I went to Gibson Park today to go for a short walk. The breeze was blowing constantly, as it always does in Great Falls, but it felt invigorating. As I walked on the oval path around the park, I heard baby chickadees above me as I passed under a tree, saw several squirrels prancing across the grass, and I heard yellow warblers and an American goldfinch.
Afterward, I took a seat on a bench on one of the docks over the pond and watched the waves ripple across the water and the geese and ducks gently float past. After a few minutes, I noticed movement in my peripheral vision. First I saw a tiny head and then the neck and body of a Canadian goose. It was comical because it was like he was peering around a corner to see if I would notice him. Even after he realized that I did not have any food, he stood next to me to look out over the pond. He was so close to me that I could see his brown pupils and the softness of his elongated neck. Occasionally, he would turn around and peacefully observe me. I found this to be very comforting because up until I arrived at the park, I was having a difficult day. I truly believe that animals just get it – they know when we need comfort. I am not just referring to dogs – this is the reason why they are “man’s best friend.” I also mean birds, horses, rabbits, and many other furry critters.
Christian had a zebra finch named Kiwi for several years. Kiwi was a ornery, wild, little fella and Christian would park his wheelchair next to his cage every evening before we covered his cage up with his blanket. He referred to Kiwi as his best friend because he was always there. I think that Kiwi waited to die until the year following Christian’s passing because it would have broken his heart. It was a comfort having Kiwi around after our boy passed away because it gave us a tangible connection to Christian. A few days before Kiwi passed away, he kept hopping to the front of his cage and he would park right under the door and wait for us to come in and pet him. It was so strange because Kiwi was always very wild and didn’t want us to get too close to him. I think it was his way of giving us comfort before he died.
In the months following Christian’s passing, several rabbits hopped onto our back deck and they would sit right in front of the sliding glass door, sometimes looking inside. A few days before Christian passed away, there were close to 20 Eurasian collared doves on our back sidewalk. I have experienced a great amount of comfort from God’s critters over the last few years.
At Christian’s graveside service, we released doves. Our youngest son was able to hold one of the white doves, Sirius, before he released her. He was then able to open the lid on the basket so the rest of the doves could fly out. I first read about the doves in a newspaper article about the funeral services of Deputy Joe Dunn, who was killed in the line of duty. They released doves at his graveside service and he is buried just down the slope from our boy.
God gave us animals for comfort and companionship. Whether it is a cat, dog, parakeet, or birds at our feeder, if we take notice we will see that they really do care about us.
Drew holding Sirius a few days after the funeral.