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A Child’s Compassion And Strength

It’s funny how life can revolve around a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old. I never thought fatherhood would be this difficult. Maybe it’s because I’m nearing 50. Maybe it’s because I’m not allowed to cause bodily harm to my offspring to keep them in line as my predecessors once did. Whatever the reason, when my daughter says jump … well, I jump. When she asks me to save a flailing chick that I believe has a very slim chance of survival, I say, “Yes, Jada, I will try really hard to save the little chick.”

As it turns out, a valuable life lesson emerged from the heroic attempt.

It was a cold, blustery, rainy day. The chicken that had made a nest on a balcony adjacent to my office had hunkered down for the afternoon. Her six chicks were warm and comfy below her fluffy down. All except chick No. 7.

“Daddy, what’s wrong with that baby chicken?” asked my daughter.

“I’m not sure, honey, but I don’t think it’s going to survive.” I watched the mama chicken just two feet away. She gazed at her baby, but made no attempt to help the little one. In the animal kingdom, this usually meant bad news. Mothers know if something is terribly wrong and will often divert their attention to the babies that are healthy. After all, this hen had six more chicks to care for.

“Do something, Daddy,” pleaded my 5-year-old. “Save the baby chicken.” Jada tugged at my shirt, pulling me closer to the helpless chick.

As I gazed at the flailing chick lying on its side, I could already feel the heartbreak. I reached down and scooped up the little one. She was cold, wet and barely responded to my handling.

On the way home, I listened as my daughter sang a lullaby to the chick nestled in a clean towel. The tune sounded familiar, but Jada made up the lyrics.

“Lullaby and goodnight … Don’t worry, little chicky … we are going to help you … so go to sleep and rest …” The gentle, delicate tune was sung nearly at a whisper. The rain outside had subsided, but admittedly my vision remained blurred by a different kind of downpour.

Later that night, my daughter named the chick Joey.

“Daddy, when we wake up will Joey still be here or will God come and take her?”

Darn, will the rain ever stop?

I reassured Jada that, with the warm towels and a belly full of nutritious gruel, Joey had a chance of surviving. Satisfied with that answer, Jada went to bed after saying a prayer for her little patient.

Joey did survive the night but her condition continued to worsen. By the end of the day, she passed away.

My voice waivered as I shared the sad news with our daughter. A silent river began to flow as Jada gently petted Joey. She asked me to pet Joey, only to admonish my efforts, saying I was too rough.

“Daddy, you need to be gentle,” she urged.

Jada’s forearms were streaked with tears as she wiped her eyes repeatedly. After what seemed like an eternity, she sat down and wrote a card for Joey. It read, “Dear Joey, I love you so much.” The card also contained directions for God to come and pick up Joey and take good care of her. I was totally amazed at the compassion and strength in my 5-year-old daughter. Suffice it to say, it rained for days.

Dr. John Kaya is the director of the Windward Community College veterinary technician program and associate veterinarian for VCA University Animal Hospital. Email thewildside@midweek.com.