I’m Just Saying: When it comes to animals, all that counts is love

Published 5:44 pm Thursday, February 15, 2018

It was rather grey and raw the early morning of Valentine’s Day, and, as I pushed the wheelbarrow back from the manure pile (mountain) back into the barn, something caught my eye on the aisle floor, wedged in between two hay bales.

At first, it appeared to be some sort of grey vessel, an opaque bottle of sorts, but upon closer inspection, I found it to be an adult mourning dove, appearing to take shelter out of the keen breeze coming in from the north.

I was of two minds whether or not to disturb it and let nature take its course, until the piercing shriek of a hawk, winging overhead — perhaps the same one I’d been hearing each morning for a week — spurred me not to let nature take its course, if that course meant being mercilessly attacked and carried off by razor sharp talons. 

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Paul, who actually has in the past been mercilessly attacked by a dive bombing pileated woodpecker that I had, unbeknownst to him, allowed to recuperate in the downstairs bathroom after flying into a window, was emphatic when I came in for breakfast and reported my newest case.

“It can’t come in the house.”

“Well, of course I wouldn’t bring it into the house,” I retorted, watching the four tails twining around his legs as he prepared the cats’ morning kibble. “I mean, how stupid would that be with these killers? That would be like me finding you injured and depositing you in the middle of Kabul.”

Paul filled the last dish. “As long as that’s understood.”

“I mean, not the whole house,” I went on, to his back.

Paul held his ground with his silence.

“Like, just part of the house.” I tried, fruitlessly. “You know, like the bath-”


“Murderer,” I nearly muttered before I remembered the awfully nice Valentine’s Day card he had left on the kitchen counter for me — and so meekly returned back to my patient.

Entering the barn, I found an empty plastic tub and placed a fleecy saddle pad in the bottom of it, a shallow lid of water and carried it into the tack room and out of the wind. The dove, still nestled against the hay bale, cocked its head to glance warily my way as I knelt beside it and gently scooped it up with my gloved hands

It fluttered both wings, showing no sign of injury, and, before taking it into the tack room, I scanned the branches of nearby trees to see if it might have a mate in the vicinity. Seeing nothing, I took the bird into the safety of the tack room, placed it inside the box and was somewhat heartened that its eyes appeared bright.

How handy to have neighbors who know everything about birds!

Seriously, this couple majored in birds. For those inclined to become Jeopardy contestants, it’s also referred to as ornithology.

I nearly hesitated to text for advice as, in the past when I’ve found featherless fledglings that had fallen out of a nest, I had been told to leave them alone, their mother would be nearby, don’t disturb a nest, let nature take its course…

“Might have just gotten cold after the warm weather, or could have hit a window or something and is stunned?” Stephanie replied. “Might be hungry? Watch, and offer water and maybe a little seed. If it begins fluttering around, it’s good to go.”

I poked my head into the darkened tack room, and it appeared to still be resting amid the warm folds of the fleece.

In another hour, I noted it was perfectly still — and not breathing.

Sadly, it was gone.

I dejectedly covered it with a small towel and vowed to bury it, after rotating the horses in and out of the front fields. 

The first horse, as with each who had been led in, jogged with anticipation of a mid-morning snack of hay in his stall, and, as his hooves struck the concrete aisle of the barn, out popped a chunk of dried mud and poo from the sole of his right fore.

I’m not saying it was a sign, or in any way equates to a Hallmark, but it was the shape of a heart. 

With animals, you win some and you lose some. But no matter what, somehow, even outlandishly, you’re always reminded that what counts is the love.