Saturday, November 12, 2011

My Night With 81

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.

He walked across the floor, eyeballing me in that way that pigeons do and scurrying under the desk when I got too close.  Then, suddenly, he started to look up, bobbing his little head in all different directions.  He squat down, spread his wings, and vocalized as he fluttered right back up to his cage.

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.


Sue November 12, 2011 at 3:53 PM  

Birds do have distinct personalities if we take the time to observe. I'd have problems doing research too, I think. I would hope I wouldn't become hardened.

Thank you for giving that sweet pigeon a chance to wander around for even a little while.

Diana November 13, 2011 at 4:42 AM  

Yea, I couldnt do it either. But I couldnt work at animal processing plants either but I do want to eat. So Im glad someone does it.

Dawn November 13, 2011 at 7:49 AM  

It's hard work, especially if you become attached. I know birds are pretty smart, so I can see that they all have pigeonalities. I think when we get older our pet will be a bird. After we can't have dogs that is.

KB November 13, 2011 at 9:24 AM  

I understand your feelings... because I was in the same place when I was in school. In some ways, it's really important that animal lovers stay involved in animal research to be the collective conscience of the field. But, in the end, I reached the same conclusion as you - that I'd be tortured by worry about the animals for the rest of my career if I kept trying to work with them...

It sounds like you've really thrown yourself into your research, and I'm glad that you've had that experience.

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart November 13, 2011 at 10:49 AM  

It's a tough spot, for sure. I'm glad you got to spend a little time with 81, no matter what happens ... I did an article about a new science facility at a local college, and all of the animal labs were underground in heavily secured areas. They would not let me see them.

Dog_geek November 14, 2011 at 2:02 PM  

As a scientist myself, I would only say, don't forget that there are planty of research opportunities that don't involve working with animals. I have (by choice) never worked with animal subjects other than humans.

Dog_geek November 14, 2011 at 2:03 PM  

Ha ha... that should be "plenty" not "planty" although I suppose botanical research is indeed another option...

Kathy Mocharnuk November 18, 2011 at 9:23 PM  

I love birds and they do have personalities for sure and seem to develop attachments....I could only be a worker in a lab like yours where the animals are not exposed to painful or horrid experiments or disposed of ;-(, I wonder what that would do to your insides to be able to easily handle that type of thing in labs where they do the horrible experiments you read about.

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