Icarus.

I'll be featuring the winners of my latest giveaway in a few days, but for now, I wanted to share with you all a story about my weekend. 

I had a really wonderful Father's Day. Dad came in from Jersey, and I took him and some of my family out to one of my favorite places in Brooklyn - Dao Palate (the yummiest vegan restaurant in my hood). After dining, we set out to peruse the local fair in Park Slope that filled the streets that day, and, despite the heat, we had a fun time looking at handmade necklaces, linens, photographs, and other items for sale.

As we were all crossing to head back to my step-mom's car, I noticed something in the middle of the street  - a small pigeon, struggling to move, helpless against the cars coming her way. It didn't take me longer than a moment's time to run over to the bird, scoop her up in my arms, and bring her to the side of the street. It was clear that this poor bird was in shock - as she tried to flap out of my arms, my dad suggested I lay her down on the ground to see if she could fly. And fly she did - until her legs failed her, and she came crashing back down onto the ground. She didn't leave my arms after that. 

We all loaded up into the car, the little pigeon carefully wrapped up in one of my husband's shirts. Steve loves to name animals - we are the proud caretakers of Rini and Guster, two of our three kitties, because of Steve's unique name-giving abilities - so it was no surprise that he didn't hesitate to name our suffering friend, whom he endearingly called Icarus (Icarus is the boy in Greek mythology who flew too closely to the sun, which melted his wings away.). Despite my protest that this pigeon was very much a girl (I didn't actually know for sure, but moments of panic do strange things to a person), we decided to keep the name Icarus. As I held little Icarus closely too me, I felt dread that we wouldn't arrive at my apartment in time, where I was planning to make a soft bed for her outside in the backyard. We had already exhausted the option of taking her to a vet - when Steve called the local animal hospital, we were sadly informed that Brooklyn does not care for its wounded or sick pigeons.

This isn't surprising to me. I think I am one of the rare people in Brooklyn who has an affinity for pigeons. I happen to also have a soft spot for rats (and even cockroaches, on my best of days - don't judge me!). Why? Because these are the beings that most people have no regard for. These are the beings most people walk hurriedly by as if they are an inconvenience, at best.  These are the beings that should matter, but don't in the eyes of most people. Which, of course, makes me want to love them more. 

A very friendly pigeon I secretly fed last month. 
(In New York, there is a $1000 fine for feeding pigeons.)

On the day I chose to live vegan, I decided then and there to start living in the least cruel way I possibly could. I made a vow to start caring about where I was stepping (both literally and figuratively) in life, and more importantly, I decided that each step I'd take would be as careful and compassionate as possible. This includes making room for the occasional line of ants on the street, or allowing the spider in my bathroom to find its way into my tupperware jar, so that I can release it gently back outside.  There also happens to be an all-inclusive "pigeon loving" policy in my new lifestyle.

Recently I discovered a beautiful documentary called "Pigeons in the City," which I highly recommend checking out. If for nothing else, watch this film to learn more about a bird who is often given little positive attention.

  
Icarus was not doing well - her little heart was beating right out of her chest as she lay in my arms while we drove quickly home. It was also becoming more and more evident how severe her injuries actually were. Through everything, what amazed me most was that this little pigeon let me carry her and hold her the entire ride to my apartment. Once we got inside, I walked quickly to my bedroom, and Steve helped me open the window to the backyard. I sat down, fluffed a spare blanket from our closet, and set it out for her. As I placed Icarus onto the blanket outside, something began to happen. Little Icarus began to shake uncontrollably, and, within seconds, her head sank down, and the life from her eyes left her. She was gone. 

I spent the rest of the day guiltily backtracking my steps - Did I squeeze her too tightly when I held her? Why did I let her try to fly? Steve ultimately helped me to see that no matter what led Icarus to her end, I gave this little bird peace in her last few moments. I showed her love in a situation where many people would have chosen to ignore her. I cared.

So often in life, we busily and carelessly walk from one destination to the other, totally unaware of the world around us. I know I can be thoughtless during parts of my day, especially in the moments I'm least enjoying. But on Sunday, thankfully, I was paying attention. Because of Icarus, I will try to pay even more attention.

To learn more about the plight of our urban animal friends, please visit: www.urbanwildlifesociety.org.

Comments

Molly G said…
Thank you for this. Steve was right to console you and that pigeon had a much nicer end than most. Though his (her) end is terribly sad, you should feel so proud for the way you handled this sad and scary situation. I only hope to be able to react as you did, with both human and non-human animals. Your compassion is honorable and enviable. Icarus got to have the best end he (she) could have wished for.
melissa s. said…
Maybe I'm a little emotional anyway today....This just made me cry. It's so refreshing to know that others exist that care this deeply for animals. Sorry though, I don't get ya on the cockroaches. :)
veganelder said…
I am sorry the bird hurt and regretful that she died. Thank you for trying.

Glenn L.
Anne said…
Its so funny that you posted this because I saw a pigeon the other day that I thought had broken its neck or something but now from the video I know it was poisoned. So sad. It makes me happy that others care about these issues.
Leslie said…
I love that you posted this and it made me tear up. I would have done the same thing and my family has saved numerous wild animals (pigeons included) in the past. Very few people would have done what you did and we need more like you in the world! Love your blog :)
Wow. I feel like I completely understand. Its a feeling that, unfortunately, I dont know if everyone can feel. I think everyones capable, but after years and years of social conditioning we grow dull. I dont even know you but I cant help but feeling that I'm really proud of you. Not only that you tried to help, but that you opened yourself up enough to let others know. I guess sometimes, I feel that there isnt anyone left like you, but I'm glad to be proven wrong. This was really touching.
Anonymous said…
I love that you posted this. I do the same and feel so sad for these beautiful rock doves. They are smart, sweet, and not deserving of the scornful contempt of New Yorkers. Well, when the mayor hates animals, and gasses geese before breakfast, and allows NYC to have some of the worst shelter statistics in the nation, I guess the city is bound to follow his lead.

However, I must correct a very important inaccuracy in your post. It is perfectly legal to feed pigeons in New York City. There is no such law. You have been misled! Funny part is, of course, a private homeowner or landowner can indeed post a sign saying such nonsense, and if it is private property, best to steer clear. But in a park, for instance, if a sign requests no feeding and/or fine (a la parking ticket), move 10 feet away! IT IS 100% LEGAL TO FEED PIGEONS IN NEW YORK. Simcha Felder tried and failed!

At the recent Pigeon Day 2010, attorney Lori Barrett, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, and member of the New York City Bar Committee on Legal Issues Pertaining to Animals, explained that there are several laws that indeed do protect pigeons from cruelty in New York State, and discussed how animal advocates can use these very laws to protect pigeons. She also is a tireless advocate for these beautiful birds, and she works to correct the popular misconception that pigeons are not protected by laws.

Why not set up an interview with Lori Barrett?
Anonymous said…
Also--
Most vets are not equipped to treat pigeons or birds; many vets will simply put the sick birds in a back room to die. Highly specialized sub-specialty.

We have a wonderful resource, though, in the Wild Bird Fund, which operates out of a veterinary clinic on the Upper West Side.

Check it out:

http://www.wildbirdfund.com/
Anonymous said…
NYC Bar association's committee on legal issues pertaining to animals has positions and this and related issues, such as pigeon shoots and illegal netting:

http://www.nycbar.org/pdf/report/uploads/20071921-CommentonLegislationreTrapShoots.pdf