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.
I 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.