Returning from an early morning walk with my daughter and my mutt, we were informally greeted by a flock of turkeys milling about in our yard. My dog is a bit past his prime these days, and usually just gallops toward a turkey doing little more than ruffling some feathers. But today he ended up with a juvenile between his teeth.
I demanded he drop the bird, which he did (maybe he was as surprised as the rest of us) but the damage had already been bestowed. Sigh. I put the dog in the house and called the only person to call in situations such as these, my dear friend Dana- wildlife whisperer and general dealer of sound advice.
We went over the options: 1) Move the turkey into the shade and see if it bounces back. 2) Take it down the road to the animal hospital. 3) Finish it off and end its suffering.
Humm. With nap time closing in on us, and a busy day ahead, I somehow settled on taking it to the do-gooder's at the animal hospital. I fetched a crate and my leather gloves, all the while my daughter's attention was fully fixed. By the time we returned to the injured bird, its ship had sailed. I was relieved, not truly looking forward to taking it to a team of white coat professionals.
You see, the turkeys in Asheville proper are of a more residential nature than wild. With no true predators to pick off the weak (survival of the fittest does not apply here, even the not-so-fit have a good chance of passing on their DNA) populations have become a borderline nuisance. Yes, they are charming enough when they aren't pillaging your blueberry crop or eying your cherry tomatoes, but I can't say I was utterly heartbroken at the loss of one less pesky turkey.
This said, seeing any creature face its final moments has a way of stirring a little melancholy. I wish it had thrived, despite my pervious thoughts on the matter. I wish it had shaken off its early morning run-in with my hound and gotten back to gleaning bugs from grass and entertaining the young humans of the world (my daughter regards them as nothing short of magic).
But here we were with a freshly passed turkey sprawled in the yard, the sun warming the air and the flies honing in on the scene. I hadn't even had my morning tea. I grabbed a shovel and dug a hole deep enough to keep any wild curiosities at bay. We plucked a rose of sharon bloom and placed it with the turkey who's soul had clearly flown.
(My daughter grabbing the last fistfuls of burial dirt)
Turkey often finds its way to our dinner plate, so why the special vigil? I guess because death is sacred by way of life being so, whether an animal looses it's life to fortify another or by other means. The exchange of an animal's flesh for ours to prosper is also sacred, though this turkey was not intended for dinner. Its fate was interrupted by my dog's primal instincts. Maybe he was doing his part to strengthen the flock? Maybe he just got lucky. Either way, we made some room for the heavenly angels to take another soul to the promised land, to have its broken wings restored, and to make us thankful for yet another day here in this fragile world we call home.