From Chicken Soup for the Child's Soul

A Little Birdie . . . a Big Responsibility

I’ve always loved animals—cats, dogs, fish—you name it. My dad also loved animals and taught me how to take care of them. That was one of the first main responsibilities I ever had, and I was proud of it. I felt so confident that I thought I could take care of any animal. But, as the saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for.”

When I was about nine years old, I went to Marine World with some friends. The day was beautiful and went by quickly. As we were passing through the main gates to leave, I saw a small crowd of kids who were probably a few years older than me. They were surrounding something on the sidewalk. Curious, I went up to the crowd and saw that they were staring at a small baby bird. It was so small it could fit in the palm of a hand. It didn’t have any feathers and was bright pink. I probably would have walked away, but I saw the bird move. It was still alive, and no one was helping it.

Shocked, I pushed my way through the crowd, picked up the baby bird, and held it close to my chest. By this time, the older kids were bored and left me alone with my new find. As I stared at the little creature, I was shocked to see that it had been hurt. There was a burn mark on its stomach, and as I looked around, I quickly saw a cigarette butt that had been stepped on. Clearly, some horrible person had taken the cigarette and used it on this poor, helpless animal. I was so angry I almost cried, but instead I decided I would take care of the baby bird.

I took the bird home and didn’t tell my parents because I was afraid they would make me get rid of it. Taking care of a bird was different from taking care of a dog or cat, so I needed to find out for myself how to nurse the bird back to health.

I named the bird Tweety, after the Looney Tunes character. I put Tweety in a small shoe box with plenty of tissue paper to keep him warm. When I went to school the next day, I snuck the box into my classroom and hoped the teacher wouldn’t find it, but she did. I told her I couldn’t leave Tweety at home alone and begged her to let me keep the box in the classroom. She agreed, as long as Tweety didn’t become a distraction. And I had to promise not to bring him to school again.

Taking care of Tweety was harder than I thought. The only thing I knew about birds was that the mother bird caught worms, chewed them up, and then spit them out to feed the babies. There was no way I was going to do that, so I gave Tweety small droplets of milk from a straw. I caught a fly and tried to feed it to him, but Tweety couldn’t open his mouth wide enough. I was frustrated but still confident that I was doing the right thing.

As the days went by, I left Tweety in his box in my room while I was at school. I put dead flies in his box, hoping he would eat them, and I continued to give him milk when I got home. I really thought I was helping.

On the fourth day of taking care of Tweety, I came home from school to find Tweety motionless and not breathing. As much as I didn’t want to believe it, Tweety was dead. I had never experienced an animal dying before, especially one that I had been taking caring of. I felt like I had failed, and it was my fault. I fell to the floor and began crying.

My dad came into my room when he heard all the noise. I was so upset that I could barely get the words out to tell him what had happened. I still hadn’t told my parents about Tweety, so I cried even harder, thinking I was going to get into trouble.

My dad sat down next to me on the floor and held me tight. When I had calmed down some, he asked me where I had found Tweety. I told him the whole story.

“You took care of this bird all by yourself?” he asked me.

I nodded. “But it didn’t even matter because he’s dead!” I sobbed. “I’m never going to take care of an animal again!” My dad knew that I loved animals too much to really mean that.

“Look at it this way. If you hadn’t found Tweety, someone could have done something even worse to him, and he wouldn’t have lived past one day. Because you cared and took responsibility for him, he lived longer than he should have,” my dad explained to me.

I hadn’t really thought about it that way before.

Then he said to me, “If you focus on the negative instead of the positive, you will become a negative person.”

“So what I did was a good thing, even though Tweety died?” I asked my dad.

“Of course,” he answered.

After we buried Tweety in the backyard, my dad explained to me that while I was right in saving Tweety, I didn’t think about the huge responsibility I had taken upon myself. Being responsible was a good thing, but not asking for help when the situation got out of hand was a mistake.

Now that I’m older and my responsibilities have gotten bigger, I still carry my dad’s advice with me. While I haven’t taken care of another bird, I’ve continued taking care of cats, dogs, and fish. That’s all the responsibility I need.

Dania Denise Mallette

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