The Story Of The Bird That Broke My Heart

Photo: Courtesy Of Author, kieferpix | Canva
Woman holding a decorative bird in remembrance

Last week, my mom asked me to go over and let her new puppy out of its kennel while she was at work. I thought nothing of it and happily stopped by after finishing up a yoga class.

Frida, a French Bulldog, has a lot of energy, so we went out back to play. I threw the ball for her a few times, hopped around and made a bunch of noises as you do with a puppy, and entertained us both with a game of tug-of-war. It was fun … until it wasn’t.

After throwing the ball near the shed, I noticed Frida lingering longer than usual and hesitating to grab the ball and bring it back. Then, I saw the cat nearby and figured that was the reason why. When running over to encourage her, however, I realized something entirely different was going on; I realized Frida had an entire bird in her mouth!

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This didn’t surprise me after my mom told me about two instances where she had to grab a dead mouse out of Frida’s mouth with her bare hands.

Still, I panicked. Not knowing what to do, I grabbed Frida’s head and neck and started yelling at her to, “Drop it!” That’s when I realized the bird was alive.

“Drop it!” I yelled again and kept yelling as loud as I could while pushing Frida’s head further toward the ground and maintaining a tight grip.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t willing to touch the bleeding bird with my bare hands and worried that even if I was, I’d just make matters worse. Frida wasn’t letting go and kept her teeth clenched. Meanwhile, the bird’s breathing was signaling fear, panic, and pain. I watched its belly inflate and barely let out any air before taking in more and repeating its shallow breath.

“Frida, drop it!” I screamed while pulling the sides of her mouth back and shaking her head.

The second she let go, I threw her in her kennel while full of rage. Then, I went back out to save the bird from the cat who was already pestering it.

I layered paper towels and carefully picked them up in the palms of my hands. Still hyperventilating, it fluttered its wings a couple of times before realizing it was too injured to fly. Its small legs were bent back and there were a couple of clear lacerations from being mangled by the dog and cat. I think it was the cat who originally caught the bird in the yard. The cat is the reason for the dead mice found in the yard previously, too.

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Someone please help

I set the bird down and tried to think critically about what to do next, but they didn’t prepare me for this in school. The cat circled around both me and the bird, waiting for a chance to sneak in. Then I started panicking. I wasn’t about to let the cat have the satisfaction of finishing the bird off, but what were my options?

I called my mom. No answer.

Then I called my partner. When he answered, I explained to him what had happened and tried to remain calm. He told me to call the veterinarian’s office to see if they could help.

He also reminded me I might not be able to save the poor bird, and that was okay. He said, that in his job as an arborist, he’s tried to save both birds and baby squirrels he’s accidentally disturbed, but it never goes as planned.

Despite his words, I wanted to believe this time could be different. As the small bird lay immobile and with what appeared to be tears in its eyes, I knew I had to get it help.

Though, unfortunately, the veterinarian clinic in town said they couldn’t take in wild birds and pointed me in the direction of Fish and Wildlife who never answered the phone.

That’s when my mom called me back and I burst into tears. Unlike the calm demeanor I kept with my partner, I became a class-A train wreck of emotions trying to tell her what had happened. This is not how I planned to spend my morning — especially only two days before leaving the country!

She told me to either leave it and accept there is nothing I could do, or take it home and try to bring it back to life. So, of course, I put it in a shoe box and brought it home with me.

Even my partner reminded me of the natural predator-prey cycle within the animal kingdom, but I didn’t want to hear it.

I just wanted the bird to live, and I needed to know I did everything possible to try and save it.

When I got home, I wandered around our property trying to find the right place to set the bird down to rest. I was confident that with a little time, birdseed, and water, it would be back to normal and could fly home to its family.

But that never happened.

Unwelcome arrivals

I placed the bird in our shed with the door open and some sunlight shining in. I figured this was ideal to avoid squirrels, neighborhood cats, and the bird freaking out by being indoors.

Then, I filled a mason jar lid with some bird seed and set it close by in the box. That’s when I noticed the bird’s belly wasn’t moving as much as it was earlier. Its breath had become more faint since getting away from the attack, but now it appeared to not be breathing at all.

I stood there, frozen.

Then, I got down and looked the bird in the eyes. Its eyes were halfway closed, similar to a wince we humans give when we’re in pain.

I stayed, frozen.

And then I cried, heartbroken, realizing I hadn’t ever watched anything die right in front of me. Not like that.

Although I knew it was unlikely, I tried to stay somewhat hopeful that maybe I’d come back later and the bird would be gone; maybe it was just taking a rest and would find its family soon.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case either. Later in the afternoon, I went back out and it remained in the same position as before.

Again, I was heartbroken. The only thing I had to be grateful for was that it died a more peaceful death than it would have been eaten alive. 

Such a tiny bird, but one that left a big impact.

Such a tiny bird, but one whose health and well-being kept me from being able to concentrate the rest of the day. So much so, that I almost missed an important appointment.

Such a tiny bird that didn’t deserve to die.

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Signs and loved ones

After realizing the bird was indeed dead, I took the shoe box out to the trash can and said my goodbyes. My partner said I should have buried it and maybe I should have, but I honestly was not thinking straight. I was sad and disappointed.

When I came back from the trash, though, I noticed something strange; it was a dime right next to where I had the shoe box sitting right before.

They say finding random dimes in unusual places is a sign of your deceased loved ones. Right away, I thought of my papa. A few weeks earlier, I had found a dime while clearing out some stuff from my grandparents’ home. I was out in what used to be my papa’s shop when I noticed a dime lying in the center of the floor.

Papa? Is that you?

When I picked up this dime and had a closer look, it read the year 2020. This year is significant because it’s the year I not only lost my papa but my friend, Kyle. They left back to back and were two people very special to me.

So, maybe it was one of them… maybe it was both of them. Either way, someone was watching and I think wanted me to know it would be okay.

Later that evening I met up with my mom who had a gift for me from Frida. It was a decorative bird with a hanger on it that read “love Frida.”


Photo: Decorative bird, gifted by Frida (and her mom)/Carly Newberg

The thought was nice, but I still haven’t forgiven Frida completely. Yes, I know she is just a puppy, but she really put me through the wringer with her actions. I told my mom it might be a while before I could come to let her out of her kennel again.

All I know is I’ll forever hold close the memory of the bird that broke my heart. I never knew such a tiny being held so much power, but this one certainly did. Not only did it wreck me emotionally, but it taught me a valuable lesson that some things simply aren’t within our control— no matter how bad we want them to be.

Some things just are what they are. And in the end, you will be okay.

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Carly Newberg is a yoga instructor, photographer, and non-niche writer passionate about authentic storytelling. Carly published her memoir, Good Enough, in 2020 and is now a regular contributor on Medium. She's had articles featured in publications such as Insider, Well & Good, and Dame. 

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.