By Debbie Baldwin

So last week my family and I were spending an uncharacteristically quiet evening at home. Homework was finished, and Cranky Whiny and Punch inexplicably were not bickering (I wondered idly if they had run out of ideas). Anyway, we were lolling around the family room, watching some vaguely inappropriate crime show when Pebbles, our puggle, hopped onto my lap and settled in. Wow, how Norman Rockwell! I guess every family deserves one night like this…and then I heard the noise.

You see, I had made lamb chops for dinner that night, and after consulting everything from Wikipedia to Google, I came to the controversial conclusion that dogs should not be given lamb bones. That apparently is not an opinion dogs themselves share. So there I sat, dog on lap, clearly aware that she was munching on a bone that she shouldn’t be. I also was aware of the fact that I should probably take this bone away from her. The puppy, however, does not share this sentiment. I weigh my options, and a content dog and quiet family win out. I scratched the puppy behind her ears, and smiled as the kids tried to figure out who the killer on the TV show was—it was almost serene. And that’s when things took a turn for the worse.

My husband came home from the office and shattered our familial bliss with one simple horrifying comment: What are all these feathers doing all over the floor? I still. Pebbles—almost sensing the firestorm—hops off my lap and scuttles under the couch. The realization dawns: I have nestled this dog gently on my lap while she quietly lay there and ate a bird.

My long and sordid history—a.k.a. phobia—with birds goes back decades. I think it started when, as a child, I found a colorful bird feather in our yard. My mother smacked it out of my hand, cautioning me that bird feathers are filthy and spread disease.

When I lived in New York City, I was getting ready to go for a run around Central Park one day when a bookishly handsome man wearing a Harvard Medical School sweatshirt started stretching next to me. I was just about to give him the smile/hair toss combo when a pigeon—shall we say—relieved himself on my head. Although in retrospect the pigeon was probably saving me from myself—that guy was way out of my league.

Then, there was the goose incident. Walking into work one spring day at a renowned local performance improvement company, I apparently wandered too close to a nest of hatchlings. I won’t sugar-coat it. I was attacked. The mother goose—quite unlike the sweet lady from the nursery rhymes—chased me across a lawn and into a parking lot biting me soundly on my backside until I beat a hasty retreat to my Honda Accord.

I won’t get into the bird nest in the chimney story—I’m still in therapy. I also did get a very nasty look from a peacock while touring Monticello while in graduate school. He didn’t try anything, but he was thinking about it.

So there I stood in my living room, my dog cowering, my children convulsing with laughter and my husband quickly gathering up the carnage. I rolled my eyes and realized something: I do not like birds; and apparently, they are not too crazy about me, either.