I was heading into the house on a summer day in 1999 when I found a pigeon sitting on the stoop in front of the back door. As I approached the back door, the pigeon did not fly off and even when I stood in front of it, it did not move. I sat down on the stoop next to it and was able to pet its head and as I did, I noticed a band on its leg. It was a racing pigeon. Up close, its colors were gorgeous. Not just gray feathers, but emerald green and purple and black adorned its head and chest. I had no idea a pigeon could be so pretty.
I called to my husband Steve and the kids to come and see the pigeon. As we stood there looking at it, we decided that it must be tired and need to rest before continuing on with its race. Although I don’t know anything about pigeons in particular, I had kept birds in the past and assumed that it was probably not just tired, but that it was probably hungry and thirsty as well.
I didn’t know what type of seed a pigeon would eat so I used what I fed to the wild birds because it included a variety of seeds, nuts and fruits that it could choose from and I got a small bowl and filled it with water. At first, the pigeon didn’t seem interested in any of it. Watching it there, I realized that when I gave my pet birds water, I used a cage waterer, a plastic tube that hung from outside the cage that automatically kept a tiny tray filled for the birds to drink from. Assuming the pigeon got his water the same way, I realized that he probably didn’t even know there was water in the bowl. So I cupped my hand and picked up some water and let it drip back down into the bowl. After doing the same two or three more times I sat back and sure enough, the pigeon took a drink. And then he just sat there again. He didn’t touch the seeds.
One of my kids remembered that there was a pigeon club a few miles away and suggested that maybe we should check there to see if there was race that day. Although I had never seen anyone at the club, I agreed to drive there and see if anyone was there who could give us advice on helping the bird. But when I arrived at the club, it was deserted, just like always so I drove back home.
The pigeon remained on the stoop the rest of the afternoon. Although it was easy enough to keep it safe there since we were all outside working in the yard, as the day wore on we realized that if the pigeon did not leave by nightfall we would have to put it in a cage to keep it safe from the feral cats known to prowl our yard at night. Steve retrieved an old rabbit cage from the attic; not a birdcage by any means, but it surely would keep the little guy safe until morning if needed.
Later, as the charcoal grill was heating up, the pigeon ate some of the seed. He still didn’t leave the stoop, but at least he was eating and drinking. Finally, around six o’clock, the pigeon flew from the stoop to the garage roof and stayed there about an hour before taking flight, heading off to the north.
Given his very long break, he probably didn’t win the race, but I’m confident he was able to finish it and sometimes, that’s the best any of us can hope for.
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