Critters find solace on my porch

Published 9:19 pm Friday, June 19, 2009

Since the day I moved from Charlotte to Murfreesboro, three years ago, the porch of my house has become the proverbial “safe haven” for any stray animal within a 10 mile radius.

A handful of stray animals have made their selves at home on the porch over the past few years and each have been seemingly equipped with this keen intuitive knowledge that I will not have the heart to turn them away.

I’ve had this knack for attracting strays ever since I was a child; just ask my mom to whom I used to bring each homeless animal when I found one.

I would get the same response each time, “Oooh, NO!” My mom has just as big a heart when it comes to a lost animal.

One of the very first strays I ever found was a tiny calico cat who, after a period of begging my mom and searching for the owner, I was able to keep as my own.

I named her Gypsy because she was the true definition of the term as she had wandered into our lives like a nomad.

She was a friendly and pretty white calico with a vibrant orange patterned against black spots with stripes.

But Gypsy’s time with us was short; she was hit by a car exactly one year after I had found her sitting under the Rose of Sharon in the front yard.

Like any young child, I was devastated by the death of my pet.

So see, my luck with strays has not been so good. Either I have not been able to keep them, forcing me to give them to a animal shelter or fate would take them away.

And after years of the either/or, I’m now quite pessimistic when I find a stray, giving them the “Oooh, NO!” when I find them sitting comfortably on the porch.

It was this glumness I felt a couple weeks ago when I found a baby bird perched on the railing of the porch.

Not only was it a stray, but it was a wild animal and I had no knowledge of how to take care of it.

This is going to end badly, I thought to myself.

All this spring there has seem to be an abundant number of birds’ nests around the News-Herald office. My co-workers and I have found numerous baby birds, both alive and dead.

Looking at the baby bird on my porch I decided I was going to let nature take its course—whatever it may be. It may seem a little cold hearted, but I have seen enough dead baby birds this year.

The bird appeared to be healthy. I saw that nearly all of its down feathers were gone and I could see the faint red color on its breast, a feature of a robin. I figured it was out on its first flight from the nest and decided to leave it alone.

As dusk approached I notice the bird was still there, falling asleep with his (or her) beak tucked under its feathers.

No matter my cynicism, I continued to check on the little bird as it became obvious his mother was not returning for him. After warding off a neighborhood cat, who was drooling as bad as Sylvester does when looking at Tweety, I retrieved an old shoe box. I popped holes in the top and placed clean wood shavings in the bottom, courtesy of my guinea pigs.

I wasn’t going to have a dead bird on my hands the next morning. After a few tries, I was able to scoop the bird in the box. It was a warm night so I left him on a rocking chair outside.

The next morning I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as I neared the front door I could hear the bird chirping loud and clear.

While deciding exactly where to let the bird go, I noticed a robin in the yard that appeared to be interested in the chirping coming from the box.

What happened next is something I never expected. After setting the box with its top open under the tree, the little bird called a few times and the robin swooped in. The little bird then it hopped out and the robin began to feed it.

I believe, wholeheartedly, things happen for a reason, and though this story is a small example of that, it cements my faith in that notion.

There is a reason for each kind soul that enters your life and a lesson to be learned from them.

I haven’t seen the baby bird and its mama since, but I would like to think that this “stray” story is one with a happy ending.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: or call (252) 332-7209.