You were the first to perch on my arm, when you were still a chick two years ago. The second one was LightFeet, the bird who was to become your beloved mate. I called you BigFeet2 because you had so many feathers on your feet that they looked bigger than they really were, and I had already named another bird BigFeet for the same reason. It was not a beautiful name, but you were a very beautiful bird. Beautiful black eyes with grey circlets, like your mate, and a beautiful, placid nature; you always wore a very contented expression. She was the next to be named after you, and because she had only a few tiny feathers on her legs and one or two on her feet, she became LightFeet. You made a wonderful, loving pair.
You were the only one in the flight that I could recognise easily from a distance. And you also had a endearing personality all of your own. You were the second tamest of the flight. Only your mate was tamer. And you came inside more and spent more time inside than any other dove except her. You had the best manners of the flight, you were a gentleman among doves, your company inside was always pure pleasure. Even your wonderful mate, whose manners are also excellent, did not surpass you.
You almost never demanded to be fed, you just flew to the covers over the music keyboard in my office, because you knew I would have left your favourite food there (the rough-ground grain from tasty toasted muesli), and when you had eaten it all, unlike RedFeet who would coo 'More!' ever more loudly, you would just stand there looking hopeful, or would fly across to the covers over the fax on the desk beside me and look at me hopefully until I fetched more. You knew where the muesli was kept and you would look eagerly at my hand and the container whenever I reached for it, quivering with anticipation.
You had the same favourite places in my office as your beloved mate to snooze after eating, or to groom yourself. And you often spent hours inside with her grooming yourself and her. You even mated with her inside: your brief angelic fluttering of passionate white wings as she crouched below you.
Almost every morning your routine was the same. You rarely missed. You flew down to the feeding-place with the rest of the flight and perched on my left knee when I crouched down to feed them all, starting with two pieces of bread. You knew that I would feed you specially, as I did F1 (Mrs Friendly 1), whose favourite place at those times was my left hand, atop the first piece of bread, and that my knee was far enough from her so that she could not push you off. You also knew that I had two pieces of bread, and that
the other one was in my breast pocket, so while I was tearing off little bits for them from the first piece, you would poke your head into my pocket and start eating the second one.
You had also noticed that after throwing down rolled oats for the flight I would go round the back of the building and do something then return to the front door, so you would wait for me on the porch, knowing that as soon as I opened the door you could scoot in and fly up the music keyboard where there would be tasty muesli.
But you were not in your normal place yesterday morning (the 6th of February, Waitangi Day), and your mate spent all day inside, which had never happened before. I did not see you at all, all day. You were missing again this morning, and again I did not see you all day.
Finally, fearing the worst, I went looking for some sign of what had happened. I searched some of my forest. Nothing. Then I went over into the forest in the adjoining reserve, and to my dismay found many dove feathers scattered near a big tree. Obviously a cat had ended your life. You must have put up a fight, because there were concentrations of feathers in three places. But there was no sign of your remains, so I
cannot even bury you under Dove Rock, the great boulder where I buried the ones that fell ill and died.
People are told to put a bell round cats' necks so that they cannot sneak up on birds, and they are told that they should not even have them if they live near a native reserve. But they ignore that, so fell murder stalks the forest.
Farewell, beautiful bird. I shall miss you for ever. May your murderer meet a swift end, and soon!