Just A Pigeon
Some people that I knew at the time said “why bother he’s – just a pigeon”. I didn’t see it that way when I was driving under a train bridge, and a little pigeon fell out of his overhead nest, and fluttered to the ground. His mother was distraught – frantically and repeatedly swooping down to where he lay on the ground. I parked my car and went over to the roadside. His eyes were open and I could see a faint, twitching movement in his feet. I’m sure that he was stunned and probably very frightened.
His mother was on the ground about ten feet away just watching and quite subdued now in comparison to her former frantic behaviour. I could see the nest about 15 feet off the ground on a girder of the bridge. I had no way of putting him back with his family. I had a cardboard box in the trunk of my car and I gently laid him in the bottom on an old towel. I was in the midst of running errands and I thought that it he was still alive when I got home that I would try to see what I could do for him. As I drove off I saw his mother fly back up to her nest – I assume to the rest of her babies.
Two hours later I arrived back home and opened the trunk of my car. Said bird was very much alive. I named him “Pidge” – easy and straightforward. He lived his early life in a cat carrying cage and was soon firmly established as part of my animal household. As Pidge got bigger I had to buy him a parrot cage. I put it in the kitchen window so he could watch the activity in the back garden. When I was at home he’d come out of his cage and he loved to strut around in the garden with his little head bobbing in that funny way that pigeons do when they walk.
Pidge was very affectionate. He would come over to me when I was sitting on the deck and rub his head against my knee – much the same way that a cat will do. He’d tilt his head from side to side as he gazed at me and he did a funny bobbing-like dance when I played classical music. Pidge showed no interest in flight. This was marginally worrisome as I assumed that Pidge would need that particular skill as he got older. I started to stand behind him as he perched on the deck railing and open up his wings to their full spread and gently move them up and down. Pidge would look at me as if I was crazy and jump down to the ground and go off and explore the garden.
One day I gathered him up in both hands – and tossed him gently to the ground about three feet below the deck. He did an awkward fall-flutter to the grass and sat down – in a definite snit. Repeat – repeat – repeat. Pidge was not interested. The next day I put my hands under his open wings and ran down the length of the back yard with Pidge. The result was Pidge = offended – Rosemary = zero. What to do?
I tried the lawn running scheme for about a week. No progress. Pidge sunned himself on the deck, splashed joyfully in his over-sized water bowl and consumed great quantities of bird seed. Pidge did not want to fly. He grew into a beautiful bird with that exquisite iridescent blend of green and purple on his neck. He seemed quite content to remain in his cage at night and to play in the garden when I was at home. He ignored my dog and she returned the favour.
I suppose that I could have kept Pidge – but in my heart I felt that he should be free. I was determined to teach this wayward little bird to fly so I resorted to drastic measures. A couple of weeks later I went down to the basement and got my step ladder. I set it up on the back deck and collected Pidge. I climbed up on the ladder and tossed Pidge as high as I could into the air. He plummeted to the ground in a heap and cooed so pitifully that I felt like a heathen. Too bad Pidge – back up the ladder again.
The same result followed a couple more times. On the fourth try it was as if a light suddenly went on in Pidge’s little noggin. He flew the length of the back yard and landed on the ground. But rather than fly back to the deck he walked. “Oh Pidge”. Enough for Saturday. More flying lessons planned for Sunday.
Bright and early the next morning I was back on the ladder with Pidge. He followed the same pattern and flew to the end of the garden. So I put the ladder away – went down to the lawn and just kept tossing Pidge into the air. In a final dramatic flourish Pidge flew up to the roof of my neighbor’s garage and sat there preening in the sunshine. That’s my boy – I was a proud Momma. I went into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee and when I went back outside Pidge was back on the deck.
Over the next two weeks Pidge became an accomplished aerial artiste. I decided to move his cage out to the deck and leave the door open during the day. I locked him in at night. When I got home from work Pidge woud be somewhere in the garden poking around or sunning himself on the deck railing. He didn’t seem at all inclined to leave. More tough love was necessary. I put his cage in the basement. That night Pidge flew up to the garage roof and stayted there until morning.
A week later Pidge left in the morning but came back home at night. He was still very affectionate and liked to sit near me on the deck. By now Pidge was a consumate flyer. At the end of that week he stayed away the entire week-end but was back on Monday morning – still happy at his feeder and water bowl. Then Pidge was gone for a week and I came to the realization that his wild instincts were getting stronger.
When fall was in the air and the nights were cool Pidge was mostly absent. He no longer came home to roost. I missed his soft cooing and his funny little nudges against my knee when I sat in the garden. One Saturday afternoon in mid-November I was out in the back yard doing some cleaning up in preparation for shutting the garden down for the winter months. Pidge landed on the deck railing and strutted up and down. He seemed older – wiser – free. He flew down to the ground by my feet and looked up at me and then flew up to the garage roof. He watched me for a long time as I worked in the garden.
Late in the afternoon Pidge stood up tall on his legs – flapped his wings a few times and then flew up into the sky. I lost sight of him. I felt such a sense of longing combined with a giddy realization that he was going to be alright. I knew that my caring for him over the months had been so very important. As I was putting the rake and garden bags away Pidge swooped down itnto the garden and landed by his water bowl. He flew up to the garage then down to the ground at the end of the garden and then back to the deck railing. Perhaps in memory of his time with me. I sat down in one of the garden chairs and he flew over and landed on the arm and looked at me with incredible intensity for a long time.
Pidge flew up over the roof of my house and dove back down again. He soared up into the sky so gracefully and beautifully that I started to cry. Higher and higher and then he was gone. I never saw Pidge again. I could not think of him as – just a pigeon. He was a sweet little soul. Funny and contrary and curious and affectionate – but – in the end a wild thing. As it should be he valued his freedom more than his connection to me.
I like to think that Pidge flew over my house every now and again and maybe landed on my deck. I left his bowl out until the winter cold froze the water. In the spring I sold his cage at a garage sale. I know somehow that Pidge found a mate – had a couple of kids and a good life for a Toronto city bird. But – just a pigeon – no way. He was a gentle, sentient being who deserved a life lived to the fullest. It was a privilege to have been there to rescue him when he was in need. He taught me a lot that little bird – and still all these years later whenever I see pigeons on the wing – I remember Pidge!