“Can you keep him until tomorrow, Mom?”


The pelican that spent the night in our garage.

Nothing surprises me about animals. Their instinct is infallible. They ferret out harbors for help or handouts, and their radar drives them to reliable sources. Our acreage on a hill surrounded by trees is one of those harbors. 


Four grown children repeat this “welcoming” stamp. All of them have several pets in their own homes. As a teenager, our eldest daughter, who now teaches third grade at Riverside Central Elementary School in Rochester, once lured a shaggy, golden-eyed Airedale home, thankfully stopping short of inviting him into the car, as he smelled like a skunk. After a tomato juice bath, he happily joined the family.


 My youngest daughter, who manages Paws and Claws Humane Society, once brought home a rejected foal in the back of a covered pickup driven by our farrier. When the rear door swung open, she and the colt nearly rolled out at a sudden stop. Too young to feed from a bucket, the colt sucked formula from seven daily baby bottles for months. Tanya also rescued a pup left by railroad tracks with a “Please take care of me” note in her collar. “Daisy” is now the cherished four-legged sister of granddaughter Zoey. Tanya has become a rescue agent for dogs and cats that end up at her shelter; other species, she graciously refers to her list of other humane agencies.


I wasn’t surprised when we got a call last fall about Tanya’s latest rescue, a disoriented pelican found waddling along a highway median. The plan was to deliver him to the Wildlife Rehab Center in Roseville the next day. He greedily ate a store-bought fish and seemed content in the cage that was hauled into our garage. 

Later that night, a storm had me checking on our guest. Unfamiliar with pelicans, it came as a surprise to find a feathered body with no visible head, neck or long bill. My gasp awoke the bird and one large eye and long neck slowly emerged from a nest of white feathers. He took one gander at me, and neatly twisted neck and bill back into his attached featherbed.  


At Roseville, “Pelly” was examined by vets and treated for lethargy, parasites and beak abrasions. Blood work was normal. No injuries showed on the x-rays, and he was soon eating live fish. 

I kept in touch with the Rehab Center over the next month, and after attending a Minneapolis Writer Conference, stopped to visit Pelly. He had just been retrieved from an unsuccessful release on the Mississippi River and was being kept in a dark room to calm down—no visitors allowed. It was his second unsuccessful release in a flock of other pelicans ready to fly south. Poor Pelly was the only one left behind. I worried he would miss the last migrations before winter.

He passed with “flying” colors when the vets tested him attached to a tether/creance. Wings flapped symmetrically, and he walked with purpose. Baffled by his release failures, the vets nevertheless offered assurance. “We have placed pelicans in the past at licensed facilities, even flown them on airplanes to rehab centers down south to be released there.” After treating some new kidney and anemia issues, Pelly was eventually pronounced “stable.” His final release was successful.


We have deer grazing our horseless pasture, birds of every size at our feeders, turkeys pecking on ground-level windows, woodpeckers tapping on cedar siding, gophers tunneling the lawn, chipmunks breaking into the garage and one white Schnauzer gleefully “protecting us” from this wild kingdom. But over the last 30 years, we’ve also had 19 horses, eight dogs, four cats and a pygmy goat, half of them rescues. All of them with a story—not unlike this “Pelican Brief”—yet to be written.

Cj Fosdick is writing her third novel in the series that began with “The Accidental Wife.”  Her story, “Hot Stuff,” is on Audible and another featured in “Distant Echoes,” a new anthology by Corazon Books of London, featuring award-winning historical fiction by 19 authors, only two Americans, both coincidentally from Minnesota. She also presents about the novel journey to Book Clubs.  cjfosdick.com