He was waiting this morning, in the last of the green trees, his back the color of mottled bark and almost lost among the foliage. It wasn't until he turned that he caught Duncan's attention. Roo darted to the base of the fence and sat with such force among the leaves that they dusted up and scattered around him, a mighty red comet leaving an impact crater. The hawkling hardly moved. He turned to look at us, calm and almost indifferent. He ruffled his chest once and looked from Duncan to me and then back out at the geese who have already laid claim to the golf course.
I have no way of knowing if it is our hawkling, now a full-sized bird, strong and fierce, no longer that helpless creature hiding among the shrubs while I stood guard against Jeffery's cat. But I like to imagine it is the same creature, that perhaps he spent the summer watching from the giant willow behind my home, watching us venture out in the mornings and then again on our afternoon and evening walks down The Run. I've heard their voices in the mornings, the sound a shrill call that scatters the smaller birds and stiffens the tails of the squirrels Duncan has treed. I know they have been there all along but I haven't seen them, not since he returned to show he'd survived and had found the power of his wings. Perhaps he picked this moment to say farewell before moving on for the winter, to let us know he was grateful for the time and worry we spent with him.
I like to think this is the case, that maybe my good dog and I have imprinted on his wildness somehow, that he is grateful in whatever way he is capable, and that he came to wish us well before departing these fading lands for a warmer place where the mice are plentiful and the cats scarce.
Stranger things have happened. Nature is an amazing place. And some stories do have happy endings.