had cold pizza for dinner; it seemed fitting.
I didn’t save a seagull today but, along with four thoughtful souls, I did my best. I, probably they, and I hope more people than not, will continue to do their best. To care for the environment by not littering, to show respect for all life, and to look for the best in others in the hope that next time the outcome will be different.