It continued hopping away from me, heading towards the side of the house. I slowly followed it, watching it find another soft, quiet spot in a pile of leaves along our fence. As I stood there contemplating what I could do to help it, our next door neighbor opened their door. He explained that he and his wife had noticed it earlier. "I hate to see animals suffer like that," he said. "That's nature, though. Not much we can do, but let it run its course. I'm sure it won't suffer long." I nodded my head in agreement. I guess he's right, I thought. How quickly I left my own instincts by the wayside.
In the time we were having our conversation, the dove squeezed its way under our fence and hopped through our yards. The last I saw of it, it was three doors down, making its way to another quiet place. As I made my way back towards our house, I thought, please don't let it suffer long. When Brandon got home, I told him about the dove. Couldn't get it off my mind. But there was nothing I could have done, right?
The next day, we pulled into our driveway after returning from the grocery store and there along the side of the house, sleeping in the sunshine, was the dove. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't help but think there was a reason she was still alive, a reason she ended up, after traveling away from us, back at our house, safe. "We have to do something," I said to Brandon. "She's alive. We have to help."
So we carried our groceries inside and I called our vet, hoping they would have some advice. The secretary who answered the phone gave me the number of a wildlife veterinarian based in Lake Geneva and wished me luck. I called immediately, left a message, and waited. Within five minutes they had called me back, gave advice on how to catch and transport her, and scheduled an appointment for us to bring her in. "Why don't we say you'll be here in an hour and a half? It will be a bit of a drive for you and that will give you time to catch her." Little did we know, we would need a lot more time than that.
Brandon and I prepared a small box with a bed of paper towels and plenty of holes for her to breathe. We headed outside decked in gardening gloves and brandishing towels to wrap her safely and transfer her to the box. When we walked outside she was still sitting along the house. Brandon went to one side and I stayed on the other. Since I was more comfortable with picking her up, Brandon's job was to keep her from hopping away.
As soon as she realized what was happening, she hopped quickly past him and around the front of the house, hopping her way up over our front stoop and into the bushes. Crap! We took turns walking through the bushes trying to get her to come out. Just as she would emerge from one area and we were about to catch her, she would sneak back in another opening. What a sight we must have been and boy did we see what determination looks like. She did not want to be caught.
We played this game for what felt like hours, but got to the point where we weren't even sure where she was. We couldn't hear her rustling in the leaves anymore. Couldn't see her anywhere. After standing outside for a bit longer hoping she would emerge, we gave up. How defeated I felt, hoping she hadn't hurt herself more attempting to avoid us. I called the wildlife vet and told them we would definitely not be there soon. I opened up the front curtains wide and decided to sit and read in the window, hoping she was still there and would eventually come out.
About an hour later, I happened to look up from my book and there she was. Her small head peeking out from under the bush, still trying to catch a bit of sunlight. I called Brandon to front room and told him we had to try again. So out we went, gloves, box, and towels in hand. He went into the bushes and I waited for her to come out. She did, but attempted to fly, heading straight towards our street. We both ran and shooed her back into the yard. I hope our neighbors weren't watching because oh how ridiculous we must have looked.
I tried to cover her with the towel so she couldn't keep trying to fly away, a trick my mom had suggested as I was texting her about our situation. After about five failed attempts, I finally was able to cover her. As carefully as we could, I picked her up and placed her in the box. With a sigh of relief we realized, we had done it!
I called the vet and left a message saying we were on the way and would hopefully get there before they close. Without hesitation I loaded her in the car and began driving. This place was not close and in the forty-five minute drive, I found myself listening for any sign of movement. How sad it would be after all of that, if she died in the car on the way to be saved. When I finally turned into the gravel driveway of the wildlife veterinarian, I breathed one sigh of relief. Now to see if she was still alive and would be able to survive.
I took the small cardboard box, which felt like nothing was even in it, up the dirt path to a small grey building and entered. No one was in the office so we waited and after a few minutes someone came out. "You're here with the dove?" she asked. She took the box from me, had me fill out a form, and told me they would see what they could do. I waited. In the time I waited, another woman came in to get a box for a family of squirrels that had made their nest in her garage. "Some people say just kill them," she said. "If I don't have to, I won't."
When the woman who took the dove emerged, she said the wing was broken and based on the other injuries they believed she had been attacked by a cat, but they believed she would recover. Their goal was for full recovery and for her to fly again, but if she couldn't she would have a forever home there. The final sigh of relief. She had made it there alive and had a chance of survival and safety. They printed off a picture of her for me to take home and told me to send a letter in a few weeks if I wanted an update.
I learned a few things from this experience. First, I have an amazing husband who puts up with my shenanigans and is willing to put on a pair of gardening gloves and walk through our bushes to try and save a dove. I wouldn't have been able to catch her myself. Thank God I have a partner to help me through life's two-person jobs!
Second, I was amazed at how quickly my initial instinct to try and help her had been curbed by my neighbor's comments. How could I have just left her to die when I wanted so badly to help her? It made me think about human nature and how quickly we change ourselves based on other people's input. It made me think about where else in my life I had changed my true instincts because of other people. How have others changed because of me?
Finally, it is easy to brush doing the right thing off, especially when it is hard and takes effort, and say "That's just how things are," but we can do more for others than we realize. Sure, it was a bit hectic. Was it how I thought I would spend a Saturday? No. But we saved a life that wasn't ready to give up yet. I hope she recovers. I hope learns to fly again