T and I were drinking coffee outside of Companion Bakery when a Brewer’s blackbird alighted on the planter in front of us and regarded us with his bright yellow eye. We immediately noticed that the bird had something stuck to his foot: a three-inch piece of plastic with a snarl of wire attached. “Is that a plastic fork?” T asked in disbelief. Wherever the bird hopped, the shard of plastic went with him. He turned his head to peck at the alien object, trying to pry it loose, but the wire was deeply embedded in his talon.
I took off my sweater and approached him, hoping to drop it over the bird and remove the object, but he flew off. He fluttered back to us a second time and I threw some pastry crumbs on the ground, trying to lure him over to my improvised sweater-net, but he flew off again, trailing the object behind him, and this time he didn’t return.
It should have been the easiest thing in the world to rescue this blackbird, yet it was impossible. One of the most frustrating things about trying to help wild animals is that they don’t know we’re trying to help them. So we do our best, and if our best isn’t good enough, we forgive ourselves and we try again, another day, with another blackbird.
Does any creature wait more patiently than a dog? Some dogs wait for hours for their humans to come home, listening for the sound of a footfall, a car engine, a key in the lock. Dogs know how to wait because they must. They have thousands of years of practice at it.
Some dogs are famous for waiting, like Hachiko, an Akita who is still remembered in Japan for appearing at a train station every evening for nine years to wait—in vain—for his person. And then there’s Argos, the most patient dog in literature, who so yearned for one last glimpse of his beloved master that he waited 20 long years for Odysseus to finally come home.
This beautiful saluki didn’t have long to wait until her human came out of the grocery store, but with her chin resting on the seat back, eyes fastened on the door of the market, I could tell she was prepared to wait an eternity, if that’s what it took.