Sure enough, she dived into the hedge and stayed there.
I fed the birds, then called her.
She did not budge.
I called some more, but she stayed put.
So I investigated. There, tucked into the bottom of the hedge was a dead dove. Sad, I thought, but it had been very cold last night, so not totally surprising.
I reached in to pick it up, not wanting to leave it there for Frou Frou to drag out and play with, but as I picked it up, it moved its feet.
Hey, the little guy was alive!
So I took it indoors and told Mrs RC, who began to prepare a cage for it. I could feel it starting to move more as the warmth from my hand revived it. We popped it into the cage with some water and food to see how it got on. I know from seeing doves "rescued" in the past that they often just go into a huddle and die anyway, but when I rang home at lunchtime he had recovered, and was eating and pooping, so we decided to let him go before he relapsed. Hope he will be OK. We get a number of doves in our garden so hopefully he knows were to come for dinner!
Meanwhile, Mr Chuffington, the hedgehog, is still going strong. It it gets really cold he seems to semi-hibernate, but in the warmer spells he regularly comes out of his bed at night and eats. Look for photos of him some time in the Spring, when we will have to decide on a long term plan for him.
And the fish have had us worried too. When it gets really cold they hit the deep water, hiding in the plants where we can't see them. But for several days we only saw Toffee Penny, the newer one of the two. Previously, we would often see Lonesome George while the other one hid from us, and this switch was worrying me a little. This was not helped when we watched a nature show on TV that had a feature about ponds in winter. At one point, they talked about how, if the pond freezes over (ours had briefly), the darkness can cause the plants to stop producing oxygen and some fish suffocate. The dead fish that they showed was just like poor old George! It was horrible!
But fear not, both George and Toffee Penny have been seen in the last couple of days, alive and well.
The rabbits are still going strong. We now have a routine that each Sunday, while we clean out their houses and runs we let them rampage around the garden, which inevitably involves a lot of chasing each other, humping each other (they are all boys, so no fear of babies!) and digging up an patch of bare earth they can find. Custard gets scared and hides indoors, while Frou Frou enjoys watching it all going on.
The dogs are, of course, also doing great. Custard was 9 just before Christmas, and there are occasional signs of the weakness in his back legs, but overall he is far better than the vet predicted when he was diagnosed. Mrs RC has given him a new bed, which really seems to help his stiffness too. She has made it from a proper bed mattress, folded in half, so it combines amazing softness with the freedom to lay any way he wants. His position of choice is now flat on his back, legs splayed everywhere.
And a note about the book! I am now a hair's breadth from having a complete draft of the story! Just one more major scene to wrap it all up! Then I can go back and do some polishing! I had promised myself that I would finish this winter, and it looks like I will actually get there. Only a week or so ago the end seemed to be miles away, then I was suddenly writing the big showdown scene with guns, bombs and loud music! Given that I started nearly 2 years ago, it has been an epic journey. Of course, I could have finished sooner if I had pushed myself, but I did not want to do that. I wanted to enjoy every moment of writing, do it as a hobby. If I had started to force myself I would have dropped it long ago, I know that. Fun things should remain fun, as soon as it becomes a chore it is not fun and I am not into spending my free time doing stuff that is not fun. Did that make sense? The book is better written than that, BTW...
The dove failed to fly away so he is back indoors again. After a morning of nibbling food, drinking and sleeping he has now hopped onto a branch in the cage and is happily sunning himself. Mrs RC has called him Coo Coo.
Just wrote the final scene of the book...