Gurumina is the bird that started all this.
My first memory of Gurumina is that she was hopping up and down in a stainless steel cage at the San Francisco Animal Care & Control shelter (SFACC) where I was a newbie volunteer in the “Smalls Room”. She sounded like a bowling ball in a dryer.
I had seen a couple of these big white birds at the shelter and they always just stood stock still, clearly trying to be invisible. And for the most part, they were. Shelter staff & volunteers didn’t really know what to do with them. Unlike all the other animals, they weren’t taken out of their cages, socialized, given names, photographed, posted on websites…
And so I really wasn’t sure why Gurumina was hopping up and down nor what would happen if I opened her cage. I had finished up my volunteer shift- having socialized with all the other animals- and was about to go home. I remember feeling very unsure about opening her cage. I didn’t want her flying around the room, banging into the window, hurting herself, embarrassing me.
When I did open her cage and offered her my hand, she stepped out onto it in the most lady-like way. The hopping had been her way of asking for attention. Once given it, she was sublimely calm. And big! And heavy for a bird, I remember thinking. I didn’t really know what to do but I walked around with her standing on my hand and introduced her to all the bunnies. She seemed to enjoy meeting them. And they her. She was incredibly charming.
Gurumina was different from the other King Pigeons who routinely arrived at SFACC. She wasn’t a young, terrified, traumatized squab. She had been someone’s pet who had been surrendered. That’s why she had a name. She was a King Pigeon who had been socialized. She was clearly an awesome pet. Smart, loving, quiet. So elegant.
Gurumina inspired me to start learning about King Pigeons. Despite all my years of studying animals, I’d never before heard of King Pigeons. Most people haven’t.
King Pigeons are bred for meat (squab) and the vast majority go straight from their nest* to the processing plant and from there to a fancy plate. (*They are slaughtered at 4 weeks of age, before they fledge, for maximum tenderness.) But some King Pigeons are sold live at poultry markets where people sometimes buy and “release” them in a ceremony or in a misguided effort to liberate them (release equals death for these domestic birds). A lucky few survive long enough to get taken to an animal shelter where, if they’re not adopted or have no rescue to help them, they’re killed.
When Gurumina needed to be rescued, I took her into my home and fostered her. I knew I could get her adopted and, with help from Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue, I was able to find her a wonderful forever home. She was adopted on 10/21/07.
I hadn’t meant to start a rescue. In fact, the prospect of doing something like that was one of my biggest fears. I had, for all of my life, been more interested in and drawn to animals than anything else. From the time I was very young, people would always say, “Oh, you’re going to be a vet someday” but I always knew that I could never be a vet. Even in grade school, I knew that I never wanted to be in any kind of business with animals. They are too vulnerable to us. We are too unkind. I couldn’t bear what animals endure. And so I had adopted and rescued privately, but avoided any other involvement. But, in 2007, I was wondering, since I was still so drawn to animals, if maybe I had made a mistake. And so I had very cautiously dipped my toe in by signing up as a shelter volunteer. All I was going to do was socialize the Smalls for an hour or two a week. I was not going to let myself go over the animal cliff…
Because of Gurumina, I recognized who the next King Pigeon was when she arrived at the shelter. Though she was dirty, sick, and terrified, I knew her amazing pet potential. I named her Rocky because when she punched out with her wing to warn me away (something we call wing fu), she always used her left. She wing-fu’d southpaw.
Because of what Gurumina taught me, I, despite trepidation about the cliff I was stepping off, rescued Rocky. And then Sugar. And Stretch. And Jesse… And within a couple of months, MickaCoo Pigeon & Dove Rescue was hatched and it has since grown into Palomacy Pigeon & Dove Adoptions. To date, we have saved more than 600 lives and helped countless others. We provide coaching and referrals to people all over the country and beyond. We are helping pigeons and doves and the people that love them today because of Gurumina. We are creating awareness and inspiring compassion. We may be the world’s first (and only?) adoption agency devoted to pigeon and doves.
On July 23rd, 2015, Gurumina died peacefully at home. She was a cherished pet. She is mourned. She will never be forgotten.
By Elizabeth Young, founder & executive director Palomacy Pigeon & Dove Adoptions