Wednesday, June 30, 2010

When you find a fledgling pigeon on the streets of Paris, you …

a. put her in a box and bring it to the police commissariat, hoping they’ll help
b. put her in a box and bring her to Miao Wiao, hoping they can point you in the right direction
c. listen to Miao Wiao’s advice and take her to a “great animal place” a long metro ride away
d. Take her to a vet who suggest feeding her biscuits soaked in milk, exactly what internet sources suggest NOT doing
e. bring her home, feed and water her, and hope she sprouts functioning tail feathers overnight

(answer below!)

Up the rue de la Roquette, between our temporary apartment and the Cimitiere du Pere Lachaise (where, among others, Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, and Edith Piaf are interred for all eternity), there’s a little gated park that seems always to be empty. It’s a pretty park, like so many others in Paris; there are bright green lawns surrounded by two-foot-high green fences, a circular fountain with benches on three sides, trees, flowers, and a general air of tranquility. At least it seems so from the outside, where I’m always standing , looking in. This park, also like nearly every other park in Paris, is a dog-free zone. So Fanny and I stand outside, admiring the beauty from a distance.

It’s a sad little sight watching Fanny as she catches a whiff of that heavenly greenery, probably wondering why the hell we’re not actually going in. It’s a bit like looking over the prison wall and seeing Shangri-la or some other verdant paradise; so close but yet so very, very far.

Just outside this park is a “pigeonnaire.” I didn’t know that’s what it was called until I studied the sign. It explains that this bird palace was erected as a joint project between the city of Paris and the SPA as a creative solution to the city’s pigeon “problem.” The Pigeonnaire sits on a single metal post roughly 8 feet high; the structure itself is a tall, three story affair with little curved doorways and pigeon-sized decks on each level. Here, the birds gather to nest, preen, and, presumably, stay out of humans’ hair. What a nice, clever idea I thought to myself. San Francisco should be so smart; they’d never think of something so humane, so dignified. Hmf! I’m glad I said goodbye to that draconian place.

A mere hour after marveling at Paris’ animal-friendly ingenuity, I was standing in the local police station, bearing a box containing one scuttling, pooping, fledgling pigeon. The commissariat was not the place to go searching for assistance. Inside, a group of about 5 or 6 twentysomething flics surrounded me, interrogating me about all sorts of things that had nothing to do with this bird. “Where are you from? Do you understand what I’m saying? Where do you live?” After wasting five minutes of my time, they suggested I just put the bird back on the sidewalk where I found it.

“But there are all sorts of dogs out there who might eat her.”
“Ah, well, that’s just nature for you.”
“No. That’s not ‘nature.’ Domestic dogs are not ‘nature.’”

I left in tears, with the one nice flic in the bunch calling out “Desolee, madame” after me. Next stop: a nearby pet-supplies store. I figured they might have some ideas. The nice young man behind the counter suggested I bring the pigeon to some place that didn’t sound good once he mentioned “puppies and kittens for sale,” but he was certain that they’d take this little critter in and care for it. After a wild and wonky metro journey that included getting stopped briefly by metro flics for squeezing through a turnstile instead of using my ticket, I arrived at this awful pet store. The young retards running the place were of no help at all.

I decided then to just take the bird home and figure it all out once I got there, but with my eye on the lookout for a vet’s office along the way. We didn’t pass one. At home, I gave the pigeon a comfy towel to make herself at home on, before cajoling her to drink some water, which she finally did do. After some internet research, I realized I really should have just left her where I found her; she was probably learning to fly from the ground up, and her mother was probably nearby with food ready to be delivered. How many times during the course of my tenure at the SF/SPCA did I counsel people on this very subject, and how could I have neglected to heed my own advice? I think the moral of this story is “Don’t call people ‘retards’.”


  1. Hi, If the pigeon in the picture is the one you rescued, s/he is not nearly ready to fly. If you did, indeed, leave him/her on the ground, it is highly unlikely s/he would have survived for very long. Do a web search for baby pigeon feeding, raise him/her, and then enjoy one of the best companions you may ever have. Just be very protective because predators are everywhere.

  2. Truthfully I don't know too many people who would go so far out of their way for a pigeon - it says a lot about who you are. I enjoyed the last line immensely, too!

  3. I saw you linked this post in your current one. Oh so sad. :( BUT, I was fascinated with it, too, because I have *never* seen a baby pigeon! I have wondered if they even exist or if pigeons in Paris just pop out as full adults. ;-) You have solved a mystery for me: baby pigeons *do* indeed exist.

    Maybe the lesson is to never call people "retards" but I still say there is nothing wrong with "asshats." :D


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