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Animals seem to be drifting in and out of my life these days, occupying my thoughts.

There is a morning dove that visits my backyard daily. She or he arrives alone. Eats alone. Leaves alone. Morning doves typically mate for life and travel in pairs. To see this solo dove causes me to wonder what their life is like. If the norm is to be mated, and that is what one’s internal wiring is geared towards – what kind of life does one have when there is no other half?

It’s Shel Silverstein’s ‘The Missing Piece’ in a nutshell.

Now don’t get upset. I’m not equating being single with being less than whole. I’m not equating the morning dove’s life to those of happy single humans. We are talking about a bird – whose life was pretty much limited to searching for food, shelter and struggling to survive. The possibility of bearing offspring figures in there, too. So what happens when those are the limits of your expectations of life and the other half of your team – meant to guarantee one of those expectations – is missing in action?

If you were a bird, then I suppose the joy of flying might make up for it – but once the magic of that became part of the mundane – what then?

I guess you’d end up hanging out at the same place every day or night. Kind of like a neighborhood bar.

So, I do my part to keep it interesting. I change the kind of bird seed I put out once in awhile, just for varieties sake… and I make sure it’s there, along with adequate water. My yard is fenced, so it’s relatively safe… save for the two Chihuahuas that live with me.

The dove… it just makes me wonder (and a little sad). What happened to his/her partner? Was there ever a partner? Are birds capable of missing something – even if it never was?

I’m not sure what I want to believe. But I hope the bird is happy no matter what. I certainly am doing my best to see that it is.

Then - there is a Shih Tzu in the paper that someone is trying to find a home for. The dog is nine years old and deaf. The Shih Tzu had a partner for nine years, but apparently - no more. Maybe the owner died and there isn’t anyone to take the dog.

That is what I want to believe.

I can’t imagine giving away a dog that has lived with me for nine years. It must be a great hardship – for both parties.

I hope the Shih Tzu finds a good home. They’re very nice dogs.

A very nice cat recently made my front steps its home. The cat was a black short-hair and, by my estimates, about 6 months old. I first saw the cat the previous Friday on my way home from work. Two of the neighborhood boys were chasing it. I know the boys – not on a personal level – but because of their many activities in the neighborhood – like throwing snowballs at passing cars and then ducking behind their house. Kid stuff, right? Not in my eyes. In my eyes such activities are the stuff of kids in need of supervision. I was proven right after dropping by to chat with their parents after the boys had pelted my car (two days old at the time) with sloppy gobs of snow. The youngest member of the brood (all boys) answered the door (he was maybe seven, probably six). He told me that no one else was home and that I could check if I wanted to. I declined the invitation and drove home. Those kids are one of the reason my entire yard, including the front, is fenced. They are also the reason I installed a security system and watch my dogs when they are outside.

But back to that cat.

I stopped my car and yelled (like a real ugly adult) that they had better not hurt that cat. The boys stopped and looked at me. They told me it was theirs. Sorry. I didn’t buy it. I told them that hurting animals was not a good thing to do (leads to being a serial killer). After feeling like the old crank I was, I drove on. Moments later the boys were at the back fence of one of my neighbor’s house. The cat was in the neighbor’s fenced in yard, under a vehicle. Again I came to the defense of the cat… don’t you dare hurt that cat, I screeched. They turned and looked at me dead-faced. There were three of them now. It’s our cat, one of them said. Well… our cat? But none of you are brothers (only one of the kids chasing the cats came from the house of The Brood). What’s its name, I asked. There was a slight pause. ‘Buddy’, came the answer. The boys began calling out the cat’s ‘name’. I warned the boys that if they hurt the cat I was going to call the police and walked away. Moments later I saw one of the boys climb the fence (so much for mine), and retrieve the cat from under the car. I guess I forgot to mention that trespassing was also a not a good thing.

Off they went.

The following day, ‘‘Buddy’’ began spending time in my backyard, no doubt attracted to the number of birds, squirrels and bunnies. The resident Chihuahuas were less than welcoming. But this didn’t deter ‘Buddy’ from climbing the fence, letting the dogs know that he wasn’t to be intimidated and eventually take up residence on my front steps – an area separated from the back yard by a gate – hence no dogs.

‘Buddy’ wanted in my house. He was very vocal and persistent. But I wouldn’t budge. I had a cat for 16 years some ten years ago. The one thing I learned from that experience was… I am not a cat person. But ‘Buddy’ had no way of knowing that. He was just being nice.

First, I gave him some wet dog food. Then a can of tuna (he was very skinny and very hungry). Then some water and some milk. Then a towel to curl up in. Then two towels – it was early spring and I didn’t want him to get cold. I was amazed to find that not only had he spent the night sleeping on the towels, but that he remained on my doorstep for the entire weekend.

I contemplated having an outdoor cat that lived on my front steps. It didn’t seem like a quality life. Especially for ‘Buddy’, because he was just the sweetest, nicest cat – even if he wasn’t neutered, yet.

Wiser heads prevailed. Animal control was called. Animal control refused to take ‘Buddy’ unless he was ‘contained’. They suggested I shove him in a box or trap him under a clothes basket and place a brick on it. We opted to use one of the resident Chihuahuas kennels. ‘Buddy’ walked right in and made himself at home. I closed the door. He never made another sound. He was happy and content. We waited for animal control. They transferred ‘Buddy’ into one of their side compartments and ‘Buddy’ went along willingly. He was a happy cat.

I assume he still is.

Whoever adopted him – and for the sake of own well-being I tell myself that is undoubtedly the case – they got one nice cat.

I have a friend who constantly reminds me that I can’t save the world.

Well… I just hope someone in the world saved ‘Buddy’.

After all - he’s a very nice cat.

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