What pigeon diplomacy means to me, or how I learned to stop worrying and love birds

Guest Post by Liese Hunter

Whit King pigeon snuggled on his back in the arms of a volunteer

Feisty foster pigeon Jerry (wearing pants) sublime in Liese’s embrace

My friend Elizabeth asked me to write something about my relationship with pigeons. I thought about it for a long time and wondered where to begin? Begin at the beginning.

In late 2011, I had a passing conversation with a co-worker about chickens, basically she said she liked them and I said I didn’t like them, and she couldn’t believe I didn’t like them since I like animals and hens are so lovely, et cetera. As I tend to do, I thought about this conversation (maybe too much), and examined the question of why I didn’t think I liked chickens. I had never actually had chickens, or hung around with chickens, and as I explored my memory, I realized my entire frame of reference was based on a crazy rooster that my grandparents had who used to chase us around and try to attack us with his spur when we were kids. Time for a perspective shift.

On my next trip to the local library, I wandered up to the non-fiction area to investigate the bird section, which was surprisingly large. I looked around for a book that appeared accessible, which to me means clean, readable, and easy to carry around. I found Sy Montgomery’s book Birdology, which seemed inviting enough and pretty new. Each chapter in her book investigated a different species of bird – not as a biological or scientific study – but merely as she experienced the birds personally and in conversations with others, adding interesting facts along the way. (Sy has an appealing sense of humor, which led me to read another of her books, The Good Good Pig, which also includes chickens.)

Reading Birdology was the beginning of opening my mind about birds. Sy’s book introduced me to several different families of birds, including racing pigeons. While I am not a fan of humans racing any animal, it was fascinating to read about the studied intelligence and history of pigeons. I have to admit, my experience with this book was the first time I ever considered birds in general, or pigeons in particular, and it was only an academic interest, not one that included actual birds.

I borrowed more library books, read more about birds, including Alex the parrot, Cher Ami the famous WWII pigeon, Wesley the owl, and continued to be enthralled by these personal accounts of human relationships with birds. I have certainly loved all the animals who have ever shared my life, especially my heart cat Simon, and it was at this time that I realized perhaps I had more to offer our animal population. I signed up to become a volunteer cat socializer for the Humane Society of Silicon Valley.

Life got busy, as it does, but in January of 2013, I attended the Bay Area Pet Expo with some dear friends. There were cats, dogs, exhibits, demonstrations, the famous Shorty Rossi, adoption events – it was a really busy, noisy place with many things happening concurrently, which, as a hard-core introvert, is not really my comfort zone. As we passed through the last building of the expo, I was already mentally preparing to leave, when we passed a fascinating booth with clothing and outfits for rats (wow!), and then suddenly found ourselves in front of the Palomacy booth (then MickaCoo). The booth was full of happy people and beautiful birds. Someone asked me if I wanted to hold a pigeon and I think I said, Uh…

And then Elizabeth Young put a pigeon in my hands.

Liese holds a pigeon, Santino, for the first time

Liese holds a pigeon, Santino, for the first time

At that moment, I didn’t know Elizabeth. I didn’t know this would be the beginning of a different chapter of my life. I didn’t know that I had finally found my tribe. It took me a while to know those things. But I can tell you, I will never forget holding that first pigeon.

That pigeon’s name is Santino, and in my hands, he felt light and heavy and warm and relaxed all at the same time. And in some way, I was transformed.

Elizabeth says that to meet a pigeon is to love a pigeon. Elizabeth is right.

Meeting these birds was the highlight of my day. But it would be a while before I held my next pigeon.

To be continued…

Liese is a volunteer cat socializer and pigeon cuddler. When she is not out hiking the local trails, she is the service provider for three senior cats, two rescued pigeons, and her most formidable boss Miss Lily Belle, a chihuahua she adopted from the Humane Society of Silicon Valley.

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2 Comments

  1. Liese,

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience! It again reminds me how important those simple “firsts” can be for our bonding with others (humans included). So glad you tried again with birds, chickens, and pigeons to expand your advocacy world. Welcome to the Tribe!

  2. I am so honored to be a part of your tribe. I got big hurty tears when I read that. I know so many of us who are bound together by our love for pigeons and doves feel that way as well.

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