They told me he was going to be put down on Thursday.
Imagine, then, how surprised I was Friday, when I went in to the bird room and found him still there, sitting perched atop his little castle inside his big dog cage.
I have been taking care of this bird for a few weeks through his illness and perhaps it makes me a bad researcher, but I've grown attached to him (and to many of the others). Though I had lots of other things to do while my experimental bird was busy pecking away in the chamber, I decided that, with 81's future up in the air, that I'd give him 20 minutes or so to do whatever the heck he wanted.
I have no idea if he will be there Monday when I return - I am not sure if they are giving him a second chance or have basically just not gotten around to the dreaded task - but at least I can say I allowed him to be a bird, just for a little while.
My mind has been swirling with happiness over the fact that I am allowed to have this experience of working so closely with my research animals and anger that I have been allowed to do so because of the emotion it creates.
I work with the birds only because they are not discarded at the end of the experiment. It is not a typical research lab. These birds are not disposable. They are not subject to pain or aversive treatments. Many have been living there for a decade or more.
Most research animals don't have that luxury.
And that, in a nutshell, is why I will not continue with research after I graduate college... because although I love science and all that it does for our world, and although I am not, per-se, against animal research (my feelings on it are incredibly mixed and it is one of those things I just prefer to not think about), I would be unable to separate my emotions from my research participants. I am an animal lover first and anything else second.
I really love my birds. I see them almost every day and can completely discern them from each other. They have their own "pigeonalities," you could say. It's not supposed to be that way, but it is what it is.
I am only human.