It’s time to tell the rest of the story about the feisty little cardinal that couldn’t fly like his nest-mates. In March, as he hopped along the ground, he was attacked by my dog—twice, but still managed to show his gumption. No doubt about it, he was a fighter. As soon as I clasped my hands around his wings and body—to rescue him from further harm by my pooch—his head turned and he seized what was within reach—my index finger. He didn’t release his formidable grip until I walked inside the house and found a basket to put him in.

With a towel draped across the basket, I drove him to a veterinary office that handles injured wildlife. That same evening he was taken to a wildlife sanctuary and rehabilitation center. The days passed. It took me a while to summon the courage to call the center to inquire as to his recovery. Surely he made it, I thought. He was such a fighter. And I couldn’t see any obvious signs of wounding. But I really hate to bother those people at the center. I know they’re crazy this time of year tending to young wildlife. Maybe I should drive on over there. Oh, heck, that would be an even bigger bother than a phone call.

On the eleventh day I called. “Oh, yes,” the woman said, after I’d given her my name, “here’s the record. He just died this morning.”

“Oh, no!” I said. “Are you sure?”

“Let me check.” She put me on hold and came back. “Yes, ma’m, I’m sorry, but he didn’t make it. They had him on an antibiotic. But he was gone this morning.”

I’ve thought a lot about that fledgling. I’ve felt responsible for his demise since it was my dog that did the damage. But where do I go with that?

So, here is what I have done: I take particular pleasure in every cardinal that I see. A few days ago, as I sat on my deck, the one pictured above alighted on the limb of the pecan tree and hung out for a while. Yesterday I cherished the sight of a spectacularly red adult cardinal zinging through the boughs of the trees. And always, I have the memory, imprinted on my finger, of the grip, the powerful determination of that little red-feathered fighter.

(Scroll down to “Red-feathered Fighter” to see the previous post on this bird.)

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