Little Bell’s Big Problem


Bell has torticollis

Bell is a little dove with a big problem. She has torticollis, a neurological movement disorder characterized by a twisted neck and tilted head. (There are many potential causes of torticollis including brain trauma, poisoning, spinal damage, vitamin deficiency, viruses, bacterial infection, tumors, etc.) Bell’s is so profound that the disorientation triggers somersaulting panic attacks which leave her bruised, sore and exhausted and, if uncontrolled, could lead to fatal injury.

Initially we thought she was having seizures but our avian vet helped rule that out. So far, the way we’ve been able to most reliably stop the panic attacks is by keeping a light blanket tented right over her. The super low ‘ceiling’ seems to help by providing enough orientation to stave off the panic.


Her tent keeps the panic attacks away


Exhausted but relieved to have hours fit-free


Bell’s therapeutic set up

When she’s not having fits, she’s self-feeding, preening and responsive to her mate Reed & the people caring for her. (Right now she’s snuggled in one hand while I type this with the other.) Despite her condition, Bell hasn’t given up. Some have suggested we euthanize Bell. If we reach a place where we are unable to offer any hope or relief to her, the mercy of euthanasia will always be available. We don’t need to start there.


Reed keeping Bell company


Reed & Bell

Bell helping me write

Bell helping me write

We only know the back story of Bell & Reed (formerly called Mocha & Latte) in bits and pieces. We know they were originally surrendered to San Francisco Animal Care & Control as part of a flock of 13 pet doves in August, 2012. Their person, Carol, hospitalized in the end stages of ALS, could no longer care for them. We were too full to take them in but we helped the shelter to care for and publicize them. My pet dove Lily and I visited Carol in the hospital to reassure her that we were watching out for them. She returned the kindness by promoting our rescue on her hospital door. She died on September 28th, 2012.


Originally surrendered in 2012


Waiting for adopters


Lily visiting Carol


Carol promoted MickaCoo in the hospital

Some of Carol’s doves were adopted by Kelly (a generous supporter of our work) and they are doing very well and making lots of friends at her store Leftovers.


Kelly adopted four doves


Dove Love

We don’t know about the others except that on December 13th, “Mocha & Latte”, two of the thirteen doves that had been adopted, were returned to the shelter. Their person said he thought one of them, “had brain damage from something the house cleaner sprayed”.


At SFACC 12/13/14


Surrendered again

The following day we were contacted by shelter vet Dr. Anderson seeking rescue for the pair. The twist-headed dove was suffering from severe torticollis and doing backflips with what appeared to be seizures.

We were fortunate to be able to arrange a special foster home for the pair who we renamed Bell & Reed. After two visits to our vets at Medical Center for Birds and lots of trial, error and consideration, we are finding ways to help Bell through her ordeal. She’s on anti-inflammatory pain meds and a broad-spectrum antibiotic and we hope that with time, support, her tent blanket and relief from the terrible fits, she may recover.


Dr. Olsen and Bell


Bell’s sock snuggie worked briefly

Bell relaxes in foster mom Carole's loving hands

Bell relaxes in foster mom’s loving hands

Neurological issues are very slow to heal but, with us, Bell will have all the time she needs. Please make a tax-deductible donation in support of the work we do. Thank you!



March 11, 2015 Update Little Bell’s Big Recovery

February 8, 2016 Update Little Bell’s Big News



  1. Great story, Bell is a wonderful and special bird. I just donated for her care, and will continue to do so. Her situation is special to me, as I cared for a pigeon I rescued for 8 years who had nerve damage from a bout of PMV that left him w/ a twisted neck and balance problems. His mate (another rescue) and I cared for him, and I treasured the many nights I held him snug in my hand, watching TV. I know you know that w/ tender care, Bell can live a good life. Thank you.

    • How lovely that you were able to keep the pigeon….I do mostly feral pigeons and controlled release…I did have a PMV pigeon, but we got her so she could be released…always makes me sad and happy at the same time

  2. Thanks for referring me to the story of the rescue and of Bell’s road to convalescence. I’m so thankful to folks like you for opening your hearts to these poor lovely creatures who are in such vulnerable states when you encounter them. You’re doing God’s work!

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