It happened last summer, while I was at home and the kids away at camp (learning Jewish folks songs and collecting bug bites). I had let the two cockatiels out of their cage to stretch their wings and was keeping a close eye on the situation, as my dogs still hadn't decided whether these spunky little songbirds were food or family.
The doorbell rang with the usual accompaniment of barks as the two bigger dogs ran to the front door. The two "little dogs" (not that much littler, but much more shy), found their hiding places and made themselves invisible. The woman standing at the door was in her thirties and looked like your average soccer Mom - short hair, petite figure, casual clothes from Old Navy or The Gap.
She said hello and introduced herself, then asked me what "services" I attend and if I was a member of Agudas. I jumped to the conclusion that this was someone from the Agudas Achim congregation, perhaps a Sisterhood lady, come to ask for some volunteer service or donation or just to give me information.... So I chatted on with her for a while about the different synagogues in our town.... And then she pulled out a Jehovah's Witness "Watchtower" magazine and handed it to me.
She might as well have handed me a vial of arsenic. I believe I actually recoiled. Instantly, I felt duped and angry. Our door has a sign that says "Shalom, Y'all" (the correct translation of "Shalom Aleichem"). I guess she had known from that, or from our name, or both, that this was a Jewish home.
"I'm not interested," I said.
"Just take it for later. You don't have to read it now," she said, holding out the magazine.
"I'm not bringing that into my home," I snapped at her. I stepped back and shut the door.
I was sweating and my heart was pounding. I went to the bedroom to wash my face. It was then that I heard one of the birds screeching. Though one hesitates to assign emotions to birds, I have to say his screeching sounded desperate. Unlike any sound I had ever heard from him before.
I rushed to the front hallway in time to see the female cockatiel caught by my terrier mutt. Meiko had the bird in her mouth and was carrying it. The larger male bird - bright yellow wings flapping -- circled around Meiko, diving down and then climbing up, screeching, crying, screaming.
I yelled at Meiko to "drop it! drop it now!" She dropped the bird and I ran to pick her up. It was already too late. The tiny body was lifeless. There were no teeth marks or blood; no injury, but no heartbeat. For a few moments, I held the small creature. She had been a sweet bird. Friendlier than the male, she was very affectionate with people. She sang to us, chatted with us, happily perched upon our shoulders.
Later, when I thought about it, I felt that the death of the gentle bird and the intrusion of the missionary were somehow connected. My attention had been diverted. I had been fooled. And in that moment of inattention and gullibility, the dog attacked, the bird was caught, and one small song silenced.