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Robin returns to wild

August 07, 2002|by Liz Boch

lizb@herald-mail.com

Sandra Hays and her family never thought that after owning a black lab named Mollie and then an orange tabby cat named Vincent, the next family pet would be a wild baby bird named Robin.

Hays, 54, said the baby robin was knocked out of its nest during high winds on June 15. The Smithsburg resident found the bird near her porch.

"I know you're supposed to leave these things alone, but after a few hours, it was obvious he had been abandoned," Hays said.

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The family thought the robin died after noticing his injured wing and bloody mouth, but slowly, he began to move.

"I wasn't sure if he was breathing so I wrapped him in a cloth," Hays said. "I figured the first thing any animal needs is warmth."

Once the bird opened its mouth to catch the water drops Hays squeezed from a damp paper towel, the family decided to try to nurse him back to health.

The family named him "Robin" and made a nest out of cloth and napkins in their cat carrier. He first drank water and then graduated to V8 Juice through an eye dropper.

A few days later, Hays' father-in-law, Donald Hays, fed Robin what was to become his favorite food, potted meat. He theorized that Robin liked the pepper flavor.

Sandra Hays said the family did not want Robin becoming accustomed to humans, and made him playpens outside so he could acquaint himself with nature. First, it was an upside-down laundry basket, then, an enclosed chicken coop.

"He'd follow us around the yard all day," she said. "When he'd fly a little, we'd praise him a lot and tell him how well he did. He'd meet me in the driveway and chirp, chirp, chirp and ask me how my day went."

Donald Hays, 67, said Robin perched on his hand while he coached the bird to fly. Donald, who has had three stokes and a heart attack in the past four years, said the two had wonderful talks.

"I'd tell him how pretty he looked and that he was a big boy," Donald Hays said.

Sandra Hays said even 15-year-old Mollie loved Robin.

"You'd think since she's a bird dog, she'd eat Robin, but he never tried," she said. "They'd touch noses and Mollie would wag her tail."

Eventually, Robin became restless in the cat carrier and the family let him go.

"He fussed one night and we opened the cat door and he flew into a tree," Sandra Hays said.

Although Robin no longer uses the cat carrier, he returns to the yard each day, Donald Hays said.

"He still comes around, so I wasn't upset when he flew away," he said.

Sandra Hays said she understands why Robin no longer comes any closer to the family than the porch steps.

"He doesn't sit on my shoulder anymore, but I know that's the way it has to be if he's going to live in the wild," she said.

Donald Hays said having Robin perch on his finger was satisfaction enough.

"I was overwhelmed that something wild would come so close," he said. "It makes me feel really good."

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