Honorary veterinarian for a day
My veterinarian-student girlfriend, Crystal, and I were walking up to my apartment this morning when we both heard a scratching sound coming from a pinched closed gutter pipe running down the side of a nearby building. At first I didn't think anything about it, but it came unmistakably from the gutter pipe a second time. Crystal said, "that sounds like a squirrel trapped in the gutter." It sounded that way to me too, so we quickly devised a plan to free it from certain doom in that diabolical pipe. It gives me claustrophobia just thinking about it. The poor animal may have been in there all night, or perhaps days.
I grabbed my toolbox while telling Crystal where to find a pair of gloves for protection in case the animal became aggressive while we tried to free it. Our plan was to pull the bottom of the gutter open with my biggest pair of plyers.
Unfortunately we were forced to change our plan on two accounts. First, opening the bottom of the gutter would drop the animal right into a second drainpipe that went straight down into the ground, and second, the plyers were bending the pipe in ways that could have crushed the trapped animal. We used tape from my toolbox and a nearby piece of plastic to cover the hole in the ground below the pipe, but our makeshift lid crowded around the gutter that we needed to somehow manipulate open.
Crystal observed that the gutter was old and flimsy, so I asked her if she thought tinsnips would cut it. She said yes, they probably would. It was slow going, I was standing next to the building holding the pipe while she made small clips out of the bottom of the pipe. It was very noisy and traumatic for the animal inside, which we found out when it crapped on my tinsnips! It was bird poo, which was a relief because birds don't bite like squirrels might.
After quite a bit of careful cutting, Crystal was able to see feathers, and then a dangling leg on the left side of the gutter. We could hear it shifting itself inside the gutter. At that time we thought it was a good idea to cut away on the right side of the pipe to make sure we didn't accidentally maim the bird. Minutes later we paused to re-evaluate the next place to cut when a big red head poked out of the pipe and started looking around! We backed away and the bird wiggled out of the pipe, which we had cut in such a way that there were no jagged edges.
That bird jumped around on the ground for a minute, and then flew up to a bush to join a few other birds, and they all flew off. I don't know if those other birds were watching us save their mate, or just hanging out on some branches, but I felt pretty amazing when I saw our rescued bird take flight.
Crystal and I have been together for almost 5 years, and the whole time she's had her focus on becoming a vet but I never really knew what gave her the drive. Today was the first time I got to feel the gratification that comes with making a life-saving intervention for an animal, and I feel like I know Crystal a little bit better because of it. She wants to have the knowledge and position to do this kind of thing every day. I will never have that knowledge, but today was my chance to do it in a small way. I was so proud of what we did that she agreed it would be okay that I could be an honorary veterinarian for a day!