In Greek mythology, a poorly paid, mistreated servant girl prayed to the gods for help and was transformed by them into a collared dove so that she could fly away and escape her misery. The dove's mournful-sounding cry, - heard so often as it takes off and lands - is said to recall her former wretched life. The bird's species name reflects this too: decaocto, meaning eighteen, supposedly comes from the number of coins the maid received each year for her hard work.
In keeping with the myth, they seem such nervous, skittish birds, taking flight at the slightest movement and rarely hanging about near humans, but this one's different. It knows how to attract my attention and stays around once it has it, often just a few inches away. Our connection is almost palpable. It watches me with dark red eyes; I can sense it weighing things up - the way its natural caution is overridden, just enough, by its confidence in getting a prompt handful of food. It has a mate - they pair for life - but I don't know which one is male and which female. The mate is more shy, preferring to watch from a safe distance, only coming down to join its partner once I'm far enough away not to pose a threat. Proof, I believe, that every creature, wild or not, has its own distinct identity; it must be character rather than just instinct alone which dictates some of the decisions it makes.
I even dreamed about my dove the other night! I found it nestling in the large bin where I keep a sack of sunflower hearts. I reached down and picked it up, held it in my arms and felt its soft, warm body - it didn't struggle or flap, just stayed snug in my embrace like a kitten. It was such a vivid dream that the the next morning when it came to me in real life and those dark red eyes met mine, I felt as if we'd shared a secret tryst.