Earlier today I was driving with my girls in the car when one of them spotted a duck, sitting, stunned on the other side of the road. I pulled over and looked back in the rear mirror.
I have to confess to normally being hopeless at coping in these situations and to half hoping that another car would hit the duck and put it out of its misery. Not only did no one do that but half a dozen cars carefull drove around it and no one stopped to help.
"Fuck - I'm going to have to do this" I thought.
I left the girls in the car and ran back to the duck. It was sitting there not moving it's body but not in such a state as to be hopeless. I gently picked it up and noticed blood trickling through my fingers and some blood oozing out of it's right eye. It was a beautiful female Malard duck and felt warm and soft in my hands. She looked at me with such a sad look that I knew that I had to help.
I went back to the car and held the duck on the pavement with one hand while I tried to call my wife with the mobile in the other. The kids came out of the car and were fascinated to see what I was doing. One of them thoughtfully went back to the car to get some wet wipes to clear up the blood on my hands.
My wife wasn't in when I rang so I then tried the RSPCA. I listened to bloody music for 20 minutes only to be advised to call a local vet. At this point a really nice couple not only went and got a box and a blanket but also got me an emergency number for a local vet.
When I called them they said they didn't deal with wild animals!
Thankfully there is a wild animal hospital, the first in Europe, near us called St. Tiggywinkles and doubly thankfully it was only about ten miles away. I carefully closed the box and laid heavy stuff on top of it so that the duck coudn't start flapping around the car. We drove there successfully and a very nice nurse reckoned that the duck just had a broken leg and would probably survive.
Having a wildlife hospital may seem bizarre and a very middle class thing to some. Animals die all the time in the wild and often in much worse and more distressing circumstances - getting eaten alive by a fox must seem worse than a smack from a car.
Trouble is once I had looked it in the eye the duck became another living being and I had a clear sense that my own character was in that moment defined by my response to its plight. It was the same as walking by a beggar in the streets or ignoring someone having a heart attack on the tube. Something alive and sensate was in distress and I had to do something to help.
The really bizarre thing is that some people blow these beautiful creatures out of the sky and call it sport.