The dogs and their boy: the adventures of Josh and John Robin

Sally - John Robin


The other day, our fearless five year old, Joshua, was peacefully swinging outside after his near-daily torture (a wagon ride and alternating running while we walk and jog at the park). After just a few minutes outside, he appeared at the back door and Julia ran to get me. There he was with a baby robin snuggled in his little hands. He looked up at me with a sweet contented face and calmly explained that he found the dogs terrorizing it (his words). I was speechless. He had the look of a protector and façade of one who has done something utterly satisfying. When I asked him HOW in the world (internally panicking at his bravado) he got four large dogs (weighing approximately 50 lbs, 60 lbs, 63 lbs and 95 lbs) off of the baby bird, he matter-of-factly explained that he saw the bird hopping around, pushed the dogs back, and lifted the baby bird while cradling it in his hands and proceeding to climb up into his tree house. (I was silently in terror of what could have happened and simultaneously in awe of his fearlessness which is likely what kept him safe from the predators, AKA our dogs). I was less than put together, having just returned from our 3.6 mile jog/walk and preparing to go on a rare outing with Jonathan…so I was absolutely flustered and slightly in shock. After my shock had settled, he explained that only three of the dogs had been terrorizing the bird…the fourth (Thor, the most small animal aggressive, likely because he may have been a hunter before we rescued he and Freya when they were just a few months old) was elsewhere in the yard. My guess is that Thor's preoccupation elsewhere was an amazing blessing in this little story!

Because Josh is such a clever boy, he quickly realized that he should come get me, so he climbed down the ladder and brought the bird up on the deck. Please understand that I am never a fan of small children playing by themselves outside, but if you have read or seen Peter Pan you will realize that our dogs were playing Nana in the backyard. Furthermore, if you know our dogs you will understand that Josh was perfectly safe (from humans at least). Aragorn, a nine year old male boxer with aggression issues, is a totally competent bodyguard. Add Thor, a mixed breed just over five, into the mix and you have quite the team. Freya, Thor’s sister and Arwen, an almost eight year old boxer, might be sweet fur-girls, but they aren’t pushovers.

It is rather wondrous to me that in nine years of large dogs (albeit very domesticated dogs who only appear outside a few times a day) we have only had one small animal fatality (a cat who could not read the Beware of Dogs sign and whose demise was a rather traumatic event indeed). And, I was really totally unprepared to care for a small wounded animal. Somehow growing up with outside dogs (German Shepherds), I was never the one to tend to any of the many animals they found in our home in rural Lutz, Florida. While I totally understand the cycle of life, I am not a fan of watching it occur in my tidy suburban backyard.

So, Joshua fearlessly saved a baby robin from three of our four large dogs, happily named it John (his own middle name), and excitedly insisted on making every attempt to save it (even explaining that I should splint the leg and wing with popsicle sticks—the one thing that I told him would not be a good plan). We offered John some of Brisbane's super worms (not a hit) and seed (not a hit). Finally, we carefully nestled him in a box with a towel and left it on the deck, only letting the dogs out supervised for the rest of the evening.


Sally - Josh with John Robin

In the wee hours of the night, we found that little John had hopped from his box on the table to the deck floor and I feared that he would hop off the edge. I explained to a very concerned Josh that we needed to put him down on the ground if he had any hopes of surviving. We took him down into the back yard and he immediately hopped under a ground covering cypress bush. I knew he would be somewhat safe there and hoped that we would not wake up to feathers by the tree. I honestly didn’t expect him to survive long, and I promised Josh that we’d bury him in the front flower bed with Isabella and Knightley (two parakeets) if he did not survive the night.

The next morning I let Arwen out alone (because she is the sweetest natured of the dogs and mostly free from small animal aggression) to help me find John if he was still around. She found him immediately and he looked just as good as he did last night, he was hopping around pathetically dragging a leg and holding his wing at a strange angle, frequently falling on his side. I called Josh to help me bring the box out to the garden area (which has a wooden picket fence around it to keep the dogs out). We set John up out there safe from the dogs and fed him rainwater… he hopped out of the box into the grass! Josh was very excited to see John snuggle up in the grass! While we were moving John to the garden spot, we saw what looked like the mama bird and, perhaps, even the daddy bird! Josh called to her, “I saved your baby!!!! He’s right here!!!” It was precious. My child knows a mother’s love – instinct or not! I decided the best course of action was to let the dogs out one more time in the morning (under supervision, of course) and leave John safely in the garden area, in the rare chance that he could eventually use his little wing (his leg was definitely damaged).

We came inside and watched sporadically at the back door as the parents and the other babies flew around the area, even swooping inside the garden fence. This gave me hope that I had not allowed myself to have before! Perhaps the mama was feeding her wounded baby? For several hours we watched the babies practice flying over our back yard (which really should be a no-fly zone) and the parents zoom around them.

We checked on John when the practice ceased and he had hopped to another area, while still in the safety of the enclosed garden, and was sunning his little wing. This thrilled me! We watched him again while we let the dogs out so we could ensure his safety. He rested safely in the area and was nestled in the grass when we went inside for lunch.

As the afternoon progressed, the bird family resumed their flying practice around the yard and I continued to see the parents swoop into the garden spot. I never dreamed that this story would have a happy ending. I’m too happy to be a pessimist, but I think I have a bit too much cynicism to be a true optimist. Yet, my little boy has the simple faith of a child–it is a lovely thing!

Just before our daily park outing, Josh and I went outside to check on John and he was GONE! We searched everywhere to make sure that John wasn’t in hiding. I have no idea if his wing was just not fully developed earlier or if the time and sunning somehow helped the wing, but somehow that little birdie must have made it home! A bit later we observed the mama robin flying with worms to her nest!

Certainly, Josh is beyond excited about his adventure and his little bird-friend’s survival! As for me, I doubt I’ll ever tire of hearing this adventure re-told! Josh’s fearlessness touched me almost as much as his hope that the birdie’s mama would find her little one. So, in spite of the odds, my little brave hearted boy was rewarded with a happy ending.

“Fearlessness is the first requisite of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

Sally - Ninja Josh


Category: Happenings
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