A short story about Responsibility by Charlie Pass, WildAid Foundation Trust

Approximately 80 metres away, from a stile i was repairing, a swan family consisting of parents and 5 cygnets, were calmly resting on a stretch of river bank. In the distance Responsibility was walking along with two spaniels, loose and busy being spaniels. As they approached I looked across to the dogs back to the swans. I anticipated what might happen. It did!

One of the dogs bounded through the vegetation landing on top of the swan family and scattering all, albeit 1 of the cygnets, into the river. Whilst the dog attacked a cygnet I called out to Responsibility to call her dog off from attacking the cygnet. Running toward Responsibility, and to the cygnet attack, i continued to call out to Responsibility to control her dog.

The dog continued its attack as they both entered the water. I reached the attack as the exhausted dog, now under attack from the adult swans, swam out of the river and ran off as the swan family paddled away.

Hastily walking over to Responsibility, who had turned her back on Responsibility after watching the attack, was walking away. I asked Responsibility for her attention and to call the dogs and leash them. Repeatedly i asked Responsibility to leash the dogs under control. Responsibility stopped.

“Responsibility your dog has just attacked a cygnet can you please get them under control and leash them.” I asked. Responsibility replied” My dogs would not do such a thing and anyway the Swans have only just arrived - they are not normally here.” Responsibility walked away. Irresponsibility had arrived.

Responsible dog walkers i spoke with a short time after said that the swans have been on the river for months. Between late April and May breeding adult swans will typically incubate up to 7 eggs which hatch after 35 - 41 days. The cygnets will stay with the parents for between four to five months. My reckoning is that The swan family will have been on the river for around two months with the cygnets being around 5 to 6 weeks old.

A couple of hours later the swan family made their way back up river with the Cob (male swan) swimming behind the family with the clearly lethargic and injured cygnet paddling hard to keep up. The cygnet pulled up on the opposite river bank for a rest and a drink. The Cob swam toward the rest of the family leaving the stranded cygnet behind. Having to leave site i hoped that the family would join the cygnet after a rest. I decided to take some responsibility and return to the river later to check on the cygnet.

This is what i found. The cygnet, still in the same position where it had landed earlier, was clearly exhausted and distressed. I took a picture to help with locating the cygnet, and then took Responsibility to reach and rescue the cygnet from the river bank.

Wading was impossible. The river is tidal with deep water, mud and silt. The only option was to reach the cygnet on the opposite river bank by walking around and wading through thick vegetation hoping to find the right spot of river bank to reach the cygnet.

One hour later i reached where i thought the cygnet was and cautiously maneuvered myself onto the muddy river bank, immediately sliding toward the water. Grabbing at Reed i pulled myself back holding onto vegetation whilst exploring the river bank. I eventually found the cygnet.

This is what i found:

The cygnet clearly not resting. Its little, damaged body stretched out, eyes open and glazed over. It had died.

It had taken 6 lonely hours of trauma and injury to lonely abandonment and exposure leading to death. The cygnet had died because there was no Responsibility. Responsibility had walked away when Responsibility could have taken action. To acknowledge and understand the impact of her dogs behaviour and actions would have been Responsible.

Regrettably dog attacks on Swans are not unheard of. An internet search will reveal dozens of news reports about such attacks. Is there a solution?

“With regard to dogs attacking swans, or the wilful failure of a dog owner

to prevent their dog from attacking a swan, a court does have the power,

under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, to impose a muzzling order on a dog of

any type which it judges actually or potentially dangerous.”

“Always keep dogs in sight and under control” advises the Countryside Code “The countryside, parks and the coast are great places to exercise your dog but you need to consider other users and wildlife.”

I do have a deeper enquiry in mind about responsibility. How can human kind be Responsible enough for the world when human kind turns their back on small actions of accepting Responsibility?

"It's all about encouraging people to participate and learn about the natural world through hands on discovery."

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