the smell of my desperation has become a stench

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.


  • bangedout32

    2012/03/21 at 1:43 pm

    Why am I crying about a bird on someone else’s porch?? I don’t know, but I get it, and at the same time don’t.

  • jessicadennis

    2012/03/21 at 1:49 pm

    But what was wrong with the poor birdie? And what kind of birdie was it, anyway? A dove of some sort? A white pigeon? At least it died somewhat comfortably? These kinds of things are sadder to me than probably they should be.

  • Squeetthang

    2012/03/21 at 1:52 pm

    That is so sad. Looks like a white pigeon to me.
    We have many of them here in Savannah and a lot of half white, half black ones as well.

  • Doghouse Mama

    2012/03/21 at 1:53 pm

    I’m having such a horrible day and now this bird has cracked another chip off my heart. Because if it’s not an omen for you, it feels like an omen for me.

    Please give Tyrant a hug for being so kind to the bird.

  • playrawkstar

    2012/03/21 at 1:55 pm

    poor little bird! and you! and tyrant! i wonder if the freeze this weekend had something to do with it? kudos to tyrant for trying to save it!

  • mahonegal

    2012/03/21 at 1:57 pm

    Oh my God that was awesome!

  • Schmutzie

    2012/03/21 at 1:58 pm

    You maybe know I have a thing with sick and dying and dead birds, so this story hits me.

  • Slangred

    2012/03/21 at 2:00 pm

    Sigh. I’ve been collecting what my husband and a couple friends have dubbed my “dead bird stories” for a few years now. Not because I’m a fan, but because dead bird stories seem to happen to me with more frequency (as in, EVER) than they do to most other people. All of my (now 4) dead bird stories are actually dying bird stories, which end when the bird, well, dies. None of the dead birds were ever pets or birds I was aware of until they died in my presence. And there was always a swelling emotional/spiritual undercurrent to these random dying bird events. So your “dead bird story” resonates deeply with me and I wish you peace.

  • dawdawsmom

    2012/03/21 at 2:01 pm

    maybe it was a homing pigeon who came back to say one last goodbye to his beloved bobcat…

  • hybridshadow

    2012/03/21 at 2:01 pm

    Wow! I am so sorry that the bird died, Heather. Who knows, maybe it sensed some sort of comforting atmosphere coming from your house (and just chose to ignore Coco). Maybe it was just so tired that your house was as far as it could go. Maybe it knew it would get an awesome story written about it. Maybe it IS the beginning of the rapture – who knows. I’m glad you were there to be near it and I am thankful that Tyrant tried to nurse it back to health. I hope you are ok after what, to me, would have been a traumatic experience because the bird died.

    P.S. – I was going to come on here and post as if a ghost had possessed me, but the ending of this entry kind of killed that idea.

  • Ms. Pants

    2012/03/21 at 2:02 pm

    Sounds like the Universe is telling you to watch out for a message.

  • William

    2012/03/21 at 2:05 pm

    Uncle Doug. That right there is a perfect name for a White bird.

  • Tracye

    2012/03/21 at 2:08 pm

    Heather…you are so funny 🙂

    Well birds are omens so…you and tyrant did the right thing and gave it some comfort in its last 24 hours.

  • madamvonsassypants

    2012/03/21 at 2:12 pm

    Definitely a dove or white pigeon. Just say it was a dove, because that sounds waaaaaay more ominous.

    Once I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of skittering nails on my dining room floor. Found that my cats had come in the window (!) with a LIVE QUAIL and were having a grand time slowly killing it in my house. I tried to save it twice, but the sad thing didn’t live.

    Entirely different situation, but felt like sharing was necessary. Also related: the time those jerks brought a dead bat into bed with me. NOW how awesome is Coco in comparison??

  • flavia

    2012/03/21 at 2:15 pm

    you kept one another company.

  • Daisee

    2012/03/21 at 2:18 pm

    Yes looks like a pigeon – Im so sorry 🙁 I have a difficult time with stories like this – I cant seem to deal with even driving by anything that was hit without breaking in to tears. Too many instances where I live…

    Rest assured that you made this creature as comfortable as possible in his last hours. He was a cute little bugger. ok now im crying.

  • lindzgrl

    2012/03/21 at 2:19 pm

    It’s definitely a pigeon, not a dove. Pigeons are actually pretty amazing in that they’re the only bird species to have such a wide range of coloring within the same species—they can be grey, brown, black, white, and all combinations in-between. That ruffling thing he was doing is something they do while trying to rest. Sorry to hear he was sick and died, but hopefully he flew many miles before his time.

  • shanteuse

    2012/03/21 at 2:20 pm

    I think organized religion and its zealots are the cause of all the world’s ills. But I also think that nothing proves the presence of “God” than a sentient being who cannot let another suffer alone. The bird might have been a catalyst for you to do some deep thinking, for you to learn something about yourself or Tyrant, or for you to forget your own troubles for the moment and focus on something larger. I could not have walked away from that bird any more than you could.

    Everything will be alright.

  • Brookitus

    2012/03/21 at 2:22 pm

    I had a similar experience, except with a sick squirrel. I called a local animal rescue organization, and they took the squirrel away, but it was too sick and died. I think it had something to do with the coir welcome mat, the squirrel seemed enamored with it. But, there’s nothing scarier than a sick and mangy squirrel staring at you and playing watch dog for your house.

  • tokenblogger

    2012/03/21 at 2:23 pm

    I agree that she looks to be in the dove/pigeon category.

    Wild birds are hard to nurse back to health. Please don’t feel badly.

    At least she didn’t die without anyone caring about her.

  • HallieLuYa

    2012/03/21 at 2:27 pm

    Just a simple ceremony, seriously. Some candles, nag champa, a few words asking whatever it is in the house to please leave.

    Sounds silly, and you don’t have to believe in it for it to work. Or there’s that bungalow in Santa Monica just waiting for you 🙂

  • enothdurft

    2012/03/21 at 2:29 pm

    I am a grown man. And now I am crying. At work.

  • ChickWhitt

    2012/03/21 at 2:34 pm

    This is why I always take sick wild animals to the wild animal clinic, so if they die, I don’t have to know it. I can live in denial that the poor little creature is now living it up, talking about how it wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the beautiful, caring, selfless woman who helped it when it was sick.

    So go tell Tyrant to tell you he lied, that the bird flew away, happy as a … bird…

  • ADDGirl

    2012/03/21 at 2:42 pm

    Heather, your ability to beak my heart while simultaneously making me laugh is uncanny to say the least.

    Thanks for this.

  • anne_cunningham

    2012/03/21 at 2:43 pm

    so very cool! –‘ceptin’ the part where the bird was sick and had to die, but very cool that he had a dignified, albeit short, bird hospice experience with you and Tyrant. you are one strong woman, to watch from inside, and pound down the urge to “bring the bird inside, what if it was someone’s pet…” but then ramped up on what if it has a horrible disease. i’m never that strong. we brought in a mourning dove once, years ago, who had broken her wing. we kept her safe while it healed and we’d hear her mate “mourn” for her outside our house all the while waiting for her to get better. really, though, this is an empowering lovely story, despite the “all birds go to heaven with the dogs” ending.

  • aotlatds

    2012/03/21 at 2:44 pm

    It looks like one of those white pigeons/doves they release after funerals or other ceremonies. They’re supposed to return to their owner, but sometimes they get a little lost. Poor little thing, glad it got some TLC before it passed.

  • mleah

    2012/03/21 at 2:44 pm

    I was so hoping that story would end as happily as when you found that Mythical Bobcat in your attic closet.

    RIP little white bird.

  • northerngirl

    2012/03/21 at 2:52 pm

    Oh. Wow.

    Have you read The Scarlet Ibis by James Hurst? If not…don’t.

  • janeingrid

    2012/03/21 at 2:59 pm

    That’s an albino pigeon! The timing of this story is pretty strange, because early this morning out of nowhere I suddenly remembered the time when I was 12, I brought an injured bird inside for the night, in a shoebox, and it died.

  • aingman

    2012/03/21 at 2:59 pm

    Oh this is so sad!! Poor bird! I would have done the exact same – freak out, worry and wonder, call someone for help, and do everything I can to save the poor bird. You are a good person, Heather.

  • knolting

    2012/03/21 at 3:04 pm

    For some reason that made me so sad…

  • ShortNFeistyOne

    2012/03/21 at 3:17 pm

    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

    2012/03/21 at 3:21 pm

    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

    2012/03/21 at 3:23 pm

    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

    2012/03/21 at 3:31 pm

    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

    2012/03/21 at 3:45 pm

    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

    2012/03/21 at 3:47 pm

    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

    2012/03/21 at 3:50 pm

    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

    2012/03/21 at 4:08 pm

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

  • stelle

    2012/03/21 at 5:04 pm

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

  • dooce

    2012/03/21 at 4:03 pm

    @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

    2012/03/21 at 5:07 pm

    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

    2012/03/21 at 5:11 pm

    This is like a Tarot Card from the Universe.

  • Erin Human

    2012/03/21 at 5:11 pm

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

  • HDC

    2012/03/21 at 5:33 pm

    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

    2012/03/21 at 5:39 pm

    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

    2012/03/21 at 6:03 pm

    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

    2012/03/21 at 6:03 pm

    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

    2012/03/21 at 6:06 pm

    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

    2012/03/21 at 6:08 pm

    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.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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