I’m writing this inside a confessional

Do you believe in God? Karma? What about witches? Ghosts? How about signs? Do you believe in signs? I’m sorry, do I need to give you more time to think? Is it none of my business? Have any of you answered out loud yet? Nodded? Shrugged? Sent me a Facebook message telling me to reconnect with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

(You probably wouldn’t be surprised by how many times that has happened. Hint: many of my Facebook friends are Southern and religious. So, visiting Facebook is like visiting the Lord’s website. And he is so pissed!)

Last night Coco was sitting next to one of the glass panes flanking the front door—it’s her new favorite place to practice her crazy—when suddenly out of nowhere she started barking so hard I thought her jaw might fall off. I was in another room, assumed it was a person or a dog walking by the house, so I ran into the foyer and pulled her away from the door. I may or may not have called her a few nasty names while doing so BECAUSE THAT ALWAYS WORKS.

I’d love to see a collection of video clips of the useless, reflexive and profane yelling that owners of herding dogs do throughout the day. And how we always think, THIS time she heard me.

I let my guard down for two seconds and she was right back next to the front door barking (“I just called you a total shit! Did you not take me seriously?”) so I ran back to the foyer, made her sit, and then I looked out onto the porch to see what was making her so deranged.

Let me clear my throat for just a second because I suddenly have an impulse to tell you that I believe in witches.


Sitting at the far edge of the porch was a relatively large white bird. The only white bird I have ever seen in Utah is a seagull. This was not a seagull. And it was just sitting there, eerily still, staring at the front door. I immediately ran up to the office to grab the camera and a memory card hoping that it would still be there when I got back. And it was.

So, let me talk this through for a second. A white bird that I have never seen in Utah is sitting on my porch and neither Coco’s deafening barking or my rapid shutter clicking causes it to fly away. WHY ARE YOU HERE, BIRD? Ghosts are supposed to talk to me through appliances, NOT WILD ANIMALS.

Oh, no. Do I believe in ghosts? If you’re a ghost and you’re reading this, can you leave a comment? Oh, wait. You can’t because your fingers would just float right through the keyboard. WE WILL NEVER KNOW.

I walked back into the house and, after letting out an involuntary shriek, I called Tyrant. Yes, he’s evil and would pull a prank on Hellen Keller. However, he grew up with chickens and might have an idea about why this WHITE BIRD I HAVE NEVER SEEN IN UTAH is just sitting there on my porch. And he probably doesn’t want to be exposed like this, but there is a large beating heart in that man’s chest. And sometimes? Sometimes he has thoughts about things other than torturing me.

But he wasn’t answering his phone, and while I left a message I looked out the window and watched that white bird walk HOLY SHIT up to the welcome mat and sit not two feet from the front door.

A white bird. Sitting on the welcome mat. At my front door. You just started to believe in witches.

Coco’s brain was leaking out of her nose at this point, so I had to take her upstairs and put her in her crate while I figured out what to do. OKAY. One: putting a dog in a crate is not cruel DO NOT EVEN GO THERE. Two: Of course I had to do something! There was a white bird sitting at my front door! What if it was someone’s pet? What if it was the spirit of my dead Uncle Doug? What if it had a little note tied around its ankle containing the exact date and time of the rapture? (Oh, the bragging I would do on Facebook.)

So I called Animal Control, and this is where I am gifting you screenwriters your next scene, because I’m sure the woman put me on speaker phone so that she and everyone else could laugh at the idiot freaking out about a bird.

“There is what?”


“And it’s doing what?”


“And you’re concerned because?”

“BECAUSE? BECAUSE?! Haven’t you heard of the Book of Revelation?!”

She told me they didn’t handle cases like this (ANIMAL CONTROL IS NOT CONCERNED WITH THE END OF THE WORLD), so she gave me the number of the highway patrol and this is getting more ridiculous with every letter I type. Highway patrol. High-way. Pa-trol. Let me just quote what it says on their website: “Our current area of emphasis is to reduce crime and crashes through proactive policing.” And I’m supposed to call them about the bird on my porch.

“Hey, guys! Listen. I know you’re currently on a dangerous, high-speed chase with a drunk driver, but I’ve got a fucking bird staring the shit out of my front door.”

Luckily Tyrant called me back and said he was out with friends and could come check it out in about an hour. So I did what any sane person would do and sat down next to the window pane and spent some quality time with my special white bird. At this point it had wandered over into a corner right next to the window and would look up at me every time I tapped on the pane. It knew I was there.

I fought the nagging instinct to pick it up and bring it inside where it was much warmer, so you can stop worrying that I did something stupid like that. You would be more than justified thinking that I’d do just that, pick up and cuddle a bird that could potentially be carrying a disfiguring disease. We all know my brain is full of Skittles. But I thought of my children and decided that it was nice not having them in a hospital.

When Tyrant finally showed up, the diagnosis was sadly evident. The bird was really sick. So sick, in fact, that it didn’t even flinch when he picked it up and set it inside a cardboard box we’d lined with a small towel. I said a final goodbye before he took it away, before he googled some key words about sick birds, hit a store for medicine and supplies, and tried to keep it comfortable for the night.

It was dead before morning.

A strange white bird chose my doorstep as the place it wanted to spend its last few hours alive. I just wrote 1,200 words about it, but damn. I am so not ready to think about it.

  • ShortNFeistyOne

    I’m not sure I’d look at it as an omen– more as a sign that peace will come for you like it did for your birdie (although, I’m sure you’ll still be living to experience yours).

    Or maybe it’s the Higher Power’s way of saying that even though you’re personally going through a lot right now, people who feel like they’re at the end of their rope go to Heather B. Armstrong for comfort.

    I know dooce has done that for me many a time :)

  • StefWhitt

    Wow, I really thought the bird, may he rest in peace, was about to impart the meaning of the universe (which we already know is 42).

  • jan001

    Can someone please enlighten me? I have no idea what the connection of a white bird on a porch is to Revelations. What’s the deal?

    You (and Tyrant) did all the right things. It was just the bird’s time to go. {hugs to all of you, even Coco}

  • tonya

    Poor thing. :( Years ago a hummingbird showed up on my doorstep. He would drink a bit of sugar water periodically, but I knew he wasn’t going to make it. Obviously, it’s not natural to be able to hold a hummingbird in the palm of your hand. I was so sad when he died a couple days later, but I felt better knowing he hadn’t died alone on my porch. Or at the hands of my cat.

    As sad as that was, I love the Coco stories. My house is home to TWO herders: a border collie and a sheltie. Wheeeee!

  • jersf

    Bonus points for Tyrant! Unless said bird-saving was on the clock, and then overtime for Tyrant! (Make sure you note that favorably in his performance evaluation.) Prior comments N/A if said Tyrant-research for sick birds involved a sack and a river. I choose to believe it was instead eyedropper-dispensed medicine and Enya.

  • GlassofWin

    So sad but the silver lining is that you and Tyrant gave him/her comfort and warmth and hopefully that eased its passing.

    I have a bizarre mystery bird story, too.

    The first is that a number of years ago I was being driven home from a late night – around 3-4am – and as my pal Skip was driving down my street (I live near Pasadena, CA) he came to a stop because there in the center of the road was a pelican. A Pelican. It didn’t do anything when we stopped, got out and took a cursory look at him. Skip wrapped him up in a towel and took him to the 24 hour vet just a mile up. He said they refused to open the door for him so he left the Pelican on their stoop and said it was on their conscious. We never knew what became of him.

  • ThePeanut

    I totally just cried. Poor bird. At least he got to see your lovely face and spend time with you before passing on.

  • Laura Jones

    Apparently I’m out of step….tried to delete.

  • stelle

    Same thing happened to me, but with a sick bunny. Very eerie.

  • dooce

    @jersf Tyrant said the bird took a few drops of water from an eyedropper.

    Thank all of you for being so nice about this. I’m so emotional about it and I don’t know why. But there it is.

  • Moomser

    First of all, that looks like a dove to me, and since easter is right around the corner that could be all kinds of significant, but I’ll let you worry about it and write another post on the subject. Secondly, to put a positive spin on this bird’s demise, you just wrote about it on the internet for hundreds of thousands of people to read, you gave it immortality. You done good, Heather, you done good.

  • OLP

    This is like a Tarot Card from the Universe.

  • Erin Human

    I’m not sure why but I think this is one of my favorite dooce posts ever.

  • HDC

    I have a premonition that your future (far, far, far off future of course) includes you riding in the back seat of an old Cadillac with The Tyrant at the till a la “Driving Miss Daisy”. Must be the Southern thing. And something about the way I’m certain he rolls his eyes every time he gets a message from you.

  • SMD

    Sorry to hear about the bird and about how upset it has made you.
    But hysterical that you called Animal Control. You are definitely on that lady’s top 10 list of strange calls. But their motto really should be “no creature too small.”

  • MissAga

    Dude, you crack me up. It was a pigeon! And yes, sometimes they are white, and sometimes they get sick and die. But I have so much newfound admiration for your writerly gift and the ability to spin a fantastic post out of this. . . tiny coincidence?

  • Natalie

    I know you know this already, but holy shit you know how to tell a story.

    I think you should feel honored that Uncle Doug (as we shall all now call this bird) chose to spend his last hours on your door step. And I don’t think you should think of it as a bad omen. It wanted comfort, and that’s what it got.

    I kind of want to give Tyrant a big ol’ hag kiss now, though.

  • wakeandbake

    It would make me emotional because growing up Mormon, I associate white things with pure/whole/innocent. It would be a reminder of something in my life that was once pure/whole/innocent is now dying or dead. Whether it be a relationship, memory, or something else not tangible and seeing that bird I know would trigger me to acknowledge it.

    That is what happens when you have parable and symbolism and such shoved into your brain for the first 20 years of your life. You never can escape it.

  • Buddahkat

    Well, what kind of bird was it? I feel like you left me hanging! Now I have to go to the Gym and the grocery store and I’m running birds through my head. Maybe he just wanted to die on a nice porch. Or was it a she?
    Reminds me – I was flying in our small medical plane and it was bumpy as crap. The whole time there was this KSL type talk radio in our headphones that the pilot couldn’t hear but we could and we didn’t know how to turn it off. It wasn’t loud, just annoying. When the pilot aborted a landing and took off I just thought to myself. “I can’t die listening to this shit” Bahahaha.
    But the bird…
    You are my kind of crazy.

  • Cosmo3807

    I logged on to gently tease you for um, well, totally overreacting to a poor little sick/old bird that just happened to end up on your porch. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, ya know?

    But I read all the comments & apparently I am way out of line for even thinking about teasing you, however gently I had planned.

    So now, I am here to offer an apology for not taking this seriously for you. I am truly sorry. I stand corrected.

    I’m always sad when a little creature of any ilk dies. Even if I had teased, I still would have – and do – commend you and Tyrant for doing whatever you could for the little guy in its last hours. I can’t say I believe too much in omens. But Karma feels real to me. I believe your sweet heartfelt compassion will generate all kinds of positive Karma that will offset any negativity from the sad ending.

    All things considered, imo you should see this as a positive experience. Every living creature has to die, and you had the honor of comforting this particular spirit as it crossed over.

    Love you Heather! (In an internet kind of way, not a creepy stalker way. Sorry, but I felt like I had to make that distinction). Take care and don’t let any organized religion bullshit mess with your psyche.

  • amanda-rants

    I come across a dead bird every few months. I typically place them in a nearby trashcan, which to me is somewhat more dignified than leaving them in the road or on the sidewalk or wherever else I find them. It used to happen so frequently that I thought I should take it as some sort of terrible sign. I’m usually by myself when I find them. However, my last two relationships ended shortly after finding a dead bird together with my boyfriends. The first of those two boyfriends and I saw a lot of dead animals together, we even saw three deer try to jump across a parkway and consecutively get hit.

    Anyway, I’m sorry. Birds are mysterious creatures and I feel weirdly connected to them.

    I’ve definitely put way too much thought into this, it probably just means I’m observant and isn’t a sign at all.

  • josita

    FWIW – Here’s a lengthy but fascinating excerpt from “Animal-Speak, the Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small” by Ted Andrews:

    The pigeon has a long history associated with the home and with fertility. The real name of Christopher Columbus was “Colombo” which is the Italian word for “pigeon.” Columbus helped discover a new home. The pigeon also has an extraordinary homing sense. It knows how to find its way back home, no matter how far it has gone.

    It is because of this that they often are symbols for a time or a need to return to the security of home. Pigeons can teach us how to find our way back when we are lost. They help us to remember and find the love of home and homelife that we have either given up or lost. They are the only bird that can drink by sucking up water into their beaks. This reflects that ability to draw on the energies of home, no matter how distant.

    They are reminders to us to remember that which has positively affected us from our early home life. Have we forgotten who we are? Are we falling into old patterns we vowed to remember and change? Have we forgotten our basic foundations, the heritage we have had passed on to us through home and family? This includes the morals, the behaviors, the attitudes, etc. Draw upon them and use them.

    Because they breed rapidly and publicly, pigeons came to be sacred symbols for fertility gods and goddesses. They reflect the fertility of home and family that can occur when they are around. Pigeons will huddle together during a storm. If there are storms in your life, huddle with your family–biological or otherwise. There will be safety and security in that activity. Remember that pigeons remind us of the possibilities, real and ideal, associated with home and family.

  • charisadee

    I love birds and I do believe in signs, ghosts, and all the like.

    But more importantly I do believe that beautiful bird was put there to be inspiration for a Cami outfit. If anyone could wear white feathers with dipped edges it would be her.

  • Stephani

    Aww, sorry Heather. :(

  • Stephani


    I agree with Erin…this was one of my favorite posts ever.


  • bawb23

    Two words: West Nile.

    You’re welcome.

  • Sabine

    Aw! I love this story even though it’s sad. Thank you for sitting with the bird and making calls on his behalf, and although I didn’t think it was possible to love Tyrant any more, I totally do.

  • leesuhrenay

    that is that and this is this

  • filmlady

    I did a quick google for white dove, and this came up:

    I’ve never heard of her before, but I always believe the universe throws stuff at you for a reason.

    And you and the dove? You shared a special moment in time. Not “special” like “riding-the-short-school-bus” type of special. But very real.

    I also think @josita hit the mark.
    Many hugs for you.

  • susanruffin

    should we demand an autopsy?

  • stephdk70

    Thanks for trying to care for him.

  • horn

    This post and its comments are better than any church service I’ve ever been to. Feeling lots of gratitude and wonder about it all. xo

  • deborahjmum

    Wanted to say you should be related to Sheldon on Big Bang Theory who REALLY freaks out about birds!
    Also, we used to keep and train racing pigeons (which come in all colours) and, one thing about them — they mate for life!

  • ELP

    Very sad..It’s like he needed you in his/her final hours. Poor bird. Your poor mind!!!

  • mleah

    I keep expecting to hear that Mike Tyson showed up on your doorstep looking for his missing pigeon.

  • cory212

    Too bad no one from NYC was with you cause that there is (was) a pigeon. I live amongst those rats with wings every day. Blech.

  • juliejackson

    A few years ago, this chicken appeared suddenly in our front yard when I walked outside. It was New Year’s Day. Just one chicken, that was all. I had never seen an ornamental chicken in my life. Still not sure what that was about.

  • mirenis

    A couple of years ago a homing pigeon showed up at our door. It seems he wasn’t very good at his job. He still had an identification band around his foot so I got as close as I could and snapped some pictures so I could read the number. I tried calling the American Homing Pigeon Association to figure out who the little guy (we called him Charley) belonged to. Unfortunately after a couple of days we were still unable to get in touch with the owner (they moved) so we took him to our vet. They said they would give him to a lady who rescues birds and he would have a happy life hanging out with some new bird buddies. I am sorry your bird did not have the same luck.

  • toad97

    years ago when my husband I first moved South from the DC area, I saw this giant bird that looked like a turkey in my back yard. We lived in a regular suburban neighborhood, not out in the country, and the weird thing was it was Thanksgiving day. I figured someone’s dinner had escaped. Years later, I realized it was probably what is known as a Turkey Buzzard and got to see one up close and personal – ugliest damn animals ever! Not sure what kind of omen that was supposed to be….

  • acm

    I really, really, want a recording of the call in which you report to Animal Control that you are being menaced by a pigeon. They’d be living off the grins for years!! :)

    Poor pootie (you, that is, not the bird)…