It was like any other morning. I woke up, made a cup of tea, and looked out the window to admire the tidal river outside our yard. But then I spotted something odd. A swan was in the middle of the seaweed, not moving. He’s probably just resting, I told myself.
I got the kids strapped into the car to go swimming around 9 AM. As I drove down the road, I noticed the same swan, and he hadn’t moved.
I hate tampering with wildlife unless absolutely necessary. I reasoned that if he was still there by the time we got back, I’d have to do something.
I had my fingers crossed he wouldn’t be there on our way back, but there he was, hunkered in the exact same spot.
I pulled the car over and called the Claddagh Swan Rescue Group to report a down swan. They assured me someone would be here in the afternoon. But then I noticed the tide rushing in. He’d surely get swept away within minutes.
I bustled the kids into the house, got the baby down for her nap and plopped the 3 year old in front of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” and threw on some old clothes. I locked the two doors so little A wouldn’t try to come out and help me. Now, to wrangle the swan.
I convinced a fisherman nearby to assist me, but only after he asked if I was some kind of swan expert. I shrugged and said, “Uh…well, I’m a vet.” That seemed good enough for him. I waded out into the seaweed and examined the swan despite some hissing protestations on his part. No broken wings, right leg was fine, but the left leg had a deep cut and seemed immobile. Maybe he just needed some rest, food and a little medication?
I wrapped a blanket around the swan and hoisted him onto my hip. He felt lighter than he should; probably because he hadn’t eaten much lately due to his injury. (My mother and father-in-law drove by at least twice by now and were probably pretty convinced their son had married a lunatic.) The Fisherman helped me get him up over the seawall and into my front garden.
After checking on the kids, I ran back out to my patient and injected him with an antibiotic and pain meds. Whew! Great. Now I just needed to wait for the rescue group to come collect him.
But, no. Things are never that simple. He began dragging himself across our lawn, back towards the river.
I ran out and lifted him off the gravel and back onto the grass. I tried enticing him to stick around with water and food, but three more times he dragged himself to the driveway before I gave up and let him sit in the gravel.
After the girls had lunch, I peaked out to look at him. His neck was at an odd angle and he wasn’t moving.
“Mommy, why’s the swan sleeping in the driveway?” little A asked. Oh, no.
All that swan wanted was to die in the water, and I’d kept him from that. I just thought maybe I could help him.
I’ve always felt the compulsion to help animals, and not just because I’m a vet. But as humans, and even as vets with the best intentions, we sometimes do more harm than good for our fellow creatures.
But we have to at least try, right?