The lone dove patrolling the sky above my back yard breaks my heart.
Doves mate for life, you know. Year after year, a pair of doves returns to our neighborhood. One can only assume they’re the same couple, content with their summer home, safely nesting and nurturing offspring each season.
Last night, though, a dove flew into my wide-open back door. I’d been working in the garage and propped the door open. It was such a gorgeous springtime Sunday evening. The house could use some fresh air, I thought.
I didn’t know about the unexpected back door guest, though, until almost 9 last night. Getting ready for bed, I noticed several feathers in the front bathroom, and evidence of a melee. Principi the cat had gotten hold of a bird.
The more I looked, the more feathers I found. By then Moose the dog was in hot pursuit of the scent. He cornered the bird, hiding under my bed. By the time I called off the dog, isolated the cat, and retrieved my heavy work gloves, getting the bird out from under the bed seemed easy.
In my hand, the dove was gentle, frightened, and seemed to be unharmed with one serious, serious exception. It was missing every single tail feather. The revelation rattled me to the core. That, and the thought that this scrappy little creature never uttered a sound from under my bed. I didn’t know what to do. 9:30 on a Sunday night. I was on my own.
The dove looked young. Hard to tell, though, without the tail feathers. I reasoned mom and dad must be nearby — close to the back yard. A careful flight test proved what I knew — the bird couldn’t fly with a crucial component of its aerodynamics missing.
An aside here — I’ve told the story a couple of times today. The idea of finding enough feathers in my bathroom to fill a pillow is enough to cause a chuckle, and the mental picture of me crawling under my bed alongside Moose to retrieve a tail-less dove brought laughter to the surface. It’s okay to laugh. The whole thing is rather absurd.
I kept the animals out of the back yard and went to bed, near tears. In fact, I’ve been on the brink nearly all day.
This morning, there was no sign of the injured dove this morning. At lunch, though, a lone dove was perched on a power line above my back fence line. I stood and watched. Almost on cue, the bird circled my back yard and the alley for about 15 seconds, then returned to the power line.
Was the bird mourning? A spouse? Or a child? Did the bird know what happened to its loved one? Is it still alive, yet mortally injured? If it died, was it surrounded by family?
Pretty depressing questions. Maybe now I understand that “Lonesome Dove” has a meaning beyond Larry McMurtry’s classic Western tale.
The sad Sunday story seems to be a lesson about life’s choices. I left the door open. The bird chose to stray into unknown territory, even with a dog guarding the door. The flying creature awakened a sleeping predator — a house cat whose contact with wild animals is almost always limited by a glass window pane. The feline was just doing what she does. The fowl was doing what it does. I was, too.
The intersection of those choices was unfortunate. To some, the events are comical, but for the bird and its loved ones, the convergence of choices is tragic.
My heart aches for the survivors.
Maybe my reaction is more pronounced in light of current events.