Two crows were in the road. The older bird was dead; the younger, we'll call him Frankie, was standing guard and wouldn't budge.
I moved the dead bird off the pavement hoping the little guy would follow. But Frankie, about three or four weeks old and unable to fly, held his ground. So I took him home, and soon found myself rethinking my view about charities – specifically those dedicated to helping animals rather than humans.
Here's the backstory: A few months ago I wrote a column in USA Today about people who donate to good causes – the school volleyball team, the animal shelter, etc. – while so many Americans are hungry. We give roughly $300 billion to charities each year, but only 10 percent goes directly to social and human services.
I wasn't criticizing the well-intentioned efforts of any particular charity, but suggested that donors should apply a triage system at this time of profound human need.
I put Frankie in a large box, and Googled "caring for young crows and ravens."
Seems these birds make good pets, provided they are introduced to people before being "imprinted" in the wild. I also learned that they're quite messy, often moody, and will eat just about anything. One site said for youngsters you must "place a glob of food on your finger and push it down the crow's throat." I wish I had video of my failed attempts at doing this for Frankie.
My wife Amy suggested I phone the ASPCA, sending me into immediate panic. What if someone there had read my column and labeled me a non-believer? What if Frankie wound up being euthanized in a dingy back room, where I envisioned all the "lesser" critters went eventually?
Jessica, in the Wildlife Department, was surprisingly sympathetic. She said one of her colleagues was only a few miles from my house and could be over in a few minutes. She'd come to me? In a few minutes? Good luck getting such service from a plumber.
Jen arrived in a very official-looking truck and put on surgical gloves. She gave Frankie a thorough exam and pronounced him fit, but too underfed to be returned to the wild.
So Jen took Frankie to the ASPCA, where he'll be eating a mixture of cat food and raw vegetables. When stronger, he'll be brought back to the woods near my house.
I was feeling embarrassed about my earlier column, and mumbled something to Jen about sending a donation, which she politely said wasn't necessary.
In the column I asked, "If you encountered a starving child holding a starving puppy, would your first step be to offer food to the dog? Obviously not." I still agree with that – as would Jen and Jessica, I imagine.
But maybe it's not so simple. All living things deserve our sympathetic attention, especially those who, by chance, are placed in our paths.
Years ago I was driving up Madison Avenue in New York when a scrawny kitten ran under my car. I stopped and got out, blocking the busy intersection at rush hour. The crowd quickly divided into two camps: those who yelled, "Get moving!" and those who screamed, "It's right under your car!"
That cat – named Dasher because during the hourlong drive that followed managed to crawl behind the dashboard, requiring the services of an auto mechanic to free him – racked up $1,300 in vet bills. A ridiculous expenditure, I suppose. But that's something else about "lesser" creatures in our lives: once you reach out to them, their problems become yours.
The ASPCA, founded in 1866, operates under the belief that "animals are entitled to kind and respectful treatment at the hands of humans." While I wait for Jen and Frankie to return, I'm sending a modest donation.
The columnist in me wants to say I was forced to eat crow, but the creature-lover in me would rather not.
Peter Funt is a writer and speaker and can be reached at www.CandidCamera.com.
Copyright 2012 Peter Funt. Columns distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate. For more info contact Cari Dawson Bartley. Email [email protected], (800) 696-7561