Our Mourning Dove

May 16, 2017
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I was playing basketball with a direct view of a beautiful Arizona sunset ahead of me. I often played when I was bored, and needed a break from electronics. This day was particularly nice, a day I would come to know held the perfect setting for a life-changing event. The smell of wet, fresh cut grass lingered around me, almost as if i could taste it. As I pushed the ball down onto the patchy grass with my left hand, it landed on the small attempt at a hole my toy poodle had left there earlier and bounced away. I went to retrieve it when my eye caught a small, pink, struggling object. Everything could have ended right there, had I not seen her and stepped on her. Every time I looked at her I remembered how grateful I was that I didn't. I called my sister over, who, after a short examination, announced that she was a newborn bird close to death. Of course, I already knew this from looking at her, and set to creating a makeshift holding pad for the bird. She was shivering cold, but soft, and we gently placed her in a small basket and heated up a towel to place over it. After placing the basket under the lamp in my father's den, we ran outside and frantically searched for a nest before the sun went down. I scoped every tree, ledge and pillar in my backyard that could possibly hold the home of this poor creature and found nothing. I even went out there with a flashlight when the it became dark, just in case, but still found nothing. I hypothesized as to how the bird came to be under my feet that day: Possibly it was picked up by a larger bird for food and dropped there accidentally. Possibly it had crawled under my fence and was dragged there by one of my dogs. I didn’t know, and despite my later realization that this bird had probably suffered, I didn’t really care. I was happy that it came to me. I sometimes imagined what would have happened had it came to be in my neighbors backyard, and they never found it. Where would this bird be without me? Dead? Alive? Happy, living in the vast Arizona desert? All I could do was provide her a platform to grow into a beautiful dove, and hope she could one day go back to the wild.


After less than thirty minutes of research, I felt I was ready to raise her. My sister found a formula for baby birds, and, after at least a day with no food, the bird ate for what seemed like hours. After she became stable, one of us would have to go through the fifteen to twenty minute process of filling a tiny bottle with boiling hot water and mixing it with bird formula once an hour. Then, you just had to sit there and let the bird eat. If she wasn’t too hungry, you would wait. If she was starving, you would have to slow her down. My older sister, Jillian, would feed her while my younger sister, Bryn, and I were at school, and when we got home, Bryn and I would alternate feedings. Even my brother, Chase, loved her as  we did. He would play with her when we were gone, teach her to fly off of his finger, get her to eat bird seed. The experience was a pillar of light in a dark time for us. For the first time in what seemed like forever, my siblings and were working with each other, and it chained us closer together than I’d felt like we’d ever been. The bird was progressing, and we all loved each other because of it. I found that the beautiful cooing noise I heard every morning from the Arizona desert was produced by the Mourning Dove. Every time I fed her, I would play loops of the cooing in an attempt to let her get into touch with her undomesticated instincts. The bird grew stronger and more beautiful every day, until she eventually started flapping her wings and flying in short bursts. After three weeks of living in a bathroom with a small open container to sleep in, with hourly feedings, it was time to move the bird outside. She went through a slow process of developing into an outdoor bird. She slept right outside the door, and often flew into the house when it was opened. She would watch other birds with a mix of curiosity and fright from the top of the cardboard cage I had made her. Eventually, however, she mingled with them. She would eat with them, and perk on our fences next to them. She often left for nights at a time, and I would fear for her safety, but she always came back. It was almost as if I had a daughter that left for college. I realized, one day, I had been sucked into the revival of this bird, declining offers from friends in order feed and care for her, and suddenly it seemed as though I had been pulled right back out of it. Relationships across the house seemed great. My family was closer due to what seemed like a miracle. No one could help themselves from smiling when they looked outside and saw her, perched on one of our chairs. I had spent weeks caring for this bird, and I felt I came out of it a better person. Nobody could have guessed how she would come to affect us, livening the mood on an average day, reminding us not all was bad. 


Everything came crashing before me when I walked outside one day, and saw feathers strewn across my patio, the remnants of an attack. My heart dropped to my stomach, and I was immediately swallowed by sorrow. I walked to the center of my grass, and there, lying in the same place I had found her, was my precious bird, dead. I didn’t know how to react. I couldn’t believe this had happened to me, or to my family. I called my mother and told her what happened, still in shock. I slowly walked to my room, fell into my bed, and just lied there. When I heard my mother get home, I took her outside, grabbed a shovel, and buried one of the only testaments to my goodness. Digging the hole, I remembered what my father had told us the night we found her in the backyard, warning us of the high possibility of death. Birds were not supposed to be raised by humans. Now look where she had come. I asked myself later that night if I would have rather never found the bird, but quickly brushed it off. This has been of the most amazing experiences I’ve been through, and not I, nor my family, will ever forget her.






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