When I was twenty-four, I took a walk through a meadow near my home. Where the meadow ended, a few small trees had cropped up here and there. Some small dogwoods were in the mix. I thought I spotted a trillium. As I bent over to get a better look, I braced myself by grabbing on to one of the lower branches of a nearby dogwood. It wasn't a trillium. I should have known, the area was too exposed for trillium.
Standing back upright, I let go of the branch. It left my hand with a spring-like action. From the corner of my eye, I saw something falling to the ground. I looked to the ground and saw two baby mourning doves. Except for the beginnings of flight feathers on their wings, they were completely naked. Knowing the mother would not likely tend to them if I put them back into what was left of the nest, I brought them home and raised them.
I was their new mother. They were with me twenty-four hours a day. I took them to work with me. Later, when they could go a bit longer without food, I came home on morning break, lunch, and afternoon break to feed them. They grew to young adults in no time.
I made a large outdoor cage for them. They were quite contented, for a while. Realizing they needed flight to strengthen their muscles, I began to release them for a couple of hours a day. They would return soon. They had gotten hungry and knew there was plenty of their favorite seed in the cage.
Later, the female was slow to come back. Some days, she didn't. So, I kept her caged for a while, still letting the male come and go as he liked. She appeared stressed. She paced back and forth in the cage. She looked at me as if she was trying to tell me something, but I couldn't figure out what. All I had to do was listen.
After three or four days of watching her in total misery, I heard something. It was the mating call of a male mourning dove. It wasn't her brother; this time, he was in the cage with her. Each time the dove made his call, my caged female increased the rate of her pacing.
Without a word being spoken, I heard the male say, 'Sweetheart, where are you? It is time. Time to build our nest. Time to start our family. Where are you? Without a word being spoken, I looked at my female and heard her say, ' Love, I am prisoner. I must come to you, but I cannot escape these bonds. I try so hard'.
Without further ado, I opened the cage, kissed my little one goodbye, and with outstretched hand, I gave her freedom. I never saw her again. The old saying goes 'If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it's yours forever. If it doesn't, it never was'. She never was mine.
The male is a different story. He stayed for months, coming and going as he pleased. He stayed until I moved away. He was extremely jealous, not even wanting me to stand close to another person. There is another whole story about this bird and our friendship, Very interesting. Maybe another time.
It was spring. Everything was beautiful, well, almost everything. The robins had returned. There were many nests and many empty robin egg shells littering my back yard. Baby robins seemed to be everywhere. And along with the little babies, there were spots of baby feathers here and there. The neighborhood cats were gorging themselves on this once a year treat. It seemed no baby robin was safe.
While out one day, I spotted a baby robin to my left, sitting quietly while waiting for its mother to bring food. To my right, I saw a cat. It was eyeing the baby robin while all hunkered down, ready to pounce at just the right time.
If another baby robin was eaten, would it really matter? It would matter to this little fella. What a terrible way to go. I quickly ran to him, scooped him up and carried him inside.
I raised that robin. He went through many jars of chicken and beef baby food. In time, he was fat and sassy, sporting a brilliant red breast. I began to let him fly freely and bring him in just at night.
This bird didn't seem jealous. He would sit quietly on my shoulder while I talked with neighbors. Even so, he would never sit on the shoulders of someone else. I would put him on their shoulders. He would stay just an instant and then return to mine.
I would go out when it was time to feed him. All I had to do was call, 'Robbie'! Seemingly, from out of nowhere, he would land on my shoulder.
One day I called, 'Robbie'! He didn't come. I called, again. He didn't come. Sadly, I had to listen. Without a word being spoken and from a distance, I heard, 'Thank you for saving me from the cat. Thank you for raising me and being my friend. I will always remember you, kindly. But I am a young robin. I must live a robin's life. I must find a mate and continue my own kind. As much as I love you, my future must be without you. Good bye, Doug'.
And then, there was the conversation between Mr. and Mrs. house finch. I had hung one of those desk organizers that hold paper clips and such, under a porch awning. It seemed ideal for a finch nest, and it was positioned where I could take pictures of the development of the babies.
Sure enough, it was spotted by Mrs. house finch. She fell in love with it. Yes, it would do nicely. She called to Mr. house finch. When he came, she said, 'Look, honey! I've found the perfect place, just look.'
Mr finch said, 'Yes, it's nice, but I think we should build under the corner of the window awning, just as we did last year. Come look. I've already started the foundation.'
They both flew to the window awning. Mrs. finch agreed it was nice, but she had her heart set on the desk organizer. She said, 'Before we decide, take another look at the nice basket. They both flew to the desk organizer. 'It's so sturdy', she said. 'And such a nice change'.
'I don't know', he said. 'It's too out in the open. I don't think its safe'. The two made two or three more trips together, back and forth to the different sites, each trying to convince the other, their site was best.
As with Humans, so it is with birds. Quite often, the male, though not necessarily in the right, will get his way. The nest was built under the corner of the window awning.
I don't know how Mrs. house finch felt about all this. I guess when her babies were born, the mother instinct prevailed and assuaged any disappointment she might have felt earlier.
We can hear with more than our ears. Without a word being spoken, I heard this entire conversation. I had never witnessed such personal dialogue between two animals. I had entered for a few moments, into the private world of another species. I was quite moved afterwards. And I pondered, 'Wonder if some 'higher', unseen species is looking into my world. One never knows, does one?
A lady friend had given me a Velux blanket for Christmas. I don't know how others did it, but I was unable to keep it on the bed. I lost a lot of sleep chasing that blanket throughout the night. Out of frustration, I stored the blanket in an out building. It would stay there until I found someone who could make use of it. I forgot about it.
Over time, the blanket deteriorated. All that was left was a net like lining. I thought, 'Well, good'. I will get some use out of the blanket after all. I'll use the net to keep the birds away from my strawberries. Strawberry season was over for that year. So, the net stayed on the outbuilding floor.
Some months later, while doing some weeding in the back yard, I kept hearing a tiny, mournful sound. It sounded like a baby kitten. I looked and looked and looked. I saw no baby kitten. The next day, I heard the sound again, but no kitten. Upon hearing the sound on the third day, I was determined I would find its source.
Remembering that in the past, cats had made the outbuilding a delivery room and nursery, I decided to look in there. Sure enough, there was the source of the sound. A tiny kitten just a few days old and at least three days without food was there, starving to death.
(I know what happened. The mother cat had her litter in that building. True to a cat's nature, she decided to move the kittens after a few days. There is a reason for this. When a female cat is in estrus, several males will attempt to mate with her. There are those who will not succeed. Often, one of those will return after the kittens are born. If he can, he will kill all the kittens. There are two reasons for this. One is that he will prevent another male cat's bloodline from continuing. The other is that by the mother cat not having any kittens to feed, she will come into estrus sooner, providing another chance for the murderous male to continue his bloodline).
The kitten was all entangled in the blanket netting. I'm sure the mother tried to free him and couldn't. With other hungry kittens placed elsewhere, she had no choice but to abandon him.
I rescued the kitten. He remained in a state of near starvation though I fed him several times a day. He had a rough time of it in my charge until I accepted the fact that kittens cannot tolerate cow's milk. They must have mother's milk or a special formula designed just for them. Once I started feeding him formula, he began to flourish and gained weight rapidly.
We were friends. We spent most all our time, together. We played together. I named him 'Felix'. When he was near grown, I let him spend more time outside. He was never one to stray, always staying close to home. A neighbor commented, 'Doug, that cat sure loves you. He won't go far from you, and he won't have anything to do with anyone else'.
Then, he was missing for two days. Nowhere to be found. I came home from grocery shopping and saw him standing near the back door. It was obvious. He was in pain and in fear. He looked me in the eye, and without a word being spoken, I heard him say, 'Doug, help me. Please help me'.
I sat the groceries aside and ran to him. I gently picked him up and took him inside. Once inside, I could see there had been serious damage to his front right leg. The wounds were so bad, I figured a dog had tried to kill him.
The leg did not appear to be broken, but there were two or three holes in it. I cleaned the wounds and dressed the leg. In a couple of days, I saw the wounds were weeping a pink fluid. I removed the dressing and was shocked. There were more holes. Felix was in a lot of pain. He would look at me, and without a word being spoken, I would hear him say, 'Help me, Doug. Please help me.'
By the third day, his entire leg was riddled with holes, and they were weeping, profusely. I have never heard of anything like this in my life. It was a sure thing, Felix would lose his leg. And at the rate the holes were forming, it was probably just a matter of days before they appeared elsewhere on his body. I never saw a cat suffer so much. Each time I looked at him, without a word being spoken, he looked into my eyes and I heard him say, ' Doug, please help me, I'm suffering. Please help me.'
Knowing he had only a few days left, and those days would be spent in horrible pain; I called the Animal Control Center. I explained the situation to them, making sure they understood how Felix was suffering. I asked them if they would put him to sleep. They said. 'Yes'.
I took Felix to the center. Those who examined him said they had never seen anything like it. They could only guess he was attacked by a dog and some necrotizing germ had entered the wounds. They agreed the cat should be put to sleep.
I said my goodbyes to Felix. And as I looked into his eyes for the last time, without a word being spoken, I heard him say; ' Thanks, Doug. Thank you for rescuing me when I was a little starving kitten. Thank you for raising me and being a good friend all the while. Thank you for all the nice evenings you put me in your lap and we would play for hours. I know my fate. I know the end is coming. Goodbye, Doug. Goodbye, my Friend.'
The Animals speak. Do you listen?
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So touching! I will have to comment later as my daughter wants to know why I look so sad..
You truly must write a book. You are an author. Beautiful, touching stories.
Thank you, so much. I'm just glad I can get away with many grammatical, composition and punctuation errors when writing for ThriftyFun. I could never get away with all those mistakes if I were writing for a publisher.
Thank you for three beautiful stories.
You saved the birds and then gave them their freedom when they were ready!
Even though I had cats as pets when I was a child, I never really was close to any of them. Felix was the one cat I really took a strong liking to. We lose things we care about. It's all a part of life and we must accept that. I still miss him, though.
Your stories speak volumes of who you are as a person, good for you!
Don't be mislead. I'm pretty much an average person, just one who has an affinity for animals. With the extreme rate of the advancement in technology, I have no doubt the day will soon come when we Humans will be able to communicate with other species in a way we never have, before. That will mean the dog being kept on a chain in someones back yard all it's life will be able to communicate to his 'owner', just what it's like to be prisoner to someone who just feeds and yells at them and pats them on the head once in a while, but doesn't really give a damn about their feelings.
When this comes to pass, remember; you read it here.
I may not ever actually "hear" the voice of an animal but I do know they speak to us in many languages and their expressions talk to us as well.
I have never walked by an injured or "questionable" abused animal without trying to help. Many times this requires getting "involved" which causes many people to shy away from helping. But, everyone deals with things like this in their own way and I try to not judge anyone as that is not part of my human "job". I do not mean that I am a "nosy" person; I just try to be a caring person.
Thanks for sharing your beautiful and touching stories.
I invite all of you to spend about five minutes watching a small portion of a documentary titled,'A conversation With Koko. Koko is a gorilla learning sign language. She was given her own kitten. Later, she was told a car had hit and killed the kitten.
If any of you have any doubts as to just how deep Animals emotions can run and just how deep is the degree of grief they can experience over the loss of a loved one; This little five minute clip should erase all those doubts.
The kitten segment starts at about 18:00 and ends at about 23:00
I love all your stories so much. Every time I see a post with your name I hurry up to click and read. This one made me cry. Thank you for sharing. It was so beautiful and heartbreaking. Yes, animals do listen. Some of my best conversations have been with my animal friends and family. Thank you for sharing again. Your stories are always so beautiful.
Beautiful! Just beautiful. I love your writing -- you are a true artist in so many ways.
The mourning doves would've been fine had you put them back in the nest. A dove's nest looks like next to nothing. That is an old wives' tale about parents not returning if you touch a baby of their's.
Please don't let your cats go outside. This is the perfect example why not to let them go outside. I also don't know why you didn't take him to a vet immediately.
Please don't let your cats outside. This is a perfect example why you shouldn't. And why didn't you take the poor darling to the vet immediately? You let him suffer too long. He may have been able to be saved. I have had cats my whole life and never let them outside.
While the author meant to do a kind thing for the baby doves, it's not true that the mother and father would have abandoned them.
If she had called a wildlife rehabber (of which I was one for many years), she would have been advised to put the babies back in the nest.
According to science, birds can't "smell" human scent, or, if they do, they won't abandon their babies just because of it any more than we humans abandon our babies when they get a scent we don't recognize or like. Dove parents care and tend to their young together just like cardinals and many other mated pairs of birds.
(I personally believe that birds probably can smell and use the nasal holes in the upper part of their beaks to detect food as well as breathe.)
People should always let the natural parents of any animal raise their own before assuming they'll be orphaned. Just put them back in the nest. Keep an eye on it from a distance so the parents feel safe to return. If the parents don't return in a few hours, at least by evening to roost, then by all means, "rescue" the babies, but give the parents first chance.
If you will spend time outside and watch the interactions between parent and child animals and birds, you'll be very surprised at the constant interaction, tending, teaching, and caring of the parents to their offspring. Watch the parents. They're willing to die to protect their young. It's amazing. And their babies are just as precious to them as our offspring are to us.
Please. Just give the natural parents a chance before making assumptions. If in doubt, call a wildlife rehabber or veterinarian and ask.
Apparently you having been a wildlife rehabber for years has not provided you with the knowledge of certain facts.
Under certain conditions, birds WILL abandon their young. I did not learn this by working in an office setting as a rehabber. I learned this by being in the field with the birds. I have seen it happen more than once.
Have you ever seen a dove's nest? They are usually constructed of as little as 10-12 tiny stems or twigs, some no larger than a toothpick. I've often looked at dove's nests and wondered what kept the eggs from falling through.
I mentioned in the article about 'what was left of the nest'. With half of those 10-12 twigs gone, there was nothing left to really support the birds.
The consensus of the public in general and of scientists who have not performed studies, is that birds do not have a sense of smell. There are scientists who have performed studies and their findings indicate that not only can birds smell, at least in certain birds, the sense of smell is highly developed. I have mentioned this elsewhere on ThriftyFun.
I think I know about as much as any rehabber as to whether the parents would have accepted the baby birds under the circumstances I described.
The baby birds grew up strong, healthy and happy under my care. Please tell me, what more could a wildlife rehabber or a veterinarian have done?
I could have written much more but did not as the article was already quite lengthy. One such thing I did not include was about Felix, the tiny kitten I rescued. He was starving to death. I did not have time to see if his mother would take him back. I brought him in and fed him and continued to feed him til the next day.
The next day, I put him out where his mother would find him. I watched from a distance as you suggested. She did find him. She came to him, sniffed him and then walked away and never came back. He would have laid there and died had I not taken him in. He too, grew up strong, healthy and happy. Please tell me, what more could a wildlife rehabber or a veterinarian have done?
You advise that I spend time outside observing animals. I did and I do. Some of my ThriftyFun pictures will attest to that. I would wager I have and still do, spend more time observing animals than most any rehabber.
You seem to be a very compassionate person and one who cares a great deal about animals. I applaud you for that. However, you are totally wrong in your assessment of how I handled these situations. I did my best by these animals and they thrived as a result. No rehabber or veterinarian could have done more.
And for what it's worth, I am not a 'she'. My name is 'Doug".
All I can say is you are amazing! Have you thought of writing a book? I will be first in line to buy it!! Can't wait to read more from you.
The kitten one made me cry. But all those stories are very touching. But I love these stories. I believe they speak in some way.
You should of not let the cat be an outdoor cat if you love him that much. Second to bring him to the vet if he came to you in pain. What kind of love is this? I'm not touched at all. It could've been a lot better for the cat.
I didn't write the cat article to impress anyone of my kindness towards animals. As with the other two articles in this post, I stressed my interactions with animals and what I observed to be very distinct communications, with others of their own kind, as well as with Humans. The whole point of the post was not to make me look good, but to share with readers how animals in the wild do have a lot to say to we Humans, things we wont hear unless we listen.
The cat was strong, healthy and happy except for the last 3-4 days of its life.
I am going to repeat something I've said before. We cannot own animals. We did not create them, therefore we cannot own them. Paying $5,000 for a pedigreed pup does not make you its owner, except legally. In the real world, no one species has the right to own another.
With that said, I don't feel I was under any obligation to help the trapped kitten. I chose to do so. Rather than the kitten starving to death, it grew strong and healthy into adulthood.
I have seen much suffering in my life. If I could wish it all away, I would. I have taken dogs and birds to the vet. The last time I did this, it cost me several hundred dollars.
A practical approach to an issue is not always a pleasant one. In my city, there is a serious animal problem. At any given time, there are large numbers stray, hungry and homeless cats and dogs. Our Animal Control Department is understaffed.
In our city, there has been an influx of people who have not, and don't care to familiarize themselves with city ordinances regarding animals. Many of those who are familiar with the ordinances chose to ignore them.
I am sorry that I cannot give a good home to every stray cat and dog. I am sorry that I cannot feed every hungry stray animal. I am sorry that I cannot provide veterinary care for every sick animal.
I have to draw the line somewhere. I could not afford a possible several hundred dollar vet bill for this cat. And if I could, the cat would have been dead in a few days, anyway.
I believe if I am guilty of any mistreatment to the cat, it was not having it euthanized a day earlier than I did. I was confused in my state of hope against hope that the lesions would start drying up instead of getting worse.
If I had it to do all over again, I don't know of anything I would have done differently. I would hope though, I would have the insight to have the cat put to sleep a day earlier.
This city is burdoned with thousands of homeless cats. I can't keep them all inside my home. Because I rescued a starving kitten doesn't mean I'm obligated to keep it inside. I did care for the cat very much. Caring for the cat didn't make me any more able to afford huge vet bills. This is where I had to draw the line.
Except for some misjudgement at the last couple of days of his life, overall, I think I did pretty well by the cat.
I had not read your story until today and it is beautiful and beautifully written. You did everything right and listened to the creatures in your care. What a gift you have on both accounts.
Keep writing, keep loving the creatures in your care! Sending blessings and good wishes from Pittsburgh!
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