“Accept that some days you're the pigeon, and some days you're the statue”

Monday, June 27, 2011

Photo credit: Jonathan Rausseo

Today, as I spent the last half of my lunch hour taking a walk around campus with my coworkers, we discovered an injured pigeon. Although it wasn’t quite clear what the problem was, it was clear that the pigeon couldn’t walk or fly and at the point where we found him, he barely seemed to be able to stand. Based on his size and un-shiny plumage, I guessed that he was probably a young pigeon and he seemed otherwise healthy. We stood around for a bit debating what to do. Wild birds and animals are somewhat intimidating to deal with, we aren’t always sure how they will react to us or what we can do to help them. After a few minutes of observing, it was clear to me that we needed to do something to help him.

I decided to call my trusty friend Jon Rausseo to see if he could come have a look and help us decide what to do. As we waited for Jon to arrive, many passer-bys stopped to have a look at our friend and to offer advice. One young man suggested that the best thing to do was to “put this bird out of his misery”. He even offered to break its neck for us. I gracefully (or maybe not so gracefully) assured him that his services were not required.

(Side note: I am somewhat annoyed with the notion that the most “noble” thing for a human to do when it comes upon an injured animal is to “put it out of its misery”. I can definitely think of situations in which having an animal put down is the most compassionate thing to do. This, however, was a bird with a broken or injured wing and unless it was left there on the sidewalk vulnerable to prey or heat, I was pretty confident that it was not on the verge of death.)

Jon arrived and we decided that we should attempt to capture the pigeon (which my work-friend Marie Catherine had now caringly named Leopold) and bring him to The Wild Bird Center. We found a pair of latex gloves and Jon called the center to make sure they were open and were able to take him in. I was nervous to pick the bird up, although I am not sure why?.. What was this little helpless bird going to do? Peck me to death? I reassured myself that I was much bigger than him and that if he freaked out, I could always let him go. He let me pick him up without much fuss and by the time we got in the car he seemed to trust me and calmed right down in my lap.

Marie-Catherine volunteered to drive us out to the center, which although I had heard about many times, I had never been to. It is in a lovely location out in the woods, exactly the type of place you would hope an injured bird could go to get better. The nice lady who greeted us scooped little Leopold out of my hands and performed a few quick “tests”. She quickly concluded that Leopold had most likely been hit by a car and that his wing was not broken but more likely he had suffered an injury to his abdomen or pelvis. She reassured us that he was not paralyzed and that with a few days rest and some anti-inflammatory medication, he could probably make a recovery. We were all very relieved at the hopeful prognosis. They even gave us his case number so that we can call in a couple of days to check up on him.

I am so thankful that we are lucky enough to have this type of place in our city. I hope that you will take a minute to look at their website, there are great tips on how to rescue and care for wild birds and if you have some time or money to donate to them, I think they are deeply deserving.

As we drove back to the office, I contemplated on what the young man had said about putting the bird out of its misery and I realized that what the bird needed, in fact, was simply to be taken out of a miserable situation. It didn’t take much time or effort for us to change the outcome of this bird’s future. In our own times of need, wouldn’t we all just wish for that much compassion from the others around us?


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