Our Lone Dove

A couple of days ago I chased away the grey cat who belongs down the street but not soon enough. If I’d only decided to stretch a minute earlier I might have saved him but I didn’t and so now the widower is gone. 

IMG_3262I found this guy lying on the concrete patio near where I’d chased away the cat. At first I thought he was a goner but as I drew closer he started flopping about in a vain attempt to fly. His wing looked crooked and he couldn’t stand. His pinprick eyes pleaded with me – don’t leave me here, easy pickings for whatever predator might happen by. So I ran inside, found a shoe box, laid a piece of soft linen in the bottom and rousted Joel from his sudoku. He’s the animal person. Oh, I love animals but I don’t know how to handle them like he does. He gulped, donned his garden gloves and then followed me out to where the dove still awaited a painful ending. Luckily I knew – from years of field trip carpooling – about the wild animal hospital near us and so, after a quick phone call, off we went.

CatWAH1

Pamphlet urging people to keep cats inside

At the hospital a soft-hearted volunteer took our dear friend into the examination room and asked us to sign in. The walls of the lobby were filled with stories about other animals who’d been brought in and rehabilitated, giving us hope, although it was hard to imagine a bird with a cast on his leg.  When she returned I asked why we’d been asked to sign in and she explained that “our” bird had been given the number next to our name so if we called in they could tell us how he was doing.  She also said his hopes were slim. We haven’t called in.

Did you know that mourning doves are monogamous? Not only that but legend has it that once a mourning dove’s mate dies, he will not take another.  Kind of hard to believe, isn’t it?   Well, here’s my story:  

Many, many years ago – so many that I’ve lost track – we decided to built a teahouse on a lower meadow where only weeds grew.  It took a long, long time because we were working full time, raising children, and trying to see some of the world while we were still relatively young and so it was a weekend only project further winnowed by family visits and the like.

TeahouseRoof

Seriously over-architected roof of the teahouse

It was also a family affair; my father architected the elaborate roof, my teenage son buffed up during the summer months  by hauling blocks and concrete down the hill for the foundation, and Joel, of course,acted as financier and project coordinator. They would work together all day often squabbling over the how-tos and then after supper fall asleep on the old blue couch (which even then had seen better days) while watching British mysteries and drinking red wine.

doves

Two Doves, by Connemoira

On calm evenings hawks glide over the teahouse, silent killing machines whose shadows give warning to the songbirds. I love to watch them but always grieve for who will provide their dinner.  On one such evening Joel decided to finish off a few things down at the teahouse.  He didn’t notice that Mr. and Mrs. Dove, a lovely couple who’d visited us routinely in the past, had followed him down, probably because they knew he generally carried bird seed and peanuts in his pocket.  

TeahouseWith a screech that set his hair on end a hawk – talons drawn, sharpened and already dripping with blood – buzzed  his head and grabbed Mrs. Dove by her long slender neck.  She didn’t stand a chance.  

After that  Mr. Dove held vigil in the oak near our deck. Always a welcome visitor, a mannerly gent among the raucous jays, chickadees and wood peckers. We will miss him.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsDP2ZxZMu8

 

20 thoughts on “Our Lone Dove

  1. Jan, you and Joel were/are so kind! How wonderful of you to bring the poor bird to the animal hospital. Certainly, you did everything you could to help him/her. If I were you, I wouldn’t call in. That way, you can always hope that the bird was rehabilitated. If there was any hope at all, you provided it.

  2. A tragic, but poignantly beautiful tale, Jan! And good heavens, what a project. I adore that ceiling (I think the fifth wall has always been my favorite of any room I enter and I want to see just how creative and clever an architect can be. Boy, your dad sets the bar high!)
    And I remember learning how to make the dove call as a kid. I still sit out on the porch at night and have that conversation with the birds. The dog occasionally joins in with a round of howls. We make an unruly racket, but a loving one.

  3. So kind of you to take care of the dove. Your post reminds me of the hawk who took up residence in my backyard right before I moved to NC. It had started to eat the little brown birds that fed at the feeder. Talk about carnage everywhere! Then a dove flew into my bedroom window and broke the front pane of the double-paned window right before moving as well. It was a bird catastrophe that month to say the least.

    • Hawks are very efficient killing machines aren’t they! We’ve had to stand guard to protect quail who flew into the windows to escape them and ended up with a concussion!

    • I think it’s a game for most domesticated cats. Our inside-only cat has chewed the heads off many of his bird toys with great delight. I worry he might get a colon blockage from all that catnip and cotton. He makes funny cackling noises if we leave a window open and he can smell the birds. But if he escapes to the outside, it’s not for long – too many predators near our rural home.

      • Our cats are inside girls. I’m not sure they would do well outside, hunting for dinner. We’ve had a few predators in our tight little neighborhood, mostly foxes and coyotes, but there isn’t enough for them to eat. This year, for the first time in a long time, we have a family of bunnies.

  4. It is funny how sometimes we are on the same wave link. The injured sparrow made a full recovery and flew over my patio walls, but I had to keep the dogs away. My feelings for dying animals and dying humans often are very similar. I like dogs more than people, but I guess what I should say is that I like dogs more than some people. The dogs who return year after year to sleep on a grave is more touching to me than people leaning flowers against the tombstone of a family member every few months or years. The way animals have woven their way into our feelings about death is something very magical for me and your story captures this often overpowering emotion we have toward the distress of animals; the end of bird, lion, eagle, and fish in the sea. When they die, so do we, and it comes to us as a form of ancient sadness that the hardbitten find silly and because of that, you know, I like dogs more than some people. Thanks. Duke

    • Thanks Duke! Sometimes birds and other wild animals just need a bit of quiet to recuperate. I guess that’s why the experts suggest the soft linen, shoe box and quiet dark place treatment in dealing with them. Happy to hear about your sparrow! We once had a quail knock himself out on the window (also trying to escape a hawk) we protected him for a while until he came to – funny thing, his whole family (once the hawk gave up) chattered at him from a safe spot in the ivy until he woke up and wobbled drunkenly towards them! I wish I’d had the good sense to video the scene! My guess is you prefer dogs because they don’t pretend to be something they’re not unlike us silly humans!

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