This morning on the way to work, I watched some birds dive across the road in mating pursuit (birds are usually more careful when flying across roads but this time of year they're distracted) and I remembered the time I saw a robin get hit by a car on the way to work. I pulled over, gently scooped it into some paper towels and headed right for my ornithology professor's office where he showed me how to carefully deposit a dropper of sugar water directly into the bird's crop. "Sometimes this helps if they're just stunned -- the sugar can give them an extra energy boost."
I took the recently nourished bird outside and tried to interest him in perching in a tree but he was closing his eyes and looked woozy. I cradled him in my hands then, hoping all he needed was some time but he died quietly shortly thereafter, still cupped in my palm, his body relaxing as life left it. All I could protect him from now were hot wet tears leaking out unbidden.
I made him a little grave and buried him and then headed to my student job on campus, late. I'd called to say I wasn't going to be on time but the disapproval from my superiors was palpable. My boss wanted to know the full story and as I relayed the details, shook her head, disappointed, warning that this excuse was unacceptable.
But I knew I would do it again if I needed to, to try and save a life.