Three weeks ago, I started raising a baby dove that had fallen from a tree near our house. He had no feathers and no chance of survival. With a straw, dropper-style, I fed him soaked starter-grower for chicks every few hours. When he survived the first night, I was surprised. I’ve never had a baby bird live more than a few hours. For the first few days, he had to sit, flat-footed, in my palm. After a while, he could grip my finger. His feathers grew in, and soon he was making short, awkward flights across tabletops and then clumsily across rooms into walls or furniture. I carried him to school with me every day for two weeks, and he sat in his box, chirping, under my desk.
Today, I carried him outside with me when I went to start a campfire. I set him on the ground next to the fire circle and he perked up, black eyes shining, and pecked at the ground a few times. I picked him up when he peeped, stroked his long, tapered wings, and set him on the ground again.
Without ceremony, he made his longest flight ever, wings beating in the air like a paper engine, low over the ground at first, then higher, then confident as he banked into the trees.
That was twenty minutes ago, and I wish I could see him now, those dark little eyes glittering, the soft, dove’s neck curving up from his breast in the hush and sparkle of the tree-lit woods. I know his chances for survival aren’t good, and perhaps it was unwise of me to bring him outside, but I swear I will never forget the morning sun on his wings and the sound they made, and then didn’t, as he got too far away for me to hear and became just another dove, flying low over a country road.