The heartbreaking story of the loving and forgiving stray cat, named Ugly, is something that resonates deeply with me. Read the original story here:
What is it that makes people act indifferently or cruelly towards others, be it an innocent animal, Earth’s nature or another human being. Ignorance? Closed-mindedness? Fear? All of the above? Parents who live in fear and with their minds closed then instruct their children, and perhaps even pets, like the dogs in Ugly’s sad story, to live and act in the same way.
Who hasn’t had experiences with bullies in their childhood? But what if a bully grows up and becomes this? Remember the terrible story that happened in New Jersey a few years ago, that of a young gay man, whose roommate at Rutgers University posted videos of him having sexual acts on the internet? This deliberately cruel act led to the young man’s suicide. The story received a lot of publicity and the guilty person received punishment. But what about so many other despicable acts and attitudes that get swept under the carpet? Do they just disappear? Do they teach a lesson? Do they leave a mark? Or do they escalate into something monstrous?
Where there is ignorance and closed-mindedness, there is prejudice followed by irrational fear, and even violence to “protect” the “threatened way of life.” In Ugly’s story, humans hosed down the poor stray and shut his paws in their doors. But on a global scale, these attitudes lead to wars, or attempts to start wars, as we are presently observing in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Iran. What always struck me is that people who have started the war in Iraq haven’t the faintest idea on how to correctly pronounce the name of the country, nor do they care to know how people in that country live and what’s important to them.
But it always starts small; it always starts close to home.
In the old days, pigeons delivered urgent and important messages. Postal pigeons brought hope and saved lives. They carried correspondence from war zones and hard to reach places; they delivered messages from stranded or imprisoned people, leading to their rescue. Intelligent and gentle birds, they have been considered messengers of the gods. And along with the dove, their close relative, in Europe they are a symbol of peace and love.
Pigeons are a fixture on European squares, with people feeding them and kids chasing them, which pigeons don’t seem to mind. Humans and pigeons have always peacefully coexisted in the most beautiful cities of Europe, and some consider them an enhancement to the scenery. In Italy and some other countries it is actually considered great luck and a sign from God when a pigeon poops on you. In Odessa, where I grew up, children built pigeon lofts on roofs of apartment buildings, where they fed and played with pigeons. Although people in Europe LOVE feeding pigeons, authorities are not amused, aiming to limit the pigeon population.
Pigeons in Red Square, Moscow.
Pigeons in St. Mark’s Square, Venice. Authorities don’t like it when people feed the pigeons. Some cities even impose a hefty fine if you do. This photo’s inscription reads: “They sure missed the sign that says, don’t feed the pigeons.”
One of the many beautiful fountains of Odessa, this one with city pigeon sculptures.
A few days ago my husband and I have rescued a young pigeon, who appeared to have fallen out of the third story attic where lots of local pigeons resided. The building in question is located on Main Street, a short walk from our house in the Catskills. My husband noticed the poor bird sitting motionlessly on the sidewalk, as cars and huge rumbling trucks passed by. He was not fully grown, but not a baby any more either. He might have flown out of his flock’s nest on top of the building for the first time, but grew tired and was unable to fly back up.
The little thing puffed up his little body in fear and had a very dejected and ugly look. We were afraid something might happen to him so close to the traffic and started slowly directing him along the nearby driveway into the inner courtyard. The pigeon stood up and reluctantly walked into the courtyard on his unsteady little feet. We followed to see where he would go. At first, the pigeon went all the way to the back as if trying to blend with the wall, and stood like that, his back to the door of one of the courtyard’s small stores, which was closed for the moment.
My concern was that someone might open the door and squash him. As if hearing my thoughts, the pigeon slowly emerged from his “hiding spot” and settled himself in the middle of the parking lot with the same dejected look, with cars around him coming and going. People would walk to their cars right past the pigeon, and drive out without giving him a second look. At times he tried to fly, but couldn’t.
We knew if we didn’t do something fast, our little pigeon would be squashed by one of these cars in no time. I went inside of one of the stores located in the courtyard and asked the owner whether they had the key to the attic so I could put the pigeon back where he would be safe.
The woman said that only the landlord had access to the attic. I asked if she had the landlord’s telephone number. Here is what the store owner responded: “I don’t want to bother the landlord for something as insignificant as a pigeon.” I replied that it was a living thing, just like her or me, but she firmly reiterated: “I won’t bother him for a pigeon.”
Meanwhile, my husband ran back to our house to look up the instructions for pigeon rescue.
Turns out that if a pigeon sits without moving, if he can’t fly and allows you to handle him, it means he is tired and in need of a few hours of rest. We made a few holes in a cardboard box, I put on leather gloves, just in case, and placed the little pigeon safely in the box. He allowed me to handle him and my husband carried him home.
On the way to our house, we met a woman walking two adorable dogs. My husband proceeded home, while I stopped to pet them, as the woman started telling all about her beloved pets. I listened to her, thinking that it was great to meet another animal lover.
“We just rescued a little pigeon,” I shared with her.
The woman’s attitude changed immediately. “Did you know that pigeons carry lice?” she said.
“Oh,” I responded, “I wore gloves, see?” And I showed her my gloves, which I took off to pet her dogs.
“And lice can get in your hair,” she went on. “Just letting you know.” She jerked on her dogs’ leashes and quickly left.
My husband laughed when I told him the story. “I have news for her,” he said. “Dogs carry lice just as much, if not more. And according to my research, there is no substantial evidence that pigeons carry lice. It’s more of a tale than reality.”
I believe my husband. He is good at research.
We placed the box with our little pigeon in our shady back yard to allow him to rest and calm down. A couple of hours later, I took him out of the box and let him wander around the yard. We also gave him some bird feed and water. He ate and drank and again sat in the sun, resting. We were a little concerned about our cat Lily’s reaction to the pigeon. Lily loves basking in the sun in our back yard, which our little princess considers her domain. But, as if knowing that it would not be a good idea on that specific day, Lily (this famous mind reader) slept in the TV room all day, which was highly unusual for her on such nice, sunny day.
Meanwhile, the little pigeon started recovering. When we first saw him, he was all dull and puffed up from fatigue and fear. Now his black body started acquiring an irridescent glow. His little feet, which seemed pale pink when we found him, now acquired a distinctive red coloring. His neck, which was initially puffed up to a degree that I thought that perhaps something was wrong with him, now stretched and became slim and graceful, as he calmed down, ate and rested. His body was very pleasantly warm to the touch and he turned out to be a very beautiful little pigeon.
The pigeon wandered back and forth around the back yard and the driveway, and eventually headed to the front. I caught him again almost on the sidewalk and put him back deeply into the back yard, where he continued his exploration. Although his wings seemed fine and he was now well rested, his attempts to fly were still unsuccessful. I left him alone, deciding that he would be okay in the back and because I had lots to do. I retreated to my study, asking my husband to watch him from the window of his study.
When I came out several hours later, my little pigeon was gone. Turns out, while I was at work, he got his wings back and flew off, no doubt to new adventures.
I’ll miss him. But wherever he is today, I wish him a safe and happy journey!
Read: Love, Compassion, and Ugly. Part 1
Read: Love, Compassion, and Ugly. Part 3: First Do No Harm