If you’ve ever lived with an indoor-outdoor cat, then you’ve probably received certain ÔÇª gifts. Despite your protestations that you prefer chocolate or jewelry, your cat has probably brought you offerings of decapitated mice, or perhaps just a small heart, placed precisely on your pillow. This is a story about a gift from my cat, Thomas, albeit with a happier ending than the usual outcome of a small grave in the garden.
Thomas, my sweet tabby, has been indoor-outdoor for about a year, although he is never allowed out when we’re not home, and he can’t go out after dark. He is microchipped and collared, and he mostly stays in the fenced backyard, sunning himself in the garden and idly watching the birds and squirrels.
Although he twitches and chatters at the birds from the window and has attempted to sneak up on more than a couple of squirrels, he had never shown an interest in doing what it takes to really catch something. He had never brought me a gift before (as other cats of mine have), so I was very surprised when one afternoon, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Thomas trot proudly through the kitchen with a suspiciously bulky item held in his mouth.
Immediately I suspected the worst. I ran to the bedroom, where he’d taken his trophy, and peeked under the bed. There he was, hunched over a mourning dove. I immediately scolded him, trying to get him to drop the bird so I could take it back outside and bury it.
Instead, the bird started flapping its wings, and scuttling around under the bed. Thomas chased it awkwardly, and I screamed and ran out of the room, panicking. From the hall, I heard a whirring of wings and some banging about as Thomas chased the bird. It felt like hours passed as I tried to figure out what to do. Eventually I mustered my bravery and went back in, determined to save the bird if I could, or deal with the consequences if I couldn’t.
The room was in disarray. Feathers were everywhere. I found Thomas crouched on the shelf below a bedside table, obviously puzzled as to how to get his bird out from under the lower shelf. The bird had wisely tucked itself underneath it, among power cords, books, and magazines, safely out of reach. I knew I had only moments to act before Thomas figured out how to catch it again or scare it out from under its makeshift haven.
I picked him up, took him into another room, and shut the door. He was NOT pleased to be away from the action and meowed insistently to be released. I shut my ears to his cries and returned to the bedroom. I dreaded seeing what damage had been done to the poor bird. I pondered whether I could perform a mercy killing if that was necessary. How would I do that? Or, would I chicken out and leave the dove to die — peacefully, I hoped — in the back corner of the garden?
What I found instead was a miracle. Tucked under the shelf was the beautiful dove, small and still and seemingly unharmed. I talked to her gently as I slowly pulled the books away to get to her. She watched me warily as I slowly extended my hand and closed my fingers gently around her body, cradling her wings close so she couldn’t flap them in panic and hurt herself.
As I lifted the tiny, soft bird, I could see that my fears were unfounded — she was terrified, but she was unharmed. I took a moment to inspect her, and I found not blood or even bare patches amongst her gorgeous, luminous, rose-gray feathers. She watched me with her big black eyes as I carefully carried her through the house to safety outside.
As I set her down in the grass, I said a small prayer of thanks for the chance to rescue the bird, and for the opportunity to see such a lovely creature up close. She looked at me one more moment, and then she flew into the sky, her wings making the pretty whistling sounds that doves’ wings are famous for.
I went back in the house and let Thomas out. He inspected the bedroom and sniffed all the feathers, then came out and threw himself proudly to the floor and proceeded to lounge like a lion, obviously pleased with himself and his gift to me.
His gift ended up being something other than what he intended — finding the dove uninjured and releasing her — and for that I am grateful. My gift to him was a new collar with a bell, and my gift to the birds will be a seed-catcher under the birdfeeders.
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