Four days ago, I went out for an afternoon walk in my neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. And that’s when I heard frantic squeaking. An animal in desperate need of help.
I thought the calls for help were coming from an abandoned puppy. But the noise was coming from above. I looked up and spotted the source about 30 feet up in the air: A poor pigeon had become trapped within some metal security grating that covered an air-conditioning unit at a local schoolhouse.
What I saw next would shatter my heart into a million pieces.
The trapped bird had a buddy who stayed right there by her side. There was nothing this other pigeon could do to help her, except stay there and keep her company. Try to tell her it was going to be OK. That help would come.
“Just hang in there,” I imagined the friend pigeon saying.
Time Was Running Out
The school had been closed for a long summer break. The doors were locked.
I didn’t have a ladder this tall. And I wasn’t sure what, exactly, I could possibly do to save this bird. So I called 311, the NYC hotline for pretty much everything, including animal rescue matters. They told me there wasn’t much to be done, but to try calling ACC (the city’s animal control).
So then I called ACC and left a voicemail. No reply. I also called a well-known Brooklyn-based animal rescue group. Left another detailed voicemail. No reply.
Two days later, I knew time was running out to save this bird. I wasn’t sure how many days a pigeon could live without water, but I guessed it wasn’t much longer than a few days. It had been 2 days, at least, maybe more, since this brave bird had become trapped.
The bird was still there, suffering. And her friend, incredibly, was still right there by her side.
Pigeons Mate for Life
It was now the 4th of July. People were out enjoying the holiday, and no one had time for a pigeon — just 1 of more than a million in New York City.
But no one wants to see a fellow animal suffer like this. And let me tell you some things about pigeons:
- Pigeons are super-skilled at math.
- They can recognize all 26 letters of the alphabet.
- They recognize themselves in a mirror, the only non-mammals with that ability.
- In fact, many consider pigeons to be the smartest birds on the planet.
- They can recognize individual people, too.
- Pigeons usually mate for life.
- They’re very sociable.
Trapped for 4 Days
I reached out to social media for help, posting the video above. (Play the video to see what the scene was like when I first discovered the birds 4 days ago.) Suggestions from social media came flying in.
“Can grapes or blocks of melon be thrown in … SOMETHING to provide moisture and something to peck at?” asked Fern L.
Great idea. I tried tossing up grapes and pieces of cantaloupe. The grapes simply fell right through the metal grating and back down below. I had better luck with the cantaloupe — a few pieces landed on top, out of the trapped bird’s reach but close enough, I hoped, that the other bird could pass them down to her.
I was getting desperate.
My wife, I imagined, was beginning to question my sanity. New Yorkers aren’t often known to give 2 squeaks about pigeons. One of my neighbors commented that the situation with the “dying” pigeon and her faithful friend was both sad and beautiful — “like a rose growing in a cemetery,” whatever that meant. I wasn’t amused by the comment.
Rescue Within Reach
On Day 3 of the ordeal, the day after the national holiday, the school was open again for summer school, and I was finally able to alert staff to the trapped pigeon. “How the (bleep) did that bird get in there?” one of the staff members asked.
They assured me they’d alert the custodian right away, but they pondered whether the custodian would have to take apart “the entire thing” just to get to the bird.
Oh and guess what? The trapped bird’s friend was still there, standing by, hoping his pal would be rescued that day.
Unfortunately, it would take another full day for the rescue to come. I’m not sure why it took the school so long, but luckily rescue did eventually come.
After 4 whole days, the school custodian unlocked the window guard and swung it open.
I wasn’t there to witness it, but I imagine the trapped bird made her way out to freedom, flew away with her faithful feathered friend, and now they’re cooing together somewhere, counting their lucky blessings.
And that’s the power of love.
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