The Way of the Crow



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A Troubling Experience

It is especially difficult to write about experiences that adversely affect a companion close to your heart. With each word I find myself reliving the event, as I begin to describe an assault that almost took Spirit's life.

The incident happened in June, 1991, during the heavy darkness of a new moon. Spirit was in his outdoor living quarters which had the appearance of a chicken coup. It was approximately fourteen feet long, by seven feet wide, by five feet high. The walls and roof of a section of the pen were covered with boards, giving protection from storms. I kept two basins of water and a food dish in this area. As well, this section contained a converted dog house for extra protection. The floor of the dog house was covered with layers of sawdust and straw. The remainder of the living area was enclosed with chicken wire, as was the door itself. On the ground were numerous pine cones and sticks. Also, a section of the ground was covered in straw, and there was a small spruce tree in a corner of the pen.

The attacker may have been a curious raccoon, a stray dog, or a porcupine, all of which would have been attracted to the odds and ends of old dry meat lying about the place. I am certain the animal was at least the size of a raccoon since a wide section of wire was indented and pushed forward. This would have taken a great deal of pressure, certainly much more than a weasel, or some smaller animal could have applied.

Spirit must have been terrified by the experience. When I found him the following morning, my mouth fell, I couldn't believe the scene. He was hanging in a perilous position with his feet and a wing tangled in the wire. He may have been in that position for hours. In his fear and desperate effort to escape the intruder, he must have taken flight and hit the chicken wire, which formed part of the siding of his living space. I hadn’t heard any commotion during the night, dispite the fact that Spirit's living quarters was almost adjacent to my cabin. There are several explanations for why I didn't hear anything. First, I was likely asleep during the attack. Second, the wind was blowing, which might have smothered sounds. Third, crows are normally quiet during the night. It is conceivable that a single crow would not caw loudly in the night, even if attacked.

I worked quickly to free him from the wire, examining his feet and wings as much as I could under the circumstances. He was very quiet, probably suffering from mild shock and exhaustion. His wing looked fine, but I suspected his leg was broken, as it was quite weak, and dangled limply. I was devastated! I felt a sad, desperate anger and frustration, because I hadn't discovered his plight earlier. Yet, there was a positive side to the incident, in that for the first time I realized how deeply I appreciated having Spirit in my life. Seeing him in this predicament made me realize how precious his life was to me. I realized how quickly events could turn - how quickly he could die. I decided that I must double my efforts to enjoy each moment of his company, and to learn about his crow nature – there was no time to waste.

Often, it takes a trumatic experience to make one fully realize how wonderful and how transitory life is. Oh, I always appreciated the special being Spirit was, but hadn't fully realized the extent to which his life touched mine. It is very difficult to explain this caring, this appreciation. It is easy to explain to people that you are caring for an injured or disabled bird, which is unable to fend for itself, but much more difficult to describe the emotional and psychic rapport that develops over time between human and crow, or any other creature for that matter. Perhaps it is because so many of us underestimate the sentience and intelligence of animals, but when one is open to what a creature such as a crow can teach us, the potential relationship deepens immeasurably.

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